“5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Became a CEO of Sectigo,” with Bill Holtz
Hire optimistic salespeople: Salespeople must be optimistic and not throw in the towel before the battle is over. Still, that optimism must be paired with a healthy share of realism. As the company grows and new sales people are hired, it takes time before the reality of the new environment takes hold. Just because a salesperson was successful elsewhere, does not mean they will find immediate success in the new role. Pipeline building and sales cycles are partly art and partly science, and the formula must be painfully understood.
I had the pleasure to interview Bill Holtz. Bill is the CEO at Sectigo, which is driving innovation in digital identity and cybersecurity, including automation, IoT and DevOps, for today’s enterprises. Bill is an experienced senior executive who has transformed large global operations, resulting in accelerated product innovation, competitive market advantage, faster time to market, revenue expansion, increased company valuation, lower operating costs and greater customer satisfaction.
Thank you so much for joining us Bill! Can you tell us the story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I have never been a supporter of the “status quo.” When others said, “it can’t be done,” I always wondered why and whether it could in fact be accomplished. I have been lucky to work with some of the brightest people who shared my vision for exponential thinking. Throughout my career, we achieved new breakthroughs. At Unisys, we consolidated 72 global data centers into a single center in Minnesota. That effort required data networking capabilities that were not available at the time. We developed it with partners, and the program was a huge success.
At Nortel networks, we developed and implemented the first integrated voice/data and video network when the industry said it could not be done. At Expedia, we introduced analytics that provided insight into each shopper’s experience, including every screen shot, click and navigation. While that type of analytics is in common use today, it was the first of its kind for the volume of traffic that was involved.
I attribute my current success to the previous positions that I have held; CIO and COO. The lessons I learned in those roles have proven invaluable.
Can you share one of the major challenges you encountered when first leading Sectigo? What lesson did you learn from that?
Sectigo is a carve-out from a prior, larger company. Carve-outs create new challenges simply because many seats at the management level are empty, either because people stayed behind, or new leaders were needed for the new journey. Time is always of the essence, as customers do not want to be affected or wait for a company to rebuild itself. So, the first challenge was to create a high-performing management team quickly.
We were able to recruit the best in the industry from past connections in just 90 days. I think most people who have hired executives would agree that hiring a new management team in three months is a challenge. The lesson is: set high goals, build great teams, make tough decisions but ALWAYS treat people the right way. If I had not done that, the best in the industry would not have followed me here.
What are some of the factors that you believe led to your eventual success?
Attracting the right talent and building the best team has been integral to my success. That sounds trite, but it has truly been the key to my success. However, it is not as easy as people may think. Simply hiring the best individuals does not create a team.
I grew up in South London, England. The last time England won the World Cup was in 1966, and yet, they have great soccer players. But individuals do not win; teams do. If England can figure out how to build a team, then they would have another chance at the World Cup. Building a team of the best people and keeping them performing at peak levels takes unrelenting efforts.
Coupled with the best team is also the pursuit of breakthroughs: doing something that was previously thought impossible. This requires vision and the ability to execute. Having the best vision without a team that can deliver on that vision is fruitless. In fact, dangerous. Many businesses have had catastrophic outcomes because the vision remained just that, a vision. Unisys, when I was there, had a CEO with a great vision. That vision could not be delivered by the team, and in the pursuit of that vision, 50,000 people lost their jobs.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Became CEO” and why?
- 100 percent of the “piece parts” must succeed: If you manage a subset of a company and that subset is successful, that entity has succeeded. As a CEO, 100 percent of the piece parts must succeed for the company to succeed. There is no glory in component success. An R&D slippage, for example, is a company loss, not just an R&D failure.
- Hire optimistic salespeople: Salespeople must be optimistic and not throw in the towel before the battle is over. Still, that optimism must be paired with a healthy share of realism. As the company grows and new sales people are hired, it takes time before the reality of the new environment takes hold. Just because a salesperson was successful elsewhere, does not mean they will find immediate success in the new role. Pipeline building and sales cycles are partly art and partly science, and the formula must be painfully understood.
- Work starts as soon as you wake up: Since what I contribute comes from my head, work starts as soon as I am awake, and that work continues until sleep takes over. I try hard to create a work/life balance, but I am guilty of the mind wandering back to the workplace. I love what I do, but it never ends — that is just the nature of the job. I now understand “La La land.” That is what my kids say when I am looking at them, but my mind has drifted. Priceless!
- There is little time to just think: The days are always full, and there is little time that can naturally be devoted to thinking. That is why I love to drive. I drive to all business meetings that are six hours driving time or shorter. While one could argue that is a productivity loss, I argue it is thinking time.
- The competition never sleeps: It might seem obvious, but agility is so important in today’s rapidly changing business environment. During my time at Sectigo, we have carved out from a partner company, launched a complete rebrand, acquired multiple companies and entered new markets with new solutions. If you are standing still, the competition will blow right past you — particularly in the security space. We constantly focus on innovation to make the internet more secure and safe for businesses and consumers. Cybercriminals are extremely intelligent and resourceful, so we must constantly refine our strategy and pivot to meet evolving market needs.
What advice would you give to your colleagues to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
I am probably someone who could use some advice in this area. Having said that, I always know the signs of severe stress and find a way that works for me to relieve it. I have learned to know the signs, and I can be in the middle of a major preparation or pending event and know when I must walk away. Instead, watch a movie, listen to some music, go out with friends and stay away from work talk, enjoy the family, whatever works for you. Just know when you need a break, and do not compromise.
Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
Everyone should have at least one mentor. For me, it is Bill Conner, the CEO of SonicWall and also Sectigo’s chairman, whom I have admired and learned from for 35 years. I look up to Bill because he has the uncanny talent of being able to speak to both an engineer about a technical issue and a board member about strategy. He is articulate, fast on his feet, demanding and does not accept the status quo.
We are now to the point where we learn from each other, and he is both a mentor and a friend. He hired me to run a $1.2 billion worldwide IT operation when my experience to date had been on a much smaller scale. He had faith in me, and that made me work harder to not let him down.
What are some of the goals you still have and are working to accomplish, both personally and professionally?
The goal at Sectigo is to be the world’s most trusted, innovative and customer-centric partner for protecting organizations’ identities and connected devices. As CEO, I want my team to rethink and push industry norms, so that we can deliver innovations and greater automation that help organizations, from the biggest brands to the smallest websites, secure their operations while making the internet safer and more secure for the world.
Personally, my wife and I want to watch our kids grow and hopefully give them a solid foundation where they can go on to be even more successful than us.
What do you hope to leave as your lasting legacy?
I would hope for my legacy to be that there are no limits to what can be achieved. I am living that dream.
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!
People’s lives can really be enhanced by global travel. I have lived in many countries around the world, seen many cultures, experienced different languages, eaten all types of food and lived in different conditions. I am now to the point where I could probably survive and adapt in most places in the world, which has contributed to my success.
Often, people have opinions about other people and places they have never visited or experienced. While movies and television provide a view of the world, it is interpreted. To truly understand other areas of the world, it is important to see it with your own eyes.