Swanson, William H. 1949–

views updated

William H. Swanson

Chairman, chief executive officer, and president, Raytheon Company

Nationality: American.

Born: 1949.

Education: California Polytechnic State University, BS, 1972.

Family: Married Cheryl (maiden name unknown).

Career: Raytheon Company, 19722002, various positions, including manufacturing manager of equipment division, chairman and CEO of Raytheon Systems Company, senior vice president and general manager of missile systems division, executive vice president, and president of Electronic Systems; 20022003, president; 20032004, CEO and president; 2004, chairman, CEO, and president.

Awards: Semper Fidelis Award, Marine Corps Scholarship Foundation, 2002; Honorary Doctorate of Laws, Pepperdine University, 2002.

Address: Raytheon Company, 870 Winter Street, Waltham, Massachusetts 02451; http://www.raytheon.com.

William H. Swanson was the chairman and chief executive officer of Raytheon Company, an industry leader in government and defense electronics, information technology, aerospace systems, technical services, and business and special-mission aircraft. Swanson directed about 78,000 employees in a company with 2003 sales of $18.1 billion.

In 2004 the Raytheon Company was the third-leading U.S. defense contractor, behind Boeing and Lockheed Martin. The company was divided into four segments: electronics, aircraft, engineering and construction (specializing on industrial projects), and appliances (including Speed Queen, Amana, and Caloric). The largest segment was electronics, which accounted for almost 75 percent of corporate sales; Raytheon was ranked sixth nationwide in that field, primarily serving the U.S. Department of Defense. The electronics segment comprised air traffic control systems, semiconductors, Patriot and Hawk missile systems, marine electronics (such as commercial fish finders), and air-combat infrared imaging systems. On the aircraft side of the business, the company was the leading U.S. manufacturer of small passenger aircraft as well as turboprop and piston aircraft, under such names as Beech, Hawker, King Air, and Baron.


Swanson gained employment with Raytheon in 1972, just one week after his graduation from California Polytechnic State University with a degree in industrial engineering, which he earned with the assistance of a golf scholarship. After joining Raytheon, Swanson held a wide variety of leadership positions, including manufacturing manager of the company's equipment division, senior vice president and general manager of the missile systems division, general manager of Raytheon Electronic Systems (an $8 billion defense electronics business), and chairman and CEO of Raytheon Systems Company. Swanson was named president of Raytheon in July 2002, chief executive officer on July 1, 2003, and chairman on January 28, 2004.


In 1997 Swanson received a most difficult assignment while serving as corporate vice president: he was to integrate into Raytheon the newly acquired defense businesses of Texas Instruments (TI) and Hughes. With the two acquisitions, Raytheon's overall revenues nearly doubled, but the assimilation of the two former rivals into the Raytheon culture was not predicted to be easy. Thanks at least in part to Swanson's leadership, Raytheon emerged three years later as the leader in hightech warfare and remained a corporate dynamo during the economic downfall of 20002002.

Swanson did not generally receive positive feedback during those first three years, however. Employees frequently criticized him when they were laid off, and angry members of the U.S. Congress often bemoaned him when dismayed over declining state revenues. During this time Swanson endeavored to steadily transform the company using his philosophy about building a good foundation in one's working and personal life and having fun doing it.

His efforts at Raytheon were fully realized when the United States began to engage in the war on terror after the attacks on the Pentagon and the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. Realizing that the military was insufficiently prepared in its existing capacity to handle the new technologically advanced ways with which the war on terror would have to be fought, Swanson expected that many billions of dollars would be awarded to defense contractors in the immediate future. Thanks to Swanson's steady buildup of the company's foundation, Raytheon was handsomely awarded many contracts from the military.

While working for Raytheon's Electronic Systems division, Swanson had put the organization in an advantageous position to gear up to provide key products to the new high-tech military; Raytheon sales eventually increased by 40 percent. The acquisitions of TI and Hughes, as recommended by Swanson, proved to be very beneficial to Raytheon, which was then seen as the defense company best able to provide high-tech products. The military was indeed moving away from heavily mechanized, capital-intensive artillery, ground forces, and missile systems and toward advanced information technology.


