- Logitech, one of the largest consumer electronics companies in the world, has thrived during the pandemic, hitting a record-breaking first quarter at $792 million in revenue.
- CEO and President Bracken Darrell, who spent 12 years at Procter & Gamble before joining Logitech in 2012, reflected on the company's success and his own career path in an interview with Business Insider.
- A lot of his excitement for joining Logitech stemmed from his experience turning brands like Old Spice around in his twenties — he hoped as president to turn the consumer electronics company into a "design company."
- He said he "always tells people to just take more chances, take the risk, because you will never be sorry if you did something and failed. It would've been amazing if I had learnt that earlier."
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Logitech, one of the largest consumer electronics companies in the world, has seen a surge in interest for its products, due in large part to the pandemic and switch to working from home.
Sales in the PC webcams category, for example, increased 121% to $61 million in the first quarter of 2020, the highest quarterly level in the past 10 years. The keyboards and combos group delivered a third consecutive quarter of double-digit growth, and gaming sales, which includes PC gaming, simulation, and console gaming, were up 38% in Q1, as noted in Logitech's Q1 Fiscal Year 2021 Financial Results, released on July 20. Logitech is now valued at some $12 billion on the public markets, with its stock popping over 50% since the beginning of the year.
"We grew sales 25%, with strong growth in almost every product category," said Logitech CEO and President Bracken Darrell, whose company pulled in $792 million in revenue in the first quarter — up 23% in US dollars compared to Q1 of the prior year.
Darrell assumed the role as CEO of Logitech in 2013, a year after serving as president of the company. This role came after decades of work in consumer retail, helping steer companies like Whirlpool Corporation through the 2008 economic recession and making use of analytics and insights to lead in the turnaround of the Old Spice brand during his 12-year stretch at Procter & Gamble.
Darrell told Business Insider that Old Spice, which was his first big job, "was almost dead and then it doubled and doubled again — and took off in value," as a result of the work he did, then in his late twenties.
"The business was declining and losing market share after being acquired three years earlier, and when I took over I built a plan for new advertising pricing, which was lower and controversial, product, and advertising," Darrell said. "It took six trips to the top people with my boss Susan Arnold to get an agreement from the group president. Then Susan gave me more spending if I hit certain stages and gates. We doubled the market share in two years — now it is the leading brand in the category for men."
'Designing a design company' at Logitech
When he signed onto Logitech in 2012, which at the time was experiencing its own stifled four-year period of no growth, Darrell said he wasn't afraid of getting into a new market rooted in engineering and technology. Instead, being a "design junkie," he said, he was excited to get a chance to "design new product categories and feel less restricted" as he had in previous roles. He said he's "never expected not to be at Logitech for at least 10 years," arguing he'll take another 10 years "if I can get away with it; I'm a long-term guy."
"When I started, I was excited that their core category [the mouse and keyboard business] was in trouble," Darrell said. "The equipment all looked like black plastic to me, and because what they had been doing hadn't been working there was a real interest in change, a lot of humility, so we could take the capabilities and apply it onto new things. Logitech was always really good at innovation but didn't have any designers inside, so I was really designing a design company."
One of his first orders of business was tapping Alastair Curtis to lead creative, moving design capabilities in house. Curtis still remains the chief design officer today. The company has consistently received top design honors, including CES awards for its mouse, headset, and keyboard equipment.
Drawing leadership experience from sports
Growing up in Owensboro, Kentucky, Darrell stood out early on — he was 5-feet, 11-inches tall at age 12. Although big and strong, and like his siblings heavily into athletics, Darrell said he was shy but got addicted to the leadership he found on the basketball court while playing in multiple positions, from center to point guard.
He noted that in competitive sports, like business, "you really learn that you need to get the fundamentals right, and then you have to get used to missing jobs, or missing layups, and getting over it."
Darrell said the shyness eventually went away, but his scrutiny of himself was something that took him about 50 years to manage. (He was petrified of possibly having to join a fraternity in college, for example.)
"I wish I had been less concerned with my reputation and what people thought of me," he said. "I didn't want to fail because I had a good track record, but I learned my way out of that one." He added that he "always tells people to just take more chances, take the risk, because you will never be sorry if you did something and failed. It would've been amazing if I had learnt that earlier."
Now having made "spectacular failures and really good successes," Darrell said he draws on intuition-based decision-making to lead.
"At the CEO level, you probably make more intuition-based decisions than any other job because if you're a good CEO, 98% of decisions should not be made by you," he said. "The people closest to the information should make the decisions, and the CEO should only be involved where the decisions are either judgement calls or intuition [decisions]."
Pivoting during the pandemic
Beginning in March, key trends such as working from home, video calls, esports, and what Darrell called the "democratization of content," where anyone could create content, helped to accelerate Logitech's sales. By the end of March 2020, he said, cash and cash equivalents were a record high for the company, hitting $716 million.
"It just reaffirmed the kind of accelerator we already believed, that our mouse, our keyboard, they are still as important of tools for creative efforts, for analytics, for engineers, for sciences, education, and that the rest of the world is re-appreciating the things that we do and where we can make a difference," he said. "The PC, screen, or whatever you want to call it in front of you is here to stay, and you're going to always be using that, and that keeps us really relevant."
Darrell said he's pivoted much of his hallway hellos to voicing weekly, five-minute long videos on topics like the China tariffs or George Floyd and racial injustices, or he uses the time to highlight new corporate benefits like meeting-free Fridays. He also answers questions employees have posed as part of the CEO comment box, which can be serious or funny in nature. Each video is filmed at one of his multiple video setups around his home or in his car, and for the past six months, he's never missed a week.
A focus on sustainability and diversity in tech
Darrell said Logitech has become the first consumer electronics company to commit to carbon labeling on all its products, as well as indicating each label on the website. These indicators read like nutrition labels, identifying how much carbon is put into the atmosphere based on a specified product, from manufacturing through to its use.
This guarantee came after issuing third-party research on carbon validation, which found other companies that provide carbon labeling only do so on a few select products or via PDF's found on a company's website. Logitech is open to sharing its methodology so others can start their own carbon labels, too.
Darrell said he thinks this will create even greater competition in the market. By 2030, he said the company will be powered solely by renewable electricity.
"When you start to have that competition in every single industry, which happens whether it is clothing or toys, you'll really have another driver to having a lower level of carbon impact in the world," he said. "And people can make a choice not just on price."
Gender diversity in leadership has grown from 15% to 50% at Logitech, the CEO reported. But still Darrell said he's well aware of "how terrible the representation we have at the company is when it comes to the Black community and other under-represented minorities." He issued a seven-point plan in June, which is public on LinkedIn, with the first step being the organization of a supplier diversity program.
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