In the early 1970s, Skipworth was working for Transitron which was in decline.
As the Americans do, they kept firing CEOs in the hope a new one would solve the company’s problems. One day a new CEO came over to the UK.
He immediately criticised Skipworth’s customer list for being too heavy on smaller companies.
“Why do we have so many customers?” He said: “I don’t want to deal with ‘tailings’, I want to deal with big customers.”
I said: “We don’t have products for big customers,” recalls Skipworth, “you don’t usually get fired for incompetence but you do get fired for disagreeing with your boss. I left in January 1972 with £280 redundancy.”
The month before he had been offered the chance of a distribution contract with the Florida semiconductor company Harris. He had turned it down. Now it seemed like a lifeline. He rang them and they said: ‘Come over and talk’.
“I bought the cheapest ticket I could get via New York and North Carolina and saw Harris. They did not want to commit to a one-man band. I came back devastated. . . .well not devastated. . . . disappointed.”
In 1972, the semiconductor industry was in deep depression. There were few jobs open. Skipworth asked a company called LEMCO (London Electrical Manufacturing Company) which made low-tech capacitors for a job and they said they would pay him commission if he sold any.
“It was a real sweat-shop down in Hammersmith,” recalls Skipworth, “that was hard because in this business you have to do a lot of work up-front before getting orders. I don’t think I got any commission out of LEMCO at all.
A saving grace was the appointment of a new UK manager at Transitron. Dick offered to take the smaller customers off his hands in return for a commission on the sales he made to them.
“I knew more about his account base that he did,” says Skipworth, “and I knew where there were design-ins which were coming to fruition. So, in March 72, the commission on what I had sold for Transitron was higher than the salary I had had when I was employed by them. It was the Transitron rep deal that kept me alive.”