Shannon Henry's The Download – Live
Discussion with Katherine K. Clark Thursday, April 1, 1999
Welcome to The Download – Live. I'm your host, Shannon Henry. My guest today was Katherine K. Clark, chief executive of software company Landmark Systems.
My weekly column, The Download, is a look at the latest deals, hires, and business strategies in the region's technology community. Every other week I host a discussion featuring guests making waves in the local tech scene.
Landmark Systems made its first public offering in 1997. Kathy Clark (left) was named as one of the Post 200 "new guard" in 1998. A December Download column spotlighted Clark's all-women CEO group, the Rich Professional Women.
Welcome everyone for another installment of Download Live. Send your questions now.
Shannon Henry: Thanks Kathy for joining us on this humorous holiday. You've always said that having a sense of humor is important in running a business - how so? And how do you keep one when times get tough?
Kathy Clark: I think it's always important to remember that most of our businesses aren't life and death. We should make sure we have fun at what we're doing and always keep a sense of humor. Otherwise, how would you get through the first day of an IPO roadshow on the same day the Dow fell 500 points?
Shannon Henry: Tell us a bit about RPW.
Kathy Clark: RPW, which really does stand for Rich Powerful Women, was a group I started about a year and a half ago. I did it because I realized that there were a lot of women CEO's out there that I didn't know so I called the four I did know and we met for dinner. Since then, we've grown to a group of 12 with lots more good prospects. As you can imagine, we have a lot of fun at our monthly meetings, but we're also focusing on trying to become better leaders in the community - so we do try to be serious at least for a few minutes.
I heard Mark Andreason of Netscape-AOL is being recruited to be the next chair of NVTC, could you comment on that?
Kathy Clark: Yes, Bradley has always liked the Wonder Woman image.
Kathy Clark: No, not surprised at all. I hear he's worn out from trying to spend all that money and really needs a break to "find himself".
Vienna, VA: Kathy, I just heard today Landmark is buying out AOL, could this be true?
Kathy Clark: Yes, it is. Did you happen to catch the price we're paying? Just need to know how big a check to write.
Shannon Henry: How DID you get through the first day of your IPO Roadshow when the Dow fell 500 points?
Kathy Clark: We got on a plane to London (Oct 27, 1997) and flew business class where drinks are free! By the time we got there and recovered from the hangover, the Dow had regained about 200 points and most of the investors we were schedule to see kept their appointments. Over the next three weeks, the market did OK and we were able to make it out - though at $1/share less than we hoped!
I'm not a woman, but my twin daughters are&-33 I'm curious to see if you think hi-tech is an especially good career field for women, and why?
Kathy Clark: Yes, tech is a great field for women because it values ability to think and great ideas above all else. There's a lot of opportunity and many of the rising stars of the industry are women (ie, the CEO of ebay).
Mclean, Virginia: Is there any truth that you-Landmark are planning a reverse merger of Dyncorp?
Kathy Clark: Who's Dyncorp? And what;s a reverse merger?
Kathy Clark: Gov. Gilmore is doing a lot of good for tech, especially with his appointment of Don Upson as Sec of Tech. But you're right, transportation and workforce are issues. This region is actually doing a lot to address workforce, which is not just a regional, but a national and even global problem. Check out the Northern Virginia Regional Partnership for example. But we desperately need to address the roads issues. One group called REGION, started by the Fairfax Chamber and supprted by NVTC, is helping with that.
How do you feel about relocating to Reston in a building constructed specifically for Landmark Systems?
Kathy Clark: We're excited about moving to Reston. I lived there for five years and it is a great place. We'll miss the Shopping Bag (Tower Club, Tycon Tower) building, but it will be great to have our own identity in a campus like setting. Major considerations were accessability for employees (in light of previously mentioned road problems), good food, gyms, etc in vicinity, proximity to airport, cheap rent, etc.
I hear all this stuff about all the hi-tech CEOs in D.C. One has even chucked it all to look for UFOs.
Kathy Clark: No me, I prefer 3-5 miles, cross country.
Rosslyn Hts. VA: Where were you before Landmark?
Kathy Clark: I was at Blue Cross/Blue Shield of D.C. as a systems programmer where my co-worker (well actually boss) and I developed the prescursor of our first product.
Castle Rock, CO:
Not a question. Just congratulations from an admirer and old friend. Best wishes, Joe Procopio
Kathy Clark: Hi Joe thanks
Shannon Henry: What are the main issues for the NVTC?
Kathy Clark: We've just completed a new strategic planning exercise and the new plan is posted on our web site at nvtc.org. We need to balance our priorites because people have come to expect a lot from the council. We also have to find better ways of serving as a link to solutions for our members and help to address the priority issues such as workforce that affect our members. Our new president Bobbie Kilberg is doing a great job of getting NVTC to that next level.
