Moshe Binyamin, is MTI Instruments’ president and CEO. Binyamin oversees all of MTI Instruments and is responsible for overall strategic growth, finance and operations. Binyamin joined MTI Instruments in August 2019,just before the pandemic set in, initially serving as the head of sales and marketing departments. Binyamin is a graduate of Vista Equity Partner’s exclusive High Potential Leadership Program with focus on Business Administration, Management and Operations and he holds a Computer Analyst degree from the Israeli Defense Forces. We spoke with him to learn what it has been like to experience the ups and downs of taking the role of CEO just prior to the pandemic.
Q: Tell us how you ended up at MTI and about your progression into executive leadership.
A: My background comes from software. That’s really where I started. I was in the computer field in the Israeli military then basically stayed in the computer field when I came out. I came to the United States in early nineties and continued with software organizations. First, I was with a public company called MapInfo. I started as an engineer and then moved over to product management. That was the beginning of me transitioning from a technical role to more of a business slash technical role. I gained experience about and market positioning, addressable markets and obviously bringing new products to market. I did one acquisition so got into due diligence processes and those types of activities. From there, I went to a startup called Autotask. Later, that company was acquired by a private equity firm called Vista Equity Partners. They’re very active in the enterprise software business. I went through their high potential leadership program.
Q: And then you joined MTI Instruments.
A: Yes, I then joined MTI as the director of strategic growth where my primary responsibility was to analyze the market, the opportunity of the technology and where could the company go. Most of my 2019 was development of that plan, the opportunity around the market and, how to accelerate the growth of MTI.
Q: You released your earnings in March and the company did very well. You reported the highest revenue in nine years and 500% annual increase in net income. To what do you attribute that success?
A: First of all, I’m very proud of the team we have and because we had to adjust quite a bit as an organization to learn to operate differently. We had to reinvent how we do work here at MTI. That was a team effort. Everybody stepped up — we had rotating shifts of people to ensure social distancing and people had to become flexible with their hours.
Second one is about developing more virtual content. So that’s something that we’ve evaluated and changed the way customers were engaging with us before. A lot of us used to travel quite a bit. That was not an option [during the pandemic]. We had to adjust how we communicated our content, the applications that we build and the ways that we can help our customers. But we had to deliver all that through virtual meetings. So we created a video room and incentives for engineers to go in and record “How to Use Our PBS System Tool” and many other instructional videos. These videos help our customers know that they’re important to us and we’re going to find different ways of connecting with them, even if we cannot be with them in person.
Q: What would you say is the greatest lesson you learned in the previous year about your business?
A: One is knowing the sub-segments of your business really well to identify opportunities and very quickly sub-target customers with the right message. The second one would be to really have a very diverse business. It’s much like an investment portfolio because being concentrated either in one geography or one vertical has advantages when things are good, but it leaves you exposed.
Q: When you became CEO of MTI, it was just before the pandemic hit. How are you revising the plan you initially set out to implement as a result of what’s occurred this past 15 months.
A: Innovation and customer engagement are the two things that I see as an opportunity from that perspective.
The number one goal that was reinforced is to have really close customer engagement, meaning being close to the customer, not just at the product delivery level, but from an ongoing perspective. Are they getting the value from the products that they’ve purchased? What else can you do for the customer that would help them be more efficient, more resilient? Really the definitions around that is not necessarily just around engine maintenance or engine balancing, but how do I help my customer reduce downtime? Ultimately, that’s really what it comes down to. How to help them get the most value out of the assets that they are maintaining and managing. That comes from a close customer relationship where you can meet the customer or have an ongoing dialogue with them because conditions change and the economy changes with unique conditions within that marketplace.
Then an outcome of that is having a healthy pipeline from innovation. From a product perspective, one needs to drive the other. When you have the clear connection between the higher level goal, which is to allow our customers to work more quickly and efficiently, then how do we simplify our software so technicians can operate our equipment more efficiently? That has a direct impact on how we innovate the product.
Q: Let’s talk about the military side of the business. Do you see more growth in that area?
A: We certainly do because the military definitely is not under pressure to upgrade to newer planes. So the service arm is definitely something they invest in on a regular basis. So we see that as an opportunity. Also, the technicians rotate a lot more frequently, therefore there are training opportunities around that, giving them the support they need, simplifying the software. Also there are opportunities in making the devices more rugged and accessible to wherever they may be in the field.
Q: MTI does training on setting up and using your products. Tell us more about the training that you do.
A: The training that we do on the PBS systems is actually in-person training where we fly out to the location choice of our customer. Then we have a two-day training where the customer has their own equipment, and by the time we leave, not only do they have the academic, theoretical side, they actually have the hands-on experience of connecting the cables, checking for errors, understanding signal analysis, looking at the vibration and then also having the means to perform the balancing itself. All that is done at the customer’s site. One exciting part that we’ve actually accomplished early this year was that our courses are now also FAA credit eligible. That was something our customers care about and now they can apply those credits towards that accreditation.
Q: Talk about new product developments. Are there products that are coming soon?
A: Absolutely. We just announced our next generation PBS-4100+ Portable Vibration and Balancing System, PBS Gen 4. Later on we will have a number of exciting new enhancements to the product. We’re also making a number of innovations around other product lines that we have, including our very popular function generator. So along with our PBS system we have the signal generator that helps you test the PBS system and calibrate it. That’s our 1510A Portable Signal Generator. We’ve totally redesigned it from an ergonomic perspective. There’s a touch screen. There’s going to be a remote operating operational option where you can actually use a tablet or even a phone to control its values. We’re really thinking of novel ways to operate the signal generator.
Q: Can you talk a little bit about the workforce that you need at MTI? Are you able to find the properly trained and qualified people that you need to do this specialized work?
A: I think you definitely hit a very sensitive topic. It’s been plaguing the software industry as well as hardware engineering, electronics and other high-tech industries. We’ve been fortunate to have the recruiting team we have, but it is not a simple or quick process. We continuously look for people. We have a high standard, it’s highly technical and it can be tedious, but it’s highly rewarding. We continuously look for engineers of the right caliber to work for us.
Q: Explain how your test products help operators maintain maximum fleet availability?
A: They have to perform a balancing operation to make sure the vibration is below a certain level by engine type. Using our technology, they can perform that operation right on the wing, without going into the hanger or scheduling maintenance downtime. The [inspection] time can be cut significantly. We’re talking about sometimes a full day turned into two hours or less. When you take into account the number of times that you have to run the engine and number of people that it takes to perform a traditional balancing operation versus what you are able to do with our equipment, the savings in time, people and costs are significant. We have a very clear ROI calculator page where users can plug in their data and they can basically determine what that savings is, for themselves.
Q: Is there anything else you’d like our readers to know about?
A: MTI is customer-focused, first and foremost, especially now, when the industry is going through not easy times. They have to really reimagine the way they do work and the way they justify the services that they provide. Our goal is to partner with our customers in that effort. We’re here to learn more from them about how their needs have changed so we can adapt in the right way and so we can continue to be partners, as we have been for many years. This is just another phase in that developing relationship.