Among the many acquisitions with which Marc Levine became involved during his 25 years at Hewlett-Packard Co., it may surprise few of his former colleagues that he counts HP’s purchase of Compaq Computer as one of the tech giant’s most unusual marriages.
However, Levine doesn’t single out HP’s purchase of Compaq due to the lively behind-the-scenes drama that accompanied it after Walter Hewlett, son of one of the HP founders, loudly voiced his opposition to the deal or the two books that a subsequent proxy battle helped to fatten.
Instead, Levine tells us that from his perspective, the unusual aspect of the Compaq acquisition had more to do with the integration of certain pieces of the business.Read More
“On my particular team, I was the only person from HP and everyone else was from Compaq, which was unlike any of the other HP integrations I had previously been involved with, where there had always been more HP people,” explains Levine, who recalls spending many a night in Houston, Texas, hotel rooms beside Compaq’s headquarters.
Looking back, Levine suspects that the lack of HP representation on his team had to do with his group’s focus on the integration of Compaq’s sales team and field organization. Having in the past worked closely with the HP sales team (including a stint as a sales leader in HP’s Southeast Asia operations), Levine was perhaps better prepared than many of his HP peers to join the integration effort.
Says Levine: “I think that past experience brought me a little more credibility when I walked into the room, and I could understand better some of the things that the Compaq people were dealing with.”
Still, while HP was widely known as an engineering organization rich with technical talent, Compaq was known for having a dynamic sales organization—a standout attribute that may have led the acquiring company to give Compaq greater influence than in other deals when it came to integrating sales talent.
Adds Levine: “It was the biggest and probably the first acquisition that I became involved with at HP. There was a lot of controversy at the time as to whether it was the right move for HP, but the integration was really about making certain that we could bring together the best of both companies.” –Jack Sweeney
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CFOTL: Tell us about Tanium … what does this company do, and what are its offerings today?
Levine: This is a company that’s been around for a while. It’s a very-late-stage, private, pre-IPO firm that’s gotten to scale: some 2,000 employees. We’ve been seeing growth in the 30% range historically, sometimes higher. It’s been a well run company since before I got here. The attention has been on being disciplined about getting the growth and taking advantage of that in the market, but also on being disciplined about wanting a cash-flow-positive rather than cash-flow-neutral type of operation. In the pre-IPO space over the past few years, there hasn’t been a lot of focus on positive cash flow. It’s been all about growth at all cost.Read More
The priority right now is to really make sure that we’re looking forward at what’s happening in the world and looking at what we think may happen. We want to be sure that the company is ready for any potential swings that could be there. I mean, we know about the inflation. We know what the Fed is doing. There’s a lot of speculation about an economic downturn, and no one really has an understanding of how severe it might be, when it’s going to come, or even if it’s going to come, but we want to be ready for that. So, we’re spending a lot of time doing forward-looking scenario planning on what this all means and what we can do to prepare ourselves.
“Empower other functional leaders in the business to succeed. Hire people smarter than you. Identify where value gets created and focus on the three most impactful of those opportunities. Get leaders to understand the critical operational drivers. This is the advice I would give my younger self and other CFOs.” –Marc Levine, CFO, Tanium
Tanium | www.tanium.com | Kirkland, WA