Shannon Henry: A serious question about AOL: The company laid off 850 workers yesterday, 250 in the Washington area. Analysts said that with the workforce shortage, these people will have no problem finding new jobs. True? How are tech layoffs different from say, layoffs at other big companies like Giant or Mobil?
Kathy Clark: These kinds of layoffs are typical of any merger. There are bound to be redundancies whenever two growing successful companies are combined. The good news is that there's no stigma attached to any of the individuals who are layed off. They will quickly be absorbed and hopefully will have good enough severance packages that they can find a great opportunity. The difference between AOL and Mobil is that there are more tech companies located here than oil companies, so the learning curve will be shorter and people probably won't have to relocate to find employemtn
Where do you see the stock market going in the next six months?
Kathy Clark: Up some, down some. Suggest everyone take a long term view. As I heard someone say not too long ago, it's a sure thing it will get to 20,000 before it goes to zero!
Shannon Henry: Every time I call you and get your voice mail, you have a different, usually philosophical quote. Where do you find these, how often do you change the voice mail, and what's your favorite one?
Kathy Clark: I started putting quotes on my voice mail because I got so sick and tired of hearing "I'm away from my desk and can't take your call right now". BORING, BORING, BORING. So I started using quotes and now its a challenge because if I leave on too long, people will leave msgs complaing they've already heard it. They have to be short, but meaningful, and often funny. The favorite of my callers was from Bill Cosby (so I'm told) and was "I don't know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everyone". Another I like is "When the chips are down, the buffalo is empty".
Shannon Henry: How does someone know they have what it takes to start a company? What are the attributes of an entrepreneur?
Kathy Clark: Entrpreneurs come in many varieties and some are as different as night and day. But I think most of us have an irrational belief in our company and/or product that allows us to ignore or overcome whatever barriers are there. The ability to take risks, not give up, and not listen to the naysayers are all important. I always get a kick out of universities that try to teach entrpreneurship - I'm not sure it's something that can be taught!
Elesa La Plata, MD: Kathy, I knew a Kathy Clark when I was little, living in Fort Washington, MD. Did you ever live there?
Kathy Clark: I lived in Oxon Hill Md, very close to Ft. Washington and went to Oxon Hill HS.
Kathy Clark: OK, I'm back, got knocked off there for a few. I really like meeting new employees and spending time with custoemrs
Vienna, VA: What policy groups and organizations do you beling to? How often are you the only woman in the room?
Kathy Clark: I belong to the Va State Chamber of Commerce, the Nortjhern Va Roundtable, the Fairfax Chamber, and a few others, I'm usually not the only woman, but am almost certainly in the minority. The good news is that I get a lot of opporunities that other (male) CEO's of $52 million companies dont!
DC: What do you think the best careers for people in their early 20's is now? With Y2K coming to an end, is the high demand for technology going out of style? What about consulting firms, are they on the way out?
Kathy Clark: Consulting firms are not on the way out - in fact they're growing fast and seeing a huge uptick in valuation, Reason - because of the workforce shortage and pace of change in tech, people can't keepup using internal staff only. Landmark used to sell just products. Now our customers demand to buy consulting services from us too. Once Y2K is over, tech will continue to grow. Just look at how young and fast changing the E-Commerce market is for example, Tech's here to stay and so are big salaries, signing bonuses, and stock options.
Falls Church, VA: What are some of Landmark Systems charitable contributions to the community?
Kathy Clark: We've a;ways tried to place a strong emphasis on giving back to the commuinty. for over 10 years we've supported an outreach program in Appalachia (KY) and have also had an active partnership with Edison High School in Fairfax County. We have a lot of employees who volunteer time and have fun doing it. It not only does good in many ways, but has become part of our company culture that is valued by many.
Fairfax, Virginia: Kathy, everything we hear about Y2K paints a pretty bleak picture. As someone inside the technology community, what impact do you think Y2K will really have on our day-to-day lives?
Kathy Clark: I don't buy into the doomsday scenarios. My prediction is that we'll have lots of minor glitches, but nothing that won't get sorted out pretty quickly. We're only nine months away and most of our customers are feeling pretty confident. It may be a little bit of an adventure, but not a disaster.
Shannon Henry: For those in the audience not familiar with Landmark, can you tell us what the company does? What's new in the next few months?
Kathy Clark: Landmark makes packaged software products that help large companies manage performance of business systems that run on large computer systems. Typical customers are banks, insurance companies, hospitals, large retailers, state/local governments, manufacturers. About 40% of our customers are outside north america.
Vienna, VA: What is the one technology related public policy issue you would most like to see government address or in the alternative, leave alone?
Kathy Clark: Government has to avoid the urge to over-regulate the internet. I think Virginia is taking a strong lead on internet policy and is headed in the right direction.
Mocha, Oakton VA:
Wants to know when you are comeing home to take me for a walk.
Kathy Clark: OK, Mocha, I'll be home before dark and we can go to the lake. But no prime rib tonight......
Shannon Henry: I've heard a rumor that you're going to broadcast your wedding live on the Internet. How does the Yahoo/Broadcast.com merger affect your plans?
