jobs. The satisfaction needs to come from winning. And by the
way, if we are successful, you will make money. Otherwise, you
will not make money. When [SoftBank CEO] Masayoshi Son
bought Sprint, he had already invested in Brightstar. He asked
us to combine the procurement of Brightstar and Sprint. In
less than eight weeks, we were able to save about $400 million.
Because of that, Masa asked me to join Sprint’s board. Brightstar was also serving Verizon, Apple, and T-Mobile. That started
to cause a few problems in the industry. When the government
PU T YOURSELF
IN THEIR SHOES
When you’re selling your
company, you have a few
months to get to know
the acquirer. Employees
don’t have the beneft
of all that prep time.
They’ve no doubt put
lots of thought into
choosing to work for you,
because they knew that
likely last a few years.
Compare that with what
happens during an acquisition, says Mike Lee,
co-founder and CEO of
MyFitnessPal, which sold
to Under Armour. “All of
a sudden, fve minutes
after an announcement,
you’re working for
another company.” Your
employees are too. And
nobody asked them.
How to Hang Onto Your Employees
If entrepreneurs have
mixed feelings about
selling, well, that’s nothing
compared with what
the employees go
through. Perhaps that’s
why, when she was
selling LearnVest to
Northwestern Mutual, Alexa von Tobel was advised that
25 to 30 percent of her team would leave. Plum, sold
to Campbell’s, lost 25 percent. Von Tobel lost about 10
percent—and it still hurt. Here’s how to limit the desertions.
In the long run, it may be
better for your company
to 1) be fully integrated,
2) stay fully independent,
or 3) be something in
between. But in the short
term, if you want to hang
onto the people who got
you here, don’t change
too much too fast. It’s
comforting to know that
people won’t be losing
their jobs, and won’t
have to pick up their
families and move, and
that everyone will report
to the same person they
did yesterday. Change
may be inevitable, but it
doesn’t have to be today.
called us and kindly let us know there was no way they would
approve the merger of Sprint and T-Mobile, Masa pulled me
aside and said hey, I want to make you CEO of Sprint.
On day one, it was quite awkward. A 44-year-old Hispanic
lands in Kansas City, Missouri. When I came to Sprint,
all I saw at frst were the TV crews waiting for me outside.
It bothers me that I was the only Hispanic CEO of a Fortune
500 company. If I can do this, maybe I will open the doors
for other Hispanic CEOs.
Sprint had the culture of a company that
was losing. People arrived right on time,
and they left right on time, too. The parking
lot had trafc jams at 5 p.m. with people
trying to get out. Sales meetings were
monthly. There were lots of silos and no
one talked to one another. My ofce, I
swear, was bigger than my house.
This was probably the largest opportunity
I was going to have in my life: to run a
118-year-old company [Sprint began life as
the Brown Telephone Co. in 1899] with
60,000 employees and a brand name everyone knows. I told the employees I had never
lost in my life and this was not going to be the
frst time. Either with them or without them,
I was going to turn this company around.
We started daily sales and marketing
meetings. I moved all the executives to one
foor where we could all see one another.
I got rid of ofces and put everyone in
cubes. The fact that people could talk to one
another was a big shock. I had staf meetings
every week. It was all new to me, and my
frst meeting went from 6 a.m. to 1 a.m. A
few people fell asleep. I fgured those people
would not last. Maybe three of the original
20 members of the management team are
with us today.
I started the Getting Better Every Day
email, asking people how to make Sprint a
better place. The frst day I got four or fve
hundred emails. I wrote everyone back. Then
we created a second email called Stupid
Rules, asking people what rules we should
get rid of. We got a few hundred more suggestions. Why should sales people have to
wear dress shoes, which are uncomfortable,
when they are on their feet for 12 hours?
At least half of this is cultural. We are
halfway through a turnaround, but we are
a diferent company than we were before.
We are winning customers. We are back to
generating operating income after seven
years. We have free cash fow for the frst
time in 13 years.
KIMBERLY WEISUL is an Inc. editor-at-large.
Employees will have
lots of questions after
an acquisition is
won’t have all the
answers. “People want
to know what the road
maps are,” says von
Tobel. “We didn’t have
the whole plan. We just
needed a minute to iron
it out.” Tell them as
much as you can, but be
honest about what you
don’t know. And make
hay out of good news.
“If we had to announce
something the team
wouldn’t like,” says Lee,
“we would give them
two pieces of good news
before the bad news.”
LAUNCH INNOVATE 90 - INC. - MARCH 2017