Don’t assume people know you: After a long time at my past company, you can’t assume that someone knows your core values and work style right away. You need to put in quality one-on-one time with individuals and gain the credibility with each new role.
Today I had the pleasure of interviewing Marc van Zadelhoff. Marc serves as LogMeIn’s Chief Operating Officer (COO), leading all customer-facing operations across LogMeIn’s entire portfolio, including sales, marketing and customer care, while driving go-to-market strategies that bridge LogMeIn’s complementary businesses and product lines to meet customers’ rapidly evolving needs. An accomplished and proven leader with a strong track record of running high scale businesses, Marc joined LogMeIn in 2018 from IBM, where he was the General Manager (GM) for IBM Security, an IBM Business Unit comprising the technology giant’s entire global security portfolio. Prior to that he served as VP, Worldwide Strategy and Product Management for IBM Security, responsible for overall product management, budget and positioning, and also held previous leadership roles at IBM in M&A, product management and marketing. Marc was a member of the executive team of Dutch-based Consul before it sold to IBM in 2007 and spent the rest of his pre-IBM years in IT venture capital and strategy consulting.
Marc lives in Boston and is a dual US-Dutch citizen, having lived and worked in the US and Europe throughout his life. He holds a B.A. in Economics and Political Science from Bowdoin College, and an M.B.A. from The Wharton School of Business.
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us the story about what brought you to this specific career path?
Iactually started my career in strategy consulting, which was partly influenced by my former high school basketball coach’s wife who was a Partner at Boston Consulting Group and had her MBA from Harvard. My first impression was, “Wow, that type of work sounds fascinating!” So, I essentially started following that career path and ended up doing just that. I got grounded with projects across various industries, but in 1995 a big turning point for me was when I started a project for a huge electronics firm determining the potential impact of the “the internet” on the company. It’s crazy to look back at this time when email was probably the most useful app and not a lot was really known about its full potential. 500 pages of analysis later, we had all these predictions about how the internet would change our client and change the world. Essentially, this project really shifted my interest towards tech and the rest of my career has been focused in this industry.
Of course, now, you can’t talk about tech without mentioning cybersecurity, which has become a big part of my career as well. There’s another story there when I was originally doing strategy consulting in venture capital in The Netherlands after I got my MBA. After three years, right after I had helped one of my portfolio companies raise its next round of founding, I was sitting with the CEO in a conference room and he looked at me and said, “Isn’t it time you got a real job?” I’ll truly never forget this sentence. I just looked at him and thought, “What does he mean? I am a venture capitalist, I have my MBA, all this experience, I’m only 28 years old.” It was his way of telling me that it’s time to help run a company. Turns out he actually meant, “Isn’t it time you come join my company?” That was how I ended up joining the security startup, Consul, to run their marketing, strategy and business development. The company was eventually bought by IBM, but this experience made me realize that going from the consulting and VC side to the tech side is similar from going from being a spectator to an athlete — and I love being an athlete. Being the operator and implementing the ideas I used to just suggest as a consultant or board member is a totally different experience that put me on the path to where I am today.
Can you share one of the major challenges you encountered as COO? What lesson did you learn from that?
I think that each day should be a challenge for a COO, and that’s okay. As a business leader we should never be totally comfortable with where we are because we can always be better. I think one specific challenge we are currently going through is morphing from a company that is seen as a technology innovator to a customer experience company. LogMeIn was known as the “freemium tech disruptor” but as we’ve grown up and scaled our business. Our customers are growing with us and our technology is becoming more essential to their operations. When your technology goes from distributive to business critical, you need to change your approach. Being obsessed has been critical to our success over the years. We’re holistically changing the roles and responsibilities for thousands of team members to get that down. The company and our solutions have become essential to our customers, so our customers’ success need to be essential to us.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me When I Started my Career?” Please share a story or example for each.
- The answer is not always in the building: You need to get out and meet with customers, analysts, investors, and partners. Some of my best conversations have been with external parties because they have the outside perspective that you might be missing.
- Don’t assume people know you: After a long time at my past company, you can’t assume that someone knows your core values and work style right away. You need to put in quality one-on-one time with individuals and gain the credibility with each new role.
- Don’t change it until you know it: Get the data, get the input from the stakeholders and then make the change once you have the facts. In the movies, there’s an image of the new Wall Street or Silicon Valley exec that walks in with all the answers and waves a wand that fixes everything. The truth is you need to spend time getting to know a new organization before making any changes that will be effective.
- Keep the balance with your family: I have a wife and three young daughters, I learned early on as a dad that a baby’s diaper or kid’s exam is as important a board meeting. “The big thing” for everyone is different but equally important. Keeping this perspective is critical.
- Keep communicating the larger and long-term direction: People constantly need to understand the “Why?” Making big changes requires transparency and constant communication. A small change might be part of a bigger arc that employees need to understand first to accept it.
What advice would you give to your colleagues to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
As I mentioned, keeping a balance with family is critical. Additionally, I would recommend blocking personal time in your calendar just like you would block important meetings. Early on, when my kids were very young, I would block 6:00–9:00 p.m. so I could spend time with my family. This doesn’t apply just to kids, it could be for a sick relative or anyone important in your life. Everyone has different priorities and you have to make that important.
I’ve learned that you need to hold yourself to the same performance standard at home that you do at work. At work, we do feedback and coaching to make all these things better. Essentially, home is a customer as well that requires attention. Am I taking the time to make sure I’m successful at home like I am work? Asking these questions now prevents burn out in the future by keeping your life happy and balanced.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
In my career I’ve been lucky enough to come across multiple people that have inspired me and pushed me to where I am today. Even at my previous position at IBM, where I spent over 12 years, I have nothing but appreciative memories because I received constant education to improve myself and my career.
Way back when I was still a consultant, I once had a German colleague tell me, “if you want to be successful, you need to be curious, committed and humble.” I rarely have a week go by where I don’t think about this and check my behavior accordingly.
Additionally, as I mentioned earlier, the CEO of Consul was the one who got me out of my venture capitalist path and into cybersecurity. He really believed in the power of marketing and its power to drive a company forward.
What are some of the goals you still have and are working to accomplish, both personally and professionally?
Personally, I’m trying to become a good rower. I’m currently up to 4–5-mile rows now, on a lake near my house, so it’s going pretty well.
Ultimately, someday I’d like to give back and teach at a business school. My experience getting my MBA put me on the path to where I am today, so I think having the chance to inspire young minds as well is very intriguing to me.
What do you hope to leave as your lasting legacy?
As a dad to three children, the most I can ask for is for them to be happy and healthy.
In terms of career wise, I always aspire to improve the career trajectory of people I work with. That was one of the things I loved to see at IBM. While I was there, I saw my team grow from 1,000 to 8,000 people, under my leadership, and seeing formerly junior people grow into directors and VPs gives an amazing sense of satisfaction.
Being a trusted leader that creates opportunities for customers and employees is, for me, what it’s all about.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would enhance people’s lives in some way, what would it be? You never know what your idea can trigger!
I would reiterate the importance of taking a more “business like” approach to home life. Value success at home as much as success at work.
Also, I’m hugely passionate about inclusion and diversity. I wish more people would travel and genuinely appreciate the other cultures and the way they differ. Growing up, my dad spoke four languages and my mom, who is from Argentina, would speak three. Being born in Netherlands, I think this influenced me to have a general openness to other backgrounds and cultures. Most societies are successful because of things that make them unique and I think more people need to embrace that. More people need to ask what we can learn from their differences and what are the commonalities?
How can our readers follow you on social media?