As part of my series about the “5 Things You Need To Know To Create a Successful Service Business,” I had the pleasure of interviewing Marne Martin.
Marne is President of Service Management at IFS. Underpinning Marne’s drive and focus to elevate the position of IFS’s service management portfolio, is the belief that delivering great service is complex and to create the experiences and outcomes that are most valued, complexity can’t be ignored, but can be delivered in ways that are better suited to delight customers, technicians, and all the stakeholders in the complete service lifecycle. Delivering a superlative moment of service is possible with the right technology, the right people and the right processes to improve customer experience, efficiency, and drive innovation. Marne’s mission is to ensure customers receive the business value they expect from a global industry leader in field service management (FSM).
Before joining IFS, Marne was already an accomplished professional and leader in the services sector. Serving as CEO, she led the executive leadership team at a publicly traded international field service management software company. Her drive for innovation transformed their go-to-market strategy, shifting focus to SaaS, which reaped rewards year over year. Her successful track record includes time spent taking a UK-based defense and telecom consulting firm public and growing its global business.
Well-respected in the field as a strategic businesswoman, unafraid of embracing a challenge, Marne has won a number of awards including 2016 CEO Gamechanger of the Year (FSM) from ACQ 5 Global Awards and 2015 Field Service CEO of the Year from Executive Awards. She also features in the Software Report’s 2019 list of Top 50 SaaS CEOs.
Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
It’s been quite the journey. I grew up on ranches in Oregon, Montana and Wyoming, graduating from high school in Wyoming before college and graduate school education in the U.S. and overseas.
Thankfully my upbringing on that ranch, enjoying my STEM studies (my undergraduate degree in international finance and economics), working internationally on every continent other than Antarctica, and the network I’ve grown through family and mentors have all helped pave the way for some wonderful opportunities to meet many talented people and work for some amazing companies, the best of course being IFS.
I’m incredibly grateful for the opportunities to immerse myself in various cultures, from being an example of diversity myself and embracing that in others, to being inspired by the leaders I worked for, including most recently in IFS, a rapidly growing software company. I see my job as being an inspirational leader, and that means to make sure that we have and develop leaders all throughout the company. Great companies don’t only have one or a few leaders, they have countless.
What was the “Aha Moment” that led you to your career in service? Can you share that story with us?
Anyone that has grown up on a ranch or a farm knows the importance of having the machinery work when you need it. Having a harvester, combine, or tractor be broken down and not at peak condition when a crop is ready to be harvested, hay to be mowed, or animals to be fed can be a disaster. I would hear my family complain, or complain myself, that it was obvious that spare parts, maintenance, and repair optimization was a key service area that could be improved. Sadly, even many decades later, this experience is still what many customers face in their interactions with brands and service operations.
This awareness of some pressing issues in the service industry certainly influenced my career in telco in the 90s, where we built and installed networks from scratch with some of the best vendors at the time, built retail operations, and had to carry and manage our own inventories and spares. Building out mobile networks where such networks didn’t exist, and then being part of the leap where data over wireless became possible was very exciting. And while we certainly implemented software over the 90s and 2000s, service management wasn’t at the forefront of business applications during that time, even though it was as, or more, impactful as the finance, billing, NOC and other systems implemented related to the customer experience and outcomes received.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?
It has been a privilege working around the world — but it has not been without challenges. English has become much more common now, but when I first started my career, even in France, Latin America, etc. it wasn’t so common, so we had to try our best to learn the language and cultural practices. For instance, when I first went to China almost 20 years ago now, there were many moments of cross-cultural interaction — but how to be polite was a work in progress and a learning on both sides was needed to create an organically “international” culture. I was always fairly adept at chopsticks, but did have a moment trying to control a snail which flew across the table. While it certainly wasn’t a “Pretty Woman” level snail toss, it was pretty funny!
