Web.com’s hiring of Sharon Rowlands as its new CEO signals new owner Siris Capital means to bring substantial changes to the Florida-based website builder. Rowlands is known as a turnaround CEO. She will replace the retiring David Brown at the end of this month.

In 2014, Rowlands took over as CEO of ReachLocal (which was later acquired by Gannett in 2016) and then became President of USA Network Marketing Solutions in 2017, while continuing her role at ReachLocal. She is also a former member of the LSA board of directors.

Rowlands previously helmed other media and technology companies, including Allegrity and Penton Media. Both roles involved either restructuring or repositioning the businesses.

Rowlands will join Web.com just three months after the company was acquired by Siris Capital for $2 billion and taken private. Web.com offers website design and online marketing services for small businesses.

As we noted in our post this week about the Top 10 SMB Technology Stories of 2018 (the Web.com acquisition is No. 5), while the acquisition price was a premium on Web.com’s most recent share price, other lenses provide different views of the transaction.

“While we wondered about the high valuation of Service Titan — $660,000 per subscriber — the Web.com transaction offered another data point, $588 per subscriber. With a reported 3.4 million customers, Web’s transaction demonstrated that purely pursuing customer acquisition at any price does not lead naturally to an attractive exit. While early shareholders may have done well with this deal, the per customer valuations hints at some softness in Web.com’s business model.”

Rowlands earned high marks from colleagues and partners for her management of Reach Local, in particular for placing a greater emphasis on customer experience. She has a big opportunity to improve how small-business customers perceive Web.com. The company has consistently earned low marks on Alignable’s Small Business Trust Index, an NPS-style measurement of how small businesses view the brands that serve them.

Here are a few questions we have about what is ahead for Web.com under Rowlands.

  1. Will she impose a major change in Web.com’s strategic direction? For example, will she shed products and add new ones, change their target market or curtail/accelerate international expansion?
  2. Will we soon see talent from Gannett migrate to Web.com?
  3. What will success look like for Web.com and for Rowlands?