Q&A with Matt Blumberg, LRN's New Chief Executive: The E&C Pulse - October 2, 2019

October 2, 2019 Ben DiPietro

OCT. 2, 2019

Meet Matt Blumberg, LRN's New Chief Executive


Matt Blumberg started Tuesday as chief executive at LRN, where he is tasked with steering the company into the future while remaining true to its mission of elevating the behavior of people and organizations.


Blumberg will work closely with Dov Seidman, who founded LRN and remains its chairman after also serving as CEO for 25 years. Blumberg talks about the journey that led him to LRN, and shares some of what he wants to accomplish now that he is here.

Tell us a bit about yourself, and the journey you've taken to become CEO at LRN?


I grew up in San Diego, and went to college at Princeton, which brought me to New York. I lived in the city for about 20 years before moving to Westchester. My career started with a few years in strategy consulting, and then in venture capital. I’ve spent the last 25 years building and scaling internet businesses. 


In the 1990s, I was brought on board at MovieFone (777-FILM) to help put the company on the internet, and I ran the company’s internet division, and ultimately all of marketing and product, until we sold the business to AOL in 1999. I started Return Path in 1999, and ran it until this past spring, when we sold the company. 


Return Path was a category creator and market leader in email optimization for marketers, and so much more than that. We built an award-winning, innovative culture that we called “People First,” rooted in strong values with an orientation to do the right thing for employees and for the world around us. After 20 years of scaling a global SaaS company with--although I never called it this--a "HOW" philosophy, that made the CEO opportunity at LRN a perfect and natural fit.


What was it about the challenge of this job that drew you to it?


LRN, in some ways, has the opposite challenge we had at Return Path. Return Path created a category and was always pushing the proverbial boulder up the hill in getting people to recognize its importance. Our chief technology officer once said, “We took a mid-sized business kicking and screaming against its will to be a large business.”  


From what I can tell, LRN is different. LRN created a category that is now giant and massive. LRN has always had the best products in the industry. Today, so much in business–within and outside of the compliance office--is turning to LRN’s ideas and ideals as a means to deal with an uncertain operating environment.  


So our imperative, our opportunity, now will be to grow the LRN business to meet a broader set of needs of today’s client partners, and to meet the needs of hundreds or thousands of potential partners out there who don’t yet know us.


How would you describe your management philosophy, and where do ethics and values-based behaviors fit in?


My management philosophy is to first hire talented people, people who connect deeply with the company’s mission, to make sure they understand what their role is and how it fits with the company’s mission and strategy, and then to give them all the inspiration and tools available to do their jobs, including a steady diet of feedback along the way. 


If we get that right, then we will build the best possible products and provide the best possible service for our partners. If we get that right, then we will build the most successful business possible for our shareholders. You can’t do any of that without having a strong values-based culture that places care, ethics, and humanity at the center.


What are some ways organizations can scale ethical values and get buy-in from employees, and other stakeholders?


At Return Path, we learned the lesson the best way to scale values and to get other stakeholders, especially employees, engaged was to make our culture and values not top-down. That may have been the case at the beginning when I was the only employee, or one of a small number, but somewhere at around 100, 150 employees, the culture and values became “ours” and not “mine.” 


That strengthened the values-based system tremendously. It’s one thing for a CEO, or a chief ethics and compliance officer, or the head of HR, to be the stewards of the culture; it’s another to have 500 people be the stewards of the culture. Then it’s not a question of buy-in, because everything is self-reinforcing.


LRN is marking its 25th anniversary this year: What are your goals for the company in the next five years? 25 years?


It’s a little hard to be specific my first week, but the two biggest goals I have are to scale up the business--unleash LRN on the world in service to our client partners, and to do that in a way that preserves and scales up what is so special about the LRN culture and its values.


LRN in five years should be much larger and have even more impactful on the world: More partners; many more employees engaging with LRN products more often; more measurable and meaningful results for us and the companies we work with. But we need to do it in a way that still looks and feels like LRN, even if the number of LRN colleagues grows significantly. Everything we will do, I can promise, has the needs of our partners, and the responsible business community, front and center.


                                                                                                          BEN DIPIETRO




On Oct. 9 at 12 p.m. EST, LRN's Dr. Marsha Ershaghi Hames hosts April D. Haynes of Altria and Stacey Hanna of Lonza for an informative and thought-provoking webinar that provide insight and best practices for global ethics and compliance programs.





This week's episode of Principled Podcast features a talk with Stephanie Davis of Volkswagen Group of America, who discusses how the company is rebuilding trust following the emissions cheating issue.






A survey by EY found 82% of companies added a new C-suite-level position within the last five years; of those who did, 7% added a chief ethics officer.





Researchers studied mission statements and found companies that emphasize actions over thoughtfulness are more likely to be subject to employment discrimination complaints, Fortune reports.


The CEO of Swedish telecom equipment maker Ericsson AB said his company's compliance program "has not been fit for purpose" after being fined $1.2 billion by the U.S. for ethics breaches that occurred in six countries, Bloomberg reports.


Amii Barnard Bahn speaks to San Jose Inside about how laws mandating gender equity on boards are bringing great changes. Is it time for your board to refresh its approach toward ethics and compliance? Can boards be automated?


A California law set to take effect on Jan. 1 will allow residents to find out what information companies have on them, and to ask it be deleted, and Axios says it may become the de facto law for the country.


The U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change paints a dire picture for the world's oceans if action is not taken to address climate change.


A woman who helped lead the #MeToo movement in France was found guilty of defaming a media executive, Guardian reports.


BSR put out a paper on the responsible use of technologyNo city in the world is close to ready for the age of artificial intelligence and automation.


Whistleblowers say they must be protected from retaliation, USA Today reports. What are some problems with the whistleblower system? The Atlantic tells us. Some senators introduced a law to fix one whistleblower issue.


Hui Chen suggests six questions to ask about your compliance training. Gallup serves up 10 questions to ask to gauge your corporate culture. 


The nine members of the U.S. Supreme Court are the only judges in the country not subject to a code of ethics, Brennan Center for Justice points out.


Human Resources lists five skills most managers lack. Harvard Business Review makes the case for hiring older workers.





"A man without ethics is a wild beast loosed upon this world."

– Albert Camus, author, philosopher, journalist



There was an interesting tweet from Roy Snell, former head of the Society of Corporate Compliance and Ethics, who said the number of people with at least one credential from the Compliance Certification Board rose to 11,897 at the end of 2018, up from 7,710 at the end of 2014. It shows how fast the profession is growing, and the importance of being credentialed as the industry matures, and staying in a cycle of constant learning.


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