Sometimes companies need a new hand at the rudder to help them change direction, overcome hurdles or take them to that next level. In these instances, they may look to bring in an experienced CEO that has successfully run other companies. But what are these experienced CEOs looking for in a new company or opportunity?
We got the answer to this question when we recently had the opportunity to take a glimpse inside the minds of three very experienced and very successful senior executives.
On Thursday, January 19th, ACG National Capital sponsored their monthly meeting. But, instead of a single speaker, this month’s event was host to a panel discussion moderated by Gene Riechers, the Vice Chairman of Everfi, that featured three multi-time CEOs that are helming their second – or even third – companies.
These CEOs included:
- Todd Stottlemyer, the CEO of the Inova Center for Personalized Health (former CEO of Acentia, LLC)
- Phillip Merrick, the CEO of SparkPost (former Chairman and CEO of webMethods, Inc.); and
- John Kealey, the CEO of Decision Lens (former CEO of Vivisimo, and former President and CEO of iDirect Technologies)
One of the first things that Mr. Riechers asked the panel to share was insight into why they decided to become a CEO again, and what drove them to accept the positions that they’re in today. Not surprisingly, almost all panelists admitted that a certain amount of boredom, and pressure from loved ones (most notably, spouses) to return to the workforce attributed to their decisions to become multi-time CEOs. But those weren’t the only reasons.
Ultimately, each of the CEOs were driven by intangible and deep desires to learn new things, overcome new challenges and be part of a team again.
The ability to take on new challenges was a deciding factor for many of the CEOs, but was clearly stated by John Kealey, who was drawn to iDirect for the new challenges that it posed. According to Mr. Kealey:
“iDirect…was a satellite company. I had never worked in the satellite industry. We were a manufacturer of hardware. I had never worked in hardware manufacturing before. It was very global – 60 percent of our revenue was from outside of the United States. The opportunity was global – even though we were pre-revenue when I got there. All of this intrigued me because there were lots of hard problems there that I never really had to work on.”
Facing new and exciting challenges was also a deciding factor for why Mr. Kealey decided to join his current company, Decision Lens, which was making a significant shift in its go-to-market strategy and operated in a market that he had little experience in.
“[Decision Lens] was 90 percent government and trying to break into the commercial space – that was the goal,” Mr. Kealey explained. “It was SaaS, and I had never worked in the SaaS industry before. I found all of that interesting, and I wanted to do something – again – to learn and take on something I hadn’t done before.”
This desire to take an a new challenge, work in a new industry and overcome obstacles ran parallel to a desire to work with exciting new technologies, or in innovative new fields that could enable these CEOs to really make a difference. This sentiment was shared by Todd Stottlemyer, the CEO of the Inova Center for Personalized Health, who was visibly energized by his organization’s work to redefine and reinvent the way we care for patients and deliver healthcare.
Mt. Stottlemyer described some of the unique opportunities that Inova delivers when he said:
“I’ve always been fascinated by the intersection of technology and healthcare because – when you talk to physicians – they’ll tell you that…the advances that have taken place in the last 15 to 20 years were the result of technology. [Coming] to Inova [gave me] the privilege to work with a phenomenal group of men and women that are on the cutting edge of how we better predict and prevent disease and target patient therapies based on who they are as an individual. The intersection of technology and healthcare to that purpose was really important, and that’s why I do what I do.”
Finally, there was the desire to be part of a team and experience the joys that successes in business can bring. This was shared by Phillip Merrick, the CEO of SparkPost, who said:
“I missed getting to be a part of a team or lead a team that was making some kind of an impact in some way – doing important and interesting things in the market. And [I missed] having those wins – you win that deal with that critical customer; your engineers build some amazing technologies that impress people – those kind of daily wins. I realized that I miss that.”
There are many reasons why a new company may look to bring in a new CEO from the ranks of free-agent, experienced senior executives. The testimony of these three experienced multi-time CEOs shows that if your company works in an exciting field, is doing revolutionary work or is facing significant challenges, it could be a top destination for a new top executive.
In a future article on Corporate Growth, Capital Style, we’ll feature some of the best practices and lessons learned that these CEOs shared. If you’d like to learn more about upcoming ACG National Capital events and register for an upcoming meeting, click HERE.