Last week, Wendi Sturgis became the new CEO of cleverbridge. As only the third CEO in company history and the first non-founder, I am thrilled to welcome her aboard as the captain of the ship.
Turning over the role of CEO to Wendi was not a difficult decision for me. As a founder, I have been all in for over fifteen years guiding the company to my best as a first time founder and first time CEO. But for the best of the company’s future, I asked a year ago to be replaced, which is why this moment was filled with anticipation rather than anxiety.
After so many years of growth and change, the company sits at the crossroads of startup habits and new ways of thinking, institutional knowledge and diverse experience, classical success and new market expansion, bootstrapped and private equity backed. Who is the right one to balance all of these competing interests and opinions for the next stage of growth?
I believe the right person is Wendi because:
- Strategic Leader — Held roles as a Chief Customer Officer, CEO Europe and President. While Wendi is not afraid to get her hands dirty, she’s a strategic thinker and leader, as evidenced by her independent director roles at The Container Store, Sabre Corporation and TPG Pace.
- Relationship Skills —Wendi was crystal clear how critical employee and client relationships are to our success. It takes a lifetime to build a great reputation and one bad action to ruin it. When researching cleverbridge, she validated our value prop through her network.
- Global Experience — As a former CEO Europe, Wendi is experienced with the nuances of leading a global business and team, proudly aware that talking with Americans is very different than talking with Germans. Localization, not translation.
- Positive Energy —Wendi brings an outgoing, vibrant, positive energy into each interaction, lifting the energy of those around her. Every organization has people that fill this role and where better than to have someone like this than at the top!
I believed in Wendi when she walked into the office with a burst of energy typical of seeing a family member after an extended period of time. She immediately engaged in conversation, moving seamlessly from one topic to another like a seasoned sailor tacking effortlessly and gracefully upwind.
Observing a wall of record covers, she confidently shared her opinion that REM’s Document album was the band’s last great album. I believe that their last great album floated was New Adventures in Hi-Fi, but her confidence to share her opinion to a founder impressed me. She is no delicate flower!
Last week, Wendi took the ship out of port for a test drive to engage with our accounts. As expected, she confidently told her story, listened attentively to their feedback and talked positively about what’s coming. Invariably during a calm period, I interjected that there was some bad weather ahead as well: I, unfortunately, would be remaining with cleverbridge and spending even more time with our clients and prospects. After a laugh, I often heard the same retort: At least now there is someone above me to keep me in check.