Let's say you're looking to fill a top executive position with direct customer-facing responsibilities. Do you snag one from the competition, thus weakening the other guy while strengthening yourself, or would you rather grab someone who has insider experience with your largest customer?
The correct answer is, of course, both. That's what Arris Group (Nasdaq: ARRS ) just did yesterday when it recruited senior video equipment salesman Don Toft from Cisco Systems (Nasdaq: CSCO ) . Toft had previously spent eight years managing the Comcast (Nasdaq: CMCSA ) account for Cisco, and that's exactly what he will do for ARRIS as well. He's expected to help Comcast buy and install "the complete line of Arris solutions," which hardly sounds overly ambitious until you consider how important Comcast is to Arris today.
Comcast accounted for more than 30% of Arris' sales last year. Placing that account under the hand of a proven performer from a major rival is a stroke of genius, and I bet Cisco is kicking itself (metaphorically speaking) for not building non-compete clauses into Toft's contract -- although, as we've seen in different cases in the tech sector, those clauses can be a nightmare to enforce in Cisco's native California.
The hire is particularly interesting given that Arris cites the market for cable-compatible high-speed data routers as a principal growth market. Cisco largely created that particular field and Motorola (NYSE: MOT ) also jumped into the fray, but Arris is now the market leader. Toft is joining the winning team here.
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