Bill Wagner took the reins of Boston-based LogMeIn (NASDAQ: LOGM) a few months ago, succeeding founding CEO Michael Simon. The 13-year-old company got its start by selling software that enables users to remotely access computers, but LogMeIn has since broadened its cloud-based offerings to include things like online collaboration tools and software that serves as the backbone for connecting physical products to the Internet.
I recently sat down with Wagner at LogMeIn’s new office in the Seaport district to talk about this strategy, his style of leadership, and the company’s culture. And then the conversation, which we continued over e-mail, took a bit of a left turn. Read on for highlights.
Xconomy: There’s an enormous amount of hype surrounding connected devices—the so-called “Internet of things”—but it’s mostly still just hype. Is LogMeIn jumping into this too early?
Bill Wagner: I think we’re making the appropriate investment right now. You can’t wait. What I’ve learned in tech is it moves so fast, if we were to wait and be a fast follower, then we could buy our way in down the road. But the most valuable thing we’ve been getting in the last two years [with our Internet of Things business] isn’t the booking or revenue associated with it—it’s been the learning. … Three years ago, we were on the outside looking in, reading research reports. Now, we’re talking to dozens of prospects a week, and we hear what projects they’re working on.
We’re not betting the whole farm on one thing. I think that would be a mistake. But I’m very excited about where it’s going.
X: Why did you decide not to work in a corner office?
BW: The LogMeIn culture encourages collaboration and transparency, something that is reflected in the openness of our office space. No one has an office, and everyone’s workspace is essentially the same. When I arrived as COO a few years ago, it was imperative I get to know the business, so I adopted the habit of moving my desk every three to six months. I’ve sat on the same floor as sales, product, finance, and customer support. When I became CEO, it was important that people know how to get a hold of me, so I’ve settled down to two desks (one in each of our buildings on Summer Street). But having a corner office was out of the question—it just wouldn’t have fit our culture, nor allowed me to be accessible to employees.
X: Given that you’re so accessible at the office, how do you relax outside of work when you want to tune out the noise for a little while?
BW: My father was a mechanic, and we always had one or two “projects” parked in our driveway (something that didn’t make us too popular with our neighbors). So, if I wanted to see my dad on the weekend, I’d go find him under a car. His love of cars has stayed with me, and today I can often be found on a weekend tinkering with a car of my own.
I’ve also come to enjoy driving a car on a racetrack, and while I only have a chance to do it a few times a year, I’ve found it’s an activity that demands total concentration—no time to think of work (or anything else for that matter). It’s funny to think driving at 130+ miles per hour can be exhilarating and relaxing at the same time.
X: Which leader—real or fictional, living or dead—is your biggest role model?
BW: I’ve had the pleasure of working with some great leaders, including LogMeIn co-founder Michael Simon. But as an undergraduate I was a history major, so I’ve long enjoyed reading about leaders from the past. If I had to pick one, I’d probably choose Winston Churchill. Like the rest of us, he was a flawed product of his time, but his fortitude in the face of immense challenges is truly inspiring.
X: You’re stranded on a desert island. Your iPhone battery just died. Now what?
BW: I think I’d be too preoccupied to care.
X: What’s the last thing you binge-watched?
BW: The Showtime series “Billions.”
X: Which character from “The Breakfast Club” do you identify with the most?
BW: Probably Emilio Estevez’s character because I was very much into being a jock in high school. However, my high school years were fortunately pretty free of teenage angst, and football did help by giving me more choices for college. Fortunately, attending a small liberal arts school like Lafayette [College] opened my mind to a broader, more interesting world, and I became all too happy to leave sports behind. Plus, I really wasn’t very good.
X: What’s one trick you use to mentally prepare yourself before speaking in front of people?
BW: As silly as it sounds, I used to pinch myself to give me a little jolt just before an important presentation or discussion. I’ve since learned that practice is the best way to be prepared.