Tom Eaton was in the satellite industry for 11 years before coming to Arrowhead. Today he serves as president of Arrowhead Global Solutions, a wholly owned subsidiary of CapRock Communications. In the following Q&A, Eaton talks about the integration between Arrowhead and CapRock, a leading provider of remote communications, and how that integration has been going strong for more than a year now. He also shares insights on how to navigate some of the biggest challenges in business today and the hot trends he’s tracking that will affect his customer base now and into the future.
Tell us about your role at Arrowhead.
Tom Eaton: I am the President of Arrowhead Global Solutions, a wholly owned subsidiary of CapRock Communications and I’d been in the satellite industry for 11 years prior to coming to Arrowhead. I’ve been in the telecommunications industry for a number of years — more than 20. I’ve been on the hardware services side, satellite side and then in the government sector.
Tell us about Arrowhead and CapRock. How is the integration going?
Tom Eaton: It’s going great. In fact if you look at the three markets that we serve now — the energy market and their mining efforts, the maritime business which has expanded to serve other vessels beyond just energy transport, and Arrowhead, which serves the government sector – you’ve got a company in CapRock that’s serving very strong institutional customers. With the economic times that we find ourselves in, it’s good to be serving the oil and gas markets. Maritime is a booming area as well. On the Arrowhead side our primary focus is supporting the warfighters in their missions throughout the world. We have a good strong customer base that we are supporting today.
What would you say is your biggest challenge in business today?
Tom Eaton: Speaking on behalf of CapRock, I think the biggest challenge is that our business is largely dependent on space segment and what’s available from the commercial operators – that is probably our biggest concern. If you go back a couple of years ago there was a lot of space segment available on commercial fleets for us to use and serve our customer base. We’ve seen a tightening in that supply, so that’s clearly a concern for us; and there are a number of things we’re doing to deal with it. First, we’re making our networks more efficient so we use less of the bandwidth. Second, we are diversifying our portfolio; we’re less dependent on space segment as a core way to generate services and revenues.
What hot trends in the government space will impact your business and customers?
Tom Eaton: Three things. First we are seeing a continuation of the trend toward outsourcing professional and technical services. There are customers that we have a relationship with who are looking for satellite expertise, engineering expertise, technical expertise and we are able to provide resources to those organizations. These are agencies that range throughout the military and into the commercial sector as well. Second, on the satellite communications side, there are some “supply issues” for lack of a better term, in the frequencies that the military has most commonly used, which is Ku band. There are some interesting trends now toward new frequencies, specifically X band and Ka band. What that means for a company like CapRock and Arrowhead is we’re able to provide solutions using other non-dominant operators. Sourcing solutions with X band and Ka band gives us an opportunity to be a little more creative in the marketplace. Third, we are very active in one program that is terrestrial based. So it’s all about connecting various government facilities to the GIG. We are one of three awardees of that contract. This is probably one of the fastest growing pieces of our business today, not only that, but there is also a trend in what the government is asking for. The contract started out with very small circuits, T1’s to connect bases to the GIG; now we’re getting requirements for very high bit rates on the terrestrial side as well.
Is CapRock looking at any more acquisitions to grow your business unit?
Tom Eaton: Are we in the market for acquisitions – yes. The company is very opportunistic in that regard, so I would say they are open to selective opportunities that would help grow the business in complementary ways to what we already are doing. As an executive team, this s is always something that we are looking at.
How would you describe your leadership style?
Tom Eaton: My success is largely around building teams and instilling teamwork into the organization. That is probably it in a nutshell — getting people to work together across functions and across organizations. In this particular case, we got a new parent company 14 months ago so there has been a great deal of outreach on both sides to come together as one team, and I think we’ve made progress there. Within Arrowhead there have been some barriers between departments and we are breaking them down as well. If I had to pick one thing it’s all about working together as a team.
What will your business unit look like in two years?
Tom Eaton: We’ve taken a lot of steps in the first eight or nine months, but the organization is going to become even more streamlined. Speaking specific to Arrowhead, we’re not a huge organization by any means, but we do a sizeable amount of business with the government. What I’ve learned in the government sector is flatter is better from an organization standpoint because it’s all about serving the customers as quickly as possible. Rapid decision making is critical to our customers in terms of serving them, so I think the organization will continue to shape itself around those criteria.
What’s the best part of your job?
Tom Eaton: The best part of my job is the mission that we provide. For example, there are a few days out of the year that I get to be part of a celebration, like the one I attended yesterday for General Croom’s retirement. For me it is being part of the community that’s carrying out this important mission of security for the country, that’s what I love the most, being able to support that mission.
What’s something that most people don’t know about you personally?
Tom Eaton: That during my time working both for Intelsat and PanAmSat, I had an opportunity to do business on every continent. I probably signed contracts that involved 30 or 40 different countries, so I’ve been able to travel the world and do business internationally extensively. That is something that doesn’t come out very often, but whenever I do have an opportunity, I look back on those 11 years with Intelsat and PanAmSat with a great deal of fondness. It was a great learning experience, a lot of fun, and as a result it made me a much better person.
Interview with Tom Eaton conducted by JD Kathuria
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