Swanson was well known for his management skills, being highly principled throughout his career. His typical workday lasted about 14 hours, and more than half of his weekends were spent on the job. He was a very outgoing, human-oriented person, eager to shake hands with his employees, able to remember small details like the names of their children, and willing to personally answer nearly all of his e-mail. He was also one of the toughest defense executives in recent history. Tyrone Taborn reported that the retired General Lester L. Lyles, who had been the air force's only African American four-star general, said of Swanson, "Raytheon is clearly in the top echelon of Department of Defense contractors because of his leadership" (January/February 2004).

Swanson's leadership style was formulated on 25 management rules that he developed over his four-decade long career at Raytheon. Taborn cited a number of these rules: "Learn to say, 'I don't know'; if used when appropriate, it will be often. If you are not criticized, you may not be doing much. Look for what is missing. Many know how to improve what's there, but few can see what isn't there. Don't be timid; speak up; express yourself, and promote your ideas. Don't ever lose your sense of humor." Perhaps the most amusing of Swanson's rules: "No one likes a grump except another grump" (January/February 2004).


Swanson spoke openly about his emphasis on integrity and ethics in the business place. During his 2002 commencement speech at Pepperdine University in Malibu, California, when he received an honorary doctorate, he told the audience, "In today's business world, ethics, integrity and honesty are the new mantra of every successful venture; unfortunately, not everybody 'gets it.'" He went on to say, "American business has never needed to focus on ethical behavior more than today. And that's an area in which you as Pepperdine graduates with your strong background in ethics can help us make a difference right from the startbecause business ethics isn't something you can just put on like a raincoat when the weather gets a bit stormy; you need to make a commitment to business integrity from Day One, even when the sun isn't shining" (December 7, 2002). Swanson went as far as to compare unethical behavior in the United States with unpatriotic behavior, especially in view of the tragic events of September 11, 2001.

Swanson also commented, during the same speech, on the importance of making mistakes. He reminded the audience that he often said that if a person did not make mistakes, then that person was not working hard enough and not taking enough risks to beat the global competition. Swanson related an experience he had had early on in his career at Raytheon: one of his first bosses wrote on his performance review, "This young man never makes the same mistake twice, but I do believe he has made them all at least once" (December 7, 2002).


Many outside experts and inside managers credited Swanson with saving Raytheon, both financially and socially. When Swanson secured the top job at Raytheon, he immediately went to work incorporating greater diversity into the company. Realizing that women, African Americans, Latinos, Native Americans, and persons with disabilities made up two-thirds of the U.S. work force but held only about 25 percent of the technical jobs, Swanson made an unwavering commitment to increasing the number of minorities employed by Raytheon and by the technology community as a whole. As evidence of the importance he placed on minority employment, Swanson's first speaking engagement on a college campus was at Tuskegee University in Alabama, a prominently black institution; over 40 Tuskegee alumni were on Swanson's staff.


In addition to his professional endeavors, Swanson served on the advisory council of the California Polytechnic State University School of Engineering and the board of regents at Pepperdine University. Swanson was also a member of the Editorial Advisory Board of the Journal of Electronic Defense. He was a member of the Secretary of the Air Force Advisory Board and a trustee of the Association of the U.S. Army. Swanson served as a member of the National Defense Industrial Association, the Navy League, the Air Force Association, and the Board of Governors of the Aerospace Industries Association. He was a member of the CIA Officers Memorial Foundation board of advisors and an associate fellow of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics.

See also entry on Raytheon Company in International Directory of Company Histories.

sources for further information

Scott, Otto J., The Creative Ordeal: The Story of Raytheon, New York, N.Y.: Atheneum, 1974.

Swanson, William H., "Ethics and Pepperdine: Setting Your Moral Compass," December 7, 2002, http://www.raytheon.com/newsroom/speeches/whs120702.pdf.

Taborn, Tyrone D., "Swanson's Rules: Raytheon's CEO Does Management Right, by the Numbers," U.S. Black Engineer, January/February 2004, http://www.raytheon.com/newsroom/articles/USBE_magazine.pdf.

William Arthur Atkins