In an interview with Insights Success, Marne Martin—President Service Management Global of IFS, emphasizes on her impeccable journey and her contribution in the evolution of IT sector. Her unique ideology and methods have helped her to achieve many milestones in her pathway, creating a better roadmap for her company to prevail.
Insights Success admire such personalities and takes pride in featuring Marne in its special edition, “The 10 Most Inspiring Businesswomen to Watch in 2020”.
Below are the highlights of the interview:
Kindly take us through your journey on becoming a proficient leader.
Growing up on a ranch and being captain of sports teams were both great training in my early years. I was very fortunate in my employment out of college to be able to lead teams, learn from mentors, and work internationally over the decades to hone my skills. Working in other cultures and countries around the world was supremely enriching to continue guiding the journey of becoming an effective leader.
Leadership and management skills don’t happen in a vacuum. It is with experience and peer review that we grow, regardless if one is naturally talented or not. I have grown a great deal over the decades, and feel that I am only part way along the journey. For example, technology skills are equally critical to being an effective leader, and in how we partner with businesses embracing digital transformation. Technology is continually evolving, and we must also evolve with it on a personal and operational level.
How do you diversify your organization’s offerings to entice the target audience?
First step is agreeing what is the target audience, as that may not be the audience that you have today or that you think you want. If you look through history, you find examples of companies that were innovative in their time, but then the market changed and they didn’t. Likewise, consumers change generationally and with societal change. Therefore, a company has to be nimble and adapt to their target audience not only in the short and long term, but also move quickly along the way in case that audience does shifts due to size, distinction, or profitability.
The second step is assessing whether you have the cash and talent to diversify. Diversifying is easier if a company has already executed on a focused strategy and has talent that is scalable, e.g. a foundation already laid with the existing product or services that can be positioned into a new business model, sales motion or market. Diversification can be expensive though, which is why many cash limited or startup companies are better off focusing on a single product or service that is excellent and then as momentum, investment and/or profits allow, diversifying through organic means or an acquisition.
To diversify an organization’s offerings, look to whether the company is best served by adding another product or service, going into a new or different market or geography, and / or add a new sales motion. All of these are forms of diversification where the best one or combination needs to be mapped to what generates the most business value for your target audience, and the greatest profits or momentum for the company. Diversification is successful when you can use it to maximize the returns on the talent, products or services that you have to sell aligned with a go to market strategy that is tailored to the customer segment, pricing, delivery, packaging, sales motion, etc. that can be executed on. A diversification strategy therefore has to fundamentally tie into the business plan and strategy you have as a company, and what your exit strategy is (if applicable).
Diversifying by organic development versus acquisition also acquire differing degrees of time and money, as well as risk. I have seen businesses that had great talent and also a great product simply run out of cash if they tried to diversify without adequate funding and got over-stretched, as well as companies that stayed single product / single customer segment too long and got caught behind the market.
Diversification is important to the long-term success of most businesses, but it can’t be done “randomly” where a company doesn’t understand the market, the target audience or how to grow profitably. While there are very successful companies valued highly on the stock market or by their PE owners that aren’t profitable and continue to find access to cash, that is always a riskier proposition, especially in times of fluctuating consumer or business demand and availability of capital.”
How do you strategize your game plans to tackle the competition in the market?
Momentum, talent, and customer focus are all key to being competitive and continuing to win. A successful strategy has to focus on the customer first. Then, the talent that is necessary to be successful and differentiate the company from its peers. Finally, the momentum that can create an avalanche of demand where customer acquisition and retention becomes ideally cheaper over time in order to be able to redeploy funds into ongoing innovation and differentiation. Without that momentum, cost of customer acquisition and retention can become very costly and eliminate the ability to earn profits.
What are the vital traits that every business women should possess?
The ability to achieve results and work with all sorts of people is paramount. In these two areas, women in business need to differentiate themselves even more than their peers in order to maximize recognition and opportunities of being promoted. Hard work, resiliency and creativity to find solutions in tough or complicated times are also critical traits. Lastly, one needs to be not only a good coach, but also be coachable.
As per your opinion, what roadblocks or challenges were faced by you in a corporate business? And how did you overcome them?
To some degree, I probably had more challenge launching my career in the international business scene coming from a small town in Wyoming than the fact that I am a woman. Networking and being in the right place at the right is key regardless of gender. If those connections don’t from family or alumni, it can be even more challenging.
For women specifically, there is the balancing act of demonstrating toughness, leadership, drive and ambition to levels where you maintain your team’s respect and support for initiatives you’re leading. Along with these traits, having a high degree of emotional intelligence is what has benefitted me, and I suspect every woman that has either broken the glass ceiling or found a way around it is the same. Men may at times be successful without a high degree of emotional intelligence, but I have personally never found that to be the case with women who reach the highest levels of their organizations.
Persistence is also key. One needs to recognize that every day is a new opportunity to not only prove oneself, but also enrich and improve those around you. The most successful leaders are ones that act as “multipliers” in their organizations. Managers also in many cases need to lean in and continue advancing the careers of women who want to raise families or have other care obligations. I chose to travel and work internationally at times in lieu of child care or other care obligations, but many women wouldn’t have made the same choice, and frankly, we need to get to a point where woman don’t have to make the choice. Times are changing, but there is still change to be made.
Have you in any ways contributed towards the cause of women empowerment.
This is a multifaceted question. Do I believe and advocate that women should be valued and encouraged to be whatever they want to be – yes. Do I model success and encourage, hire and promote other women in the workplace – yes. Could I do more? Most definitely, and that is something we as women should continue to work towards – supporting each other.
We need more metrics and alignment all around the world to focus on what matters. Education and earnings are of course essential as empowerment is theoretical without metrics that matter. Empowerment first comes from within related to confidence and psychology. However, there also has to be a supportive ecosystem from society, family, partners, colleagues and those who invest in initiatives. We need companies that enable women to gain the skills and competencies required to earn commensurate return for their skill, talent, and work efforts.
What are your insights on “The myth of meritocracy”? And how it could bring a change in today’s business arena?
Diversity in the workforce is critical to driving unique success in a business, and diversity can only be achieved if we look first at meritocracy. Meritocracy has to be the driving force or else some of your most talented people will either be left on the sidelines or underutilized. If the person can add value to your business, your customers, and be multiplier, you want them! Don’t let a lack of meritocracy in your organization hold you back, because it will.
How do you cope up with capricious technological trends to boost your personal growth?
One has to keep their eye on the results that matter, as that is the “through line” when you look to align technology trends with continued career and personal progression. I love to read and learn new things. I have always felt that opportunities present themselves to not only myself, but anyone who never stops learning and looking for new challenges. It is also much easier to advocate and encourage digital transformation to customers and peers when one is also always looking to learn and embrace new things oneself.
What are your future endeavours/objectives and where do you see yourself in the near future?
I find great satisfaction in supporting the growth and success of people and businesses alike. In the near future, I see myself continuing to lead companies and business units as my focus, with also the opportunity to sit on more boards. Also, motivating more women to achieve their dreams and be successful in STEM careers is near and dear to my heart.