Kathy Clark: We haven't decided who's going to broadcast it yet. Actually, Bradley may have to travel to the Asia/Pacific region and we're not sure he'll make it back for the wedding, so hopefully we can do the whole thing on the net.
Washington, DC: Where do you see your company ten years down the road?
Kathy Clark: Which road? If it's 66, in ten years, we'll be close to Front Royal!
Washington, DC: Hi&-33 How did you get where you are today? I am 24 years old and working for a company without much upward mobility. I plan on starting on my Masters degree in the Fall of 2000. I think an MBA is a great start, and I think that I can get into a very good school. Once I get the degree, what can I do--consulting, finance, management? What is the best way to climb the corporate ladder? Thank you for your advice.
Kathy Clark: I don't know anything about climbing corporate ladders. I can tell you there's nothing more fun that I've ever done than starting a company from scratch (or course, you won't have time to do anything else, so by default it the most fun you'll have). If you get an MBA, your best bet is to team up with someone with a brilliant product or technology who needs a good business person to help implement it.
Washington: Who are your personal and professional heroes?
Kathy Clark: Some of my local mentors have been Ed Bersoff, Earle Williams, Dan Bannister, George Newstrom, Esther Smith. Otehrs I admire: Walt Disney, Ray Kroc, Katherine Graham, Cal Ripken, Joe Gibbs
Fairfax, VA: What is your favorite drink and how early in the day do you start?
Kathy Clark: I have a different favorite for each day of the week - don't like to get into a rut and be boring you know. When I start depends on what time zone I'm in. When I start, it's always 6:00am somewhere!
Kathy Clark: Yes, I helped to develop our first product and undoubtedly some of the bugs that are still in it are ones I put there! It is actually still one of our top selling products (The Monitor for CICS, which monitors and IBM Mainframe transaction processing system). In the meantime though, we've developed more than 20 new products covering mainframe and client/server operating systems and databases.
Kathy Clark: Good question. With the proiliferation of technology we have these days, name recognition and branding are becoming increasingly important. That's why the top tier internet stocks are doing so incredibly well and why it will be rough for some of the smaller ones. In Landmark's market (system management software for large systems) there isn't quite the same rate of new companies and hype. So there are a manageable number of companies that make sense to partner with.
DC: What are the 5 most important tips you could tell someone who is starting in the corporate world about being successful?
Kathy Clark: I've actually developed six secrets of success: take risks, think big, be flexible, don't give up, give bakc, and HAVE FUN.
Shannon Henry: What are your responsibilities as chair of the Northern Virgina Technology Council? It seems like more and more groups, like the new DC Tech Council, are being started to promote the area. How will all these groups work together and avoid constantly reinventing the wheel?
Kathy Clark: This was one of the key questions during our recent NVTC stragic plan review. Our strategy is to identify issues where we want to be the lead player and to work harder at partnering with other organizations for other issues. Each organization has to have its own focus/niche and be secure with that, then partner with others. If we do that we can accomplish a lot.
Vienna, Va: What do you think about IBM's move to advertise only on web sites that display privacy policies? How important do you believe it is for companies on the web to have transparent privacy policies?
Kathy Clark: I actually didn't know of that policy, but I think privacy is one of the key issues that affects the internet. It's alos one that is very controversial, and one I hope will not get over-regulated by the govt.
Washington, DC: Did you ever imagine you'd be this successful? Be honest&-33
Kathy Clark: Hey, you must have been at my last speech! I get that question a lot and the answer actually is YES. Otehrsiwe how would I have got here? Of course, I never pictured EXACTLY what would happen or how big the company would get or how much my stock would be worth, But we neve, ever had any limits in our thinking about how far we could go.
Shannon Henry: What needs to happen in this area to drive technology growth? More venture capital? New start-ups? More creative thinking?
Kathy Clark: All of those things. A key will be making it attractive for enterpreneurs who amass a lot of wealth to stay here and invest in new start ups.
Vienna, VA: What if anything does your company or RPW do to support education improvement at the community level? Any special programs at your company that focus on technology in education?
Kathy Clark: One interesting one that both Landmark and NVTC are involved in is the Botball tournament sponsored by the KISS Instutite for Practical Robotics. It is a competition among middle and high school students who build robots that compete against each other in regional and national competitions. Students work in teams to design, build, and program these robots for a specific task and its a great way to encourage kids to get involved with technology.
Washington, D.C.: Why hasn't hi tech taken off in Maryland as well as it has in Virginia?
Kathy Clark: Maryland has a lot of tech companies. The Md tech council has lots of members and gets hundreds of people to its events. So I think they're doing fine. But we're lucky to have more office space, more big companies like AOL and MCI Worldcom, and more people.
That's it for today. Maybe if we're lucky Kathy and Bradley will give The Download Live the exclusive on their web-wedding. Stay tuned. Thanks for the fun.
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