I always said that anywhere I could get a smile or mirror body language, I could find a way to do business. But, still, how to adapt and fit into cultures and how to best manage diverse employee groups is something that has to be learned over time through trial and error. Even though cultures have some different traits, there is still a lot of individualism within a culture that needs to be discerned. We all have experiences as we learn and grow that we can use to interact with people in a way that fosters quicker results and collaboration.
Thank you for that. Let’s now pivot to the main focus of our interview. Extensive research suggests that “purpose driven business” are more successful in many areas. When you started at IFS, what was your vision, your purpose?
Since becoming President of the IFS Service Management Business Unit, my mission has been to elevate the service management software business as it continues to be a crucial strategic growth driver for the entire company — and focus on how we use service management technology to create experiences and outcomes across customers, people, and assets.
It is my responsibility to ensure the entire portfolio of IFS’s service management solutions provides customers with the business value they expect from a global industry leader in ﬁeld service management software. I also take an active role in M&As, driving accretive value to IFS. If you look at the business models of today and the future across our focus industries, they are all being driven by technology, enabled by people, and of course paid for by customers.
It has been very exciting to see the rise of a type of software that can bring together customers, people and assets to deliver the experiences and outcomes that both matter to end customers and that can grow revenue and power our economies. Growing our technology and go-to-market capabilities, and seeing how what we do matters to those using our solutions is my passion. What motivates me in my current role is seeing the growth and success of our customers and ourselves, particularly in Field Service Management.
IFS has been through a period of transformation this year, we re-branded and re-positioned, launched a brand-new product that is unique to the market, and continue to put our customers first in everything that we do. We have solidified our position as the global vendor of choice for companies transforming their business models away from selling products towards selling services and outcomes. This was validated by our 2021 Q1 financial results, demonstrating triple-digit growth of our service management business at 103 percent, and the continued trajectory we are seeing.
What do you do to articulate or demonstrate your company’s values to your employees and to your customers?
At IFS, we are committed to helping customers deliver on their Moment of Service™ — the point at which everything a company does internally and externally has taken place successfully, on time and of quality for customers and employees.
The Moment of Service™ is what underpins a company’s success, and the success of our economy. Getting this moment right time after time with customer after customer is what separates the decent or even good businesses from the truly great ones. Getting it right means a lot of things have to come together at once, and requires a robust business model that can react quickly to changing business criteria, and has capacity to expand and evolve service offerings for our customer’s customer. Innovative technology such as AI, machine learning and IoT can streamline service operations and deliver the experiences that customers now expect.
For the team at IFS, we never stop looking at ways to expand our value in service — and our mergers and acquisitions that span over a decade are a key way we achieve this. We’ve just acquired Customerville to help organizations with new servitized business models better understand the needs of their customers and improve engagement throughout the entire ecosystem. Through this acquisition, we want to help our customers deliver value at every single step — and optimize the Moment of Service™ all the way down to the end customer. Why do I believe this is so important? It means that the service or the product that you and I have paid for comes to us when we need it and exactly how we expect it, and we want to be able to help our customers know, measure, and influence that great Moment of Service™.
Do you have a “number one principle” that guides you through the ups and downs of running a business?
Personally, one must love what one does. Yes, financial matters are important, but not sufficient by themselves. I believe it is the love of work and making a difference in the lives of our customers, our employees and our society that keeps me going and working this hard. I also firmly believe in both a growth mindset and a learning culture — and have brought this to every company I have led or managed.
Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey? Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?
Starting your career can be very hard, and then growing within that first company is essential for your long-term trajectory. At the start of my career, I moved from Wyoming to Washington D.C. and knew a few Montana and Wyoming politicians who definitely helped me secure internships/first stage jobs at Overseas Private Investment Corporation and in the U.S. Senate. However, to get those fortunate opportunities, I had to foster connections and network to be more than a CV in a stack of resumes. Moving to a completely new location and business environment was certainly daunting, but I have always enjoyed doing new things and taking risks. In any event, I have always learned fast, and my learning journey blunders were minor ones. I have lots of fun stories — and remember, when I started my career, you couldn’t do Google searches on protocol or advice like you can now for quick primers.
