Effective leadership is all about empowering others and creating a change for the better. To lead that change requires courage to take risks, persistence, and fearlessness. An embodiment of such leadership is Marne Martin.
Marne has been an exemplary leader, who leads by example. Her corporate journey started at an early age being involved in the family’s ranching, farming and real estate endeavors. During her school years she also was able to explore different jobs and interests in summer internships knowing by the time she was 17 that she wanted to pursue an international career. When she was 21 coming out of undergraduate, she was looking for opportunity and accountability, not a “copycat” job in investment banking, finance or a big company as one of tens of thousands. She also enjoyed living in London and traveling, so desired opportunities where she could see much more of the world.
Fortunately, she went to work for a successful and entrepreneurial high net worth family that worked across telecommunication, technology, life sciences, and several other sectors with a great deal of contacts in the business and investing space. In the eleven years that she spent there, the company launched numerous businesses with successful strategic exits and even an IPO, and she moved up through the levels to be the President of that company overseeing the investment vehicles and operating companies by either being the President / CEO or managing the overseas or divisional CEOs of the individual businesses. Often opportunities came because they were challenging or people didn’t want to work overseas or accommodate the level of travel and personal disruption needed.
The ability for her to have those experiences in her 20s and early 30s was virtually unmatched and she made the most of it while also getting her MBA. Expanding and diversifying a long-standing family-owned business in primarily the telco space, to include an IPO, moving from operations in three countries to operations in 20, was a worthy and interesting challenge during her mid30s, and took her to additional countries around the world as part of the global expansion.
In 2013, Marne realized her ambition of being a CEO of a public company at the age of 38. Often woman get leadership positions in times of crisis when Boards don’t have other opportunities. Research has shown over and over that woman at her level have often above average leadership skills, and it is when there is a socalled “glass cliff” that a female leader is put in to save it. Taking over a company that was already listed but struggling to make the transition to SaaS and consumption pricing models, modernize its software portfolio, including launching a new mobile, artificial intelligence based and new web portals, without any significant injection of working capital, and getting it to grow faster and with more profitability was certainly a challenge, but a satisfying one to see the success. The 5 years there running a company operating in primarily ten countries with enterprise-grade customers and a diverse software product portfolio was a successful testing ground that eventually also resulted in a successful go private.
By staying in the software industry, Marne joined IFS in 2018 as the President of IFS Service Management Business Unit. This stride was moving to a larger company that posts a go-private was looking to accelerate growth and gain market share. IFS in 2018 was in a great position to take its focus on service-centric ERP, best of breed FSM and EAM, to accelerate growth, which it has done following Darren Roos, the CEO of IFS, joining from SAP.
In her role, and with the fabulous talent cultivated and recruited in from the competition, IFS’ Service Management Business Unit has generated significant momentum, accelerating growth to 50% new license sales in 2019, and in 2020, by more than 100% despite COVID. Its leadership and customer peer insight scores with Gartner continued to showcase IFS as the leader in the service management space outpacing growth in both best of breed and platform competitors. The organization also closed one acquisition in Q4 2019 by taking a company private from Nasdaq and bought another market leader from its founder and shareholders in Q4 2020.
Marne feels very fortunate to have interesting opportunities in her life at the right time when she needed them where she could be both successful and challenged, “Challenges are part of life, they come in big or little ways, and the only question is how one approaches, or embraces, and overcomes them” she says.
A Take on Impactful Leadership
Marne’s idea of impactful leadership is built upon inspiration, trust and respect that employees and customers can rely on. In her opinion, leaders are by their nature problem solvers and decisive, but to build the levels of trust and respect, integrity and reliability are also key. She believes that the most impactful leaders are not those that sit back and lead apart from their teams and the real-life challenges those teams are facing, but those that are also able to teach and mentor where needed.
According to Marne, recruiting, retaining and cultivating talent is a key factor (the #1 factor in her opinion beyond her own leadership journey) to a leader’s success,. But is also an ongoing challenge to invest the time in that talent, especially as organizations become larger. She always says that genuine caring goes a long way. In her opinion, talent that knows that their leaders believe in them are much more productive, the same as positive cultures are more productive.
Being an Inspiration for Women
Some may say being a woman in business is a challenge in itself, but Marne has truthfully not found it so, albeit she recognizes that growing up in a a rural environment, playing sports, and generally being in male dominated environments made that common place long before her professional career. Hard work, resiliency and courage are of course part of her, but she has always found ways to differentiate herself and contribute such that she doesn’t think her career would have been any different if she was not a woman. That being said, she cares very much about cultivating more female leaders and hopefully being an inspiration for women and girls that are looking for mentors, motivation or confidence.
She advises aspiring female leaders to work hard, take chances, learn from every experience, and believe in their ability to be among the best in relevant or aspirational roles – and reach out to woman that are now in the workforce that most typically are very willing to be mentors.
Embracing Digital Innovation
Moore’s law is as much about economics as it is about technology. Pertaining to a similar thought, IFS is looking to change some of the dynamics to drive return on investment in digital transformation in tangible ways that match with the bulk of our economic activity globally being service revenues. IFS cares about investing and using technology also in ways that drive sustainability in our businesses, economies and lives as an added differentiator. The way IFS utilizes economic trends, puts technology to work to deliver impactful Moments of Service to its customers and enabling those Moments of Services to be the vehicle of growth and retention for their customers, is how the company positions itself the best.
Besides, Marne believes that investments in digital transformation, and profiling internal and external talent for their capability to drive and monetize digital innovation, will continue to be key factors in the most successful global companies. She mentions that having the centricity or focus on IFS’s customer to provide technology that enables their focus to be on their customers, people and assets is a differentiator that will continue to both drive success and innovation here at IFS.
IFS wants to remove the historical pain points customers have seen and believes that customers want technology that enables their business, not that constrains it. Being able to put technology and data to work is what will continue to power the business models that emerge in the future and be what the digital dream teams deliver, opines Marne.
Diverse Talent is the Key
Diversity is always on the top of mind of Marne. She asserts, “Our global customers are diverse, and so needs to be our talent. It is very satisfying to me to get to know people at all levels in our organization and from all cultures to seek to be impactful to them. I continue to see and sense that we are not finding the talent and the innovation everywhere it could be due to organizational hierarchies, socio-economic impediments, and also the speed and pace of global innovation not allowing us to slow down and really learn at times what matters most to our people – and sometimes also our customers. Perhaps we need efforts like Nvidian’s to be churning through innovative and inspirational ideas that we can then monetize. We have a lot of liquidity in tech, but it isn’t always deployed I expect in ways that will be the most impactful when you look out 20 or 50 years. I have seen this myself that great ideas didn’t become great companies because of a lack of talent or a lack of capital. Fortunately, here at IFS we have both.”