The opportunity came up to replace the president of NTELOS at a time when I wanted to take my family back to the US.
So, it’s primarily a personal decision?
It is only about a personal decision. I’ve got five kids. Two of them are in America, and we've just had a baby. It was time to start the transition back to America, and a bit closer to our family. The personal impact of travelling back and forth was taking its toll. The more important thing is that it was a very difficult decision. We got a lot accomplished, and we got a lot more to go. There is never a good time to do something like this, and you feel there is always something more you want to do. But after 12 years at T-Mobile of which there were over two years in the UK I thought the time was right.
What was the remit given to you by Deutsche Telekom when you took charge in December 2005?
Over the course of the last three years T-Mobile UK has made a major contribution to Deutsche Telecom. We have a role to play, and that role changes from time to time. Our challenge in 2006 was to reposition the brand and we achieved significant growth. In 2007, it was very important to maximise EBITDA for DT (Deutsche Telekom), on the back of the foundation we created in 2006. For 2008 it was a balance between good solid profitability and growth.
From a marketplace point of view we’ve done a fantastic job in repositioning the brand, putting the customers first, offered best value for voice and beyond voice. And a lot of change has come from and been driven by T-Mobile.
Do you feel your impact was restricted by the cash demands of the parent company. That must be a source of some frustration.
I don’t have frustrations. We’ve had a very clear role to play. We understand and respect that.
What would you do to improve the business if you were still there?
For T-Mobile, and for our competitors you’re going to have to have a consistent approach on managing the core business and the new opportunities around converged services, mobile broadband and other new services people want access to while connected to the internet. It will require a very consistent and disciplined approach for any major players in the UK market.
What would you say have been your biggest achievements during your time?
We’re certainly proud of what we’ve done along the way. Innovation is something we’ve strived to deliver. And I think we’ve done that: innovative value propositions around Flext, breaking down the walled garden around the internet on a phone and flat rate internet. Everything has been centred around customers, employees and shareholders.
We recognised the need to make bold and sustainable changes on how the business is structured. The network consolidation was nothing short of revolutionary in terms of the depth of the ambition. There will be more. But that was ground-breaking stuff and a very forward view on our industry.
With hindsight, would you have done things differently during your time in charge?
I certainly don’t think we’ve done things perfectly but I don’t have regrets. There’s a couple of things that come to mind though. There is a job not done yet on getting customer service right. If I survey the industry, none of our competitors have got that right but I don’t think we’ve cracked that yet either. I think, boy, we’ve made a tremendous amount of progress, but I would feel better if we’ve done more. It’s such an important area, and there’s so much more to be done.
What advice would you give to your successor?
I think they will need to lose the American accent for a start! It’s a challenging economy and business environment. So the person stepping in has to have extraordinary leadership skills, be able to make an impact in a competitive market and certainly an ability to manage the relationship with our parent company.
What will be the targets?
The focus will be on strategic imperatives. One of those is growing the top line, another is further innovation in beyond voice and sms services, third is being bold enough to drive step changes in the business. Lastly, taking care of people – customers and staff, who are the most important parts of our business.
So what are the big things you’ve learnt about the UK market, and dare I say, the UK?
I’ve certainly learned about your roundabouts. It took a while, but I learnt in the end. It took me 18 months to even drive in this country. I thought it was the roundabout, but what proved to be more difficult was driving on the wrong side of the road. It took me a long time to get it.
In terms of the market, I have a greater appreciation of what the world is like when there is 120% penetration and four of the biggest operators in the world are fighting for share. I’ve lived it and absolutely appreciate it. I also appreciate the passion of T-Mobile employees in our business. I have grown to appreciate the 6,500 people in our business and it has been an absolute privilege to lead them.