The mailman

Pitney Bowes' Murray Martin delivers the goods.

By the age of 5, growing up in the small southwestern Ontario town of Hawkesville, Murray Martin — who takes over as CEO of U.S. postage meter and mail services giant Pitney Bowes Inc. on May 14 — already had his first business on the go.

It was operating a kennel that raised German shepherds. When he was 8, Martin started helping the owner of the local general store run her business. And at the age of 10, he was managing complex business issues for her, including accounts receivable and inventory.

Since September 2004, Martin, 59, has been the president and chief operating officer of Pitney Bowes, in Stamford, Conn. He attributes his business precociousness to having the attitude that “there's nothing that anyone else can do that you can't do; it just might take a little longer the first time you try.”

Martin began his formal education in a two-room schoolhouse in Hawkesville, and ended it at the University of Waterloo, where he took math and computer science. After a year, however, Martin couldn't afford to continue his studies. That's when he began building a career from the ground up, starting at the Canadian offices of Monroe Systems for Business, a U.S. manufacturer of bookkeeping and related office equipment. His first job there was in sales. “You learn profit and loss management, you learn distribution,” he says. Working in sales also gave a window into the “most important” part of a business: “If there are no revenues from sales, the other things don't matter.”

Martin was methodical in planning out a career path. His goal at Monroe was to be “rookie salesman of the year” in his first year, top salesman in Canada within two years, and company president within 10. Each of these milestones were met virtually “to the day,” says Martin, who became Monroe's president in 1977 at the age of 29.

He joined Pitney Bowes in 1987 as president and CEO of its Dictaphone Canada unit, moving to the U.S. three years later as president of the Copier Systems division. In 1998, he became president of Pitney Bowes International, turning around the troubled unit and opening businesses in New Zealand, South Africa, Thailand and China.

Martin's next big move came in 2001. He became executive vice-president and group president of Pitney Bowes Global Mailstream Solutions, the unit responsible for about 70% of company revenues, serving two million customers in 130 countries. With more than 11,000 employees, this division brings in more than US$3.25 billion in annual sales. Since 2004, when he became president and COO, Martin has increased the company's organic growth and profitability, tripled its international revenue, from $500 million to $1.5 billion, and integrated more than 65 acquisitions.

Martin says that over the past several years, Pitney Bowes has expanded its view of its potential market. Rather than sticking to its traditional snail-mail business, he says, Pitney Bowes now thinks in terms of the overall “mail stream” — the flow of information from its origin to its final destination in both physical and digital form. It now competes in a US$250-billion market rather than one worth US$7 billion.

The global focus has also paid off. While the North American market is still the firm's largest, the international division is growing more briskly, directly doing business in 28 countries and using third-party distributors in 130 others. International business represents more than 25% of total revenues, up from 12% in 2005.

Martin figures his global outlook is a result of his Canadian upbringing. “As a Canadian, you view the world from a different perspective,” he says. “You know that you aren't totally self-sufficient within your own environment.” He says this ability is often what sets Canadian executives apart from their American counterparts. So, what's Martin's advice for a Canadian wanting to pursue an international executive career? That's easy, he says. “Remember where you came from.”