To refresh his thinking, Bracken Darrell uses a thought experiment. The Logitech CEO pretends to fire himself — and then rehires himself as a bold, free-minded newcomer.
Darrell, also president of computer peripheral maker Logitech (LOGI), finds the exercise liberating. He returns to work with a clean slate and adopts the mindset of an unfettered, problem-solving outsider.
“It’s a great feeling,” he told Investor’s Business Daily. And “it’s such a light feeling. It’s a level of independence. You’re the new guy. The old guy was a bozo. You have no constraints.”
Table of Contents
Deliver Results Like The Logitech CEO
It works. With Darrell as the Logitech CEO, the company keeps growing like a startup. Since he took the helm as CEO in January 2013, Logitech’s revenue has soared roughly 70% to $3.7 billion. And during that time, adjusted profit per share is up 800%.
Running the company like an aggressive new CEO translates into big gains for investors, too. Logitech shares are up 1,100% since 2013, making the S&P 500 look like it’s standing still with a 156% rise.
When Darrell first tried “firing himself” more than four years ago, he identified what he calls “bolder, more strategic” solutions. He was so pleased with the results he encouraged his leadership team to follow suit.
He credits Andy Grove, the late Intel (INTC) CEO, for sparking the idea. Chatting with colleague Gordon Moore, Grove fretted about the chipmaker’s struggles at the time.
“If we got kicked out and the board brought in a new CEO, what do you think he would do?” Grove asked Moore.
The answer led them to make better, bolder decisions. Similarly, Darrell says he welcomes the fresh perspective he gains by “finding a way to try to start over again on a regular basis” by perceiving himself as the new boss.
Darrell, 57, joined the maker of keyboards, webcams and other computer accessories in 2012 as its president after successful stints as a senior executive at Whirlpool (WHR) and Procter & Gamble (PG). Under his watch, Logitech evolved into a multi-brand company designing music, gaming, video and computing products. Many of its products became even more essential in 2020 as people worked and played online during the pandemic.
Strike Success And Failure From Your Vocabulary
In leading the company’s roughly 6,600 employees, Darrell treats them like volunteers. Because volunteers can quit at any moment, Darrell strives to inspire them, respect them and give them autonomy.
“Get out of their way when they know what they’re doing,” he said. That may mean setting aside the leader’s ego so that workers can step up and thrive, he adds.
Speaking of ego, a dose of humility helps leaders grow, learn and build trust with their team. Admitting error can enhance their credibility.
Darrell recalls “a tough period” when he voiced disagreement with the company’s board of directors over a key decision. They overruled him. “I was disappointed,” he said. “I thought they were wrong.”
But over the next year or two, he realized they were right. He was grateful that throughout that time, they continued to support him even though they reached a different conclusion.
Reflecting on this experience, Darrell says that he’d strike two words from the vocabulary: success and failure.
“The problem with success is you get a little taste of it and you always want it,” he said. “Once you’ve got it, you try to hang onto it” by avoiding risk and lapsing into complacency. And he views failure as a learning opportunity rather than something to worry about.
Know A Blurry Vision Works Better Than An Overly Specific One
At first glance, it appears Switzerland-based Logitech competes with tech giants such as Apple (AAPL), Microsoft (MSFT) and Samsung Electronics. But Darrell doesn’t see it that way.
“We’re not really competing with bigger companies,” he said. Instead, “we’re competing with smaller companies. We’re more like a mouse running at the feet of the elephant.”
He characterizes Logitech as “a big fish in a small pond.” Rather than go to battle with tech giants, he prefers to partner with them.
In crafting his vision, Darrell doesn’t try to paint a crystal-clear picture of the future. Instead, he often favors a more flexible interpretation of what lies ahead.
“Start with a blurry vision of what you’re going for,” he said. “Then you set goals to get there,” generating excitement and conviction from the team to pursue those objectives.
Darrell’s preference for a fuzzier vision flows from his frequent interaction with tech entrepreneurs. He estimates that 80% of founders “start in one direction and then pivot” based on changing circumstances. By not locking themselves into a specific vision, they can be nimble and course-correct more seamlessly.
Put Customers At The Center Of The Design Process
Since 2015, Logitech has won more than 250 design awards from global design organizations and publications. Its products, like a wireless charging stand, sport headphones and adaptable gaming kit, are lauded for their usability and appearance.
Darrell attributes the company’s design prowess to putting the customer at the center of its thinking.
“Some CEOs are more interested in (financial) performance and (making the) numbers,” he said. “If you start in the wrong place, sometimes you get to the wrong place.”
Soon after becoming Logitech CEO, Darrell sought to make a statement by upgrading product design.
Alastair Curtis, the company’s chief design officer, recalls instructing Logitech’s creative agency to propose more provocative designs.
“That created a huge amount of tension,” Curtis said. “When we were challenged by other business groups (within the company), Bracken stood behind me and said, ‘Look, we need to move the needle.’ “
This boldness carries over into other aspects of the business. Amid heightened public interest in sustainability, Darrell approved his team’s suggestion to put carbon impact labels on its product packaging.
“There was a high degree of nervousness,” Curtis said, noting that Logitech is the first company among its peers to put carbon footprint details on its packaging. “But Bracken said, ‘Someone’s got to take the first step.’ “
To stay close to the workforce, Darrell has about 21 direct reports. Chief executives typically oversee about a dozen direct reports, says Kirsty Russell, head of Logitech’s people and culture.
“Bracken’s span of control is much bigger than most CEOs,” Russell said. This helps him keep in touch with more employees and reflects his belief in hiring stars and supporting their efforts to excel.
In brainstorming sessions, Darrell draws out participants to spur their creativity. He likes to pose questions and let them explore potential solutions, often asking, “What if?” or “How might we do that?”
“He prompts you to think,” Russell said, rather than hinting at the answer he wants to hear.
Logitech CEO Darrell’s Keys
- CEO of Logitech since January 2013. Logitech is a leading maker of keyboards, webcams and other computer accessories.
- Overcame: Temptation to get complacent about success by mentally firing himself — and rehiring himself as a new CEO with fresh ideas.
- Lesson: Present a blurry vision that affords flexibility instead of articulating an overly narrow vision that’s limiting. “If you start in the wrong place, sometimes you get to the wrong place.”
YOU MAY ALSO LIKE:
This Top CEO’s Rock-Solid Company Acts Like A Teenager
Want To Sell More? Listen To Wallets, Not Words
Inspirational Quotes: Helena Rubinstein, Vince Lombardi, Olga Neuwirth And Others
IBD Digital: Unlock IBD’s Premium Stock Lists, Tools And Analysis Today
MarketSmith: Research, Charts, Data And Coaching All In One Place