So, how are things going today? How did your values lead to your eventual success?
Integrity, trust, respect for people and hard work have all been key to my success, as well as always having compelling ideas for how something can be solved, improved, and moved forward. These traits and values are what enabled my career to begin, and has continued to lead to my success.
I also will say that the exposure I had early on, even as a child, to selling skills, conflict resolution, how to be mannerly and confident in social events, public speaking, etc. set me up for success, and these are all skills I have actively cultivated and developed over my career.
Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things a founder or CEO should know in order to create a very successful service-based business? Please share a story or an example for each.
First a founder or CEO must understand the concept of servitization. Sounds simple, but in reality it involves having the C-suite, the CRO (or head of sales), and CMO much more active in that initiative than if a company had a project to only improve utilization of the existing service organization. Businesses will also need to have a look at what technology and personnel can support this transformational shift in how a company does business, markets and monetizes its offerings.
The next step is understanding that customers no longer want to deal with break/fix scenarios or time-based predictive maintenance — they want things to work and be maintained as required in a way that is convenient for them. When a business can guarantee a required level of service at a known cost to meet a specific outcome, customers can offload some responsibility to the service provider.
Successful service-based businesses will be the ones that can recognize the benefit of leading with a remote-first approach. That means providing faster response times that customers now expect, increasing the odds of remote resolution, and improving first-time fix rates — propelling the company forward in its service objectives and ensuring the most positive customer experience. Take the example of one of our customers, Munters — the implementation of remote assistance has not only improved efficiency by reducing the need of on-site visits, but it has also improved the quality of service delivered to its customers and meets their demand for more digital solutions.
However, that is not enough. The sooner businesses embrace predictive service and become digitally orientated, the greater chance they have at not only delivering on ever-higher performance levels, but also getting the accuracy to detect issues before they materialize, helping them exceed customer expectations and maintain their competitive edge. This helps the company avoid significant disruption, maximize equipment uptime, and reduce the number of unnecessary dispatches of their engineers — all while cutting costs and improving customer satisfaction.
CEOs and founders must also remember to look outward to the supply chain. As manufacturing activity, shipping and the supply chain have been disrupted by the pandemic, many industries find that replacement parts, components and subcomponents required for service provision may be in short supply. Service organizations now need enterprise solutions such as ERP platforms to provide excellent visibility into what parts they have in stock — not only in warehouses, but on service vehicles, at drop sites and at customer sites.
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?
Yes, it was a friend of my grandfather. Mike Mansfield, who served in the active military during WWI, was a U.S. Senator from Montana, the longest serving Senate Majority Leader, and later, an Ambassador to Japan. He was very instrumental in my career at a time I was debating which direction I wanted to go. It fascinated me that he was part of the decision to end WWII in his role on the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, later served as Ambassador (one of the longest serving ever), and earned a Presidential Medal of Freedom for his work there in Japan. It puts into perspective the type of conflict resolution or diplomacy we have in business, as most of us thankfully will never have the choice whether or not to drop a nuclear bomb, and then be the Ambassador later to that country and do a good job at it!
After Mansfield retired from politics, he worked at Goldman Sachs and got me a position at the Overseas Private Investment Corporation. While I didn’t go into investment banking, government foreign service, or international investment arms, it did crystalize that I wanted to pursue an international career rather than go back home to Montana and Wyoming. It also showed me that I wanted to be part of growing companies and making a difference in how women are viewed in business.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
Access to education and healthcare are statistically the greatest gamechangers to economic growth and personal development. I would love to play a part in improving and increasing the level of education around the world, especially for girls and women. And from that, I want more girls to believe that STEM is fun and that they are good at it like I did.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
Follow me on LinkedIn, or through Twitter, and the IFS Blog. I am also very happy to engage with people on an individual basis.