Speaking at his first investor conference, Sprint's (NYSE: S) new CEO Marcelo Claure painted a portrait of a fast-acting CEO who is committed to listening to employees, creating value for customers and throwing out the company's stale old practices that were turning away customers in droves.
At the same time, Claure admits that he will have to eliminate certain segments of the business that are not thriving--or the "nice to haves," and instead focus on the must-haves. "In times of turnaround, we will focus on must-haves. Nice-to-haves will have to go. We have an extensive line of nice-to-haves."
However, Claure declined to name those business segments that he plans to eliminate, noting that it's critical that he inform his employees first and they not hear about it elsewhere. "I'd rather tell my employees first. They know we need to be in businesses where you can win," he said.
He also alluded to the fact that there will likely be some changes to his existing management team. Claure said that not all of his team will be "up for the ride," noting that he's going to keep the great ones and also bring in new ones. "Some people will not be here," he said.
Interestingly, Claure also admitted that while he was disappointed that the company's proposed acquisition of T-Mobile US (NYSE:TMUS) did not happen due to an unfavorable regulatory environment, he said he and Softbank CEO Masayoshi Son (who owns 80 percent of Sprint) still believe that the wireless business is a "scale game" and in need of consolidation. He said they are open to discussions with cable companies, OTT companies and other wireless firms.
With just a little more than three weeks on the job, Claure said that when he took over as CEO someone advised him that as a CEO of a public company, he should not make any changes in the first 100 days. Instead, he made a big change after just four days on the job by announcing the company's new Family Share Pack. "I couldn't help myself," Claure said. "There wasn't a compelling value proposition here. We were more expensive and coming out of a traumatic network experience."
Claure said one of the first tasks he did was talk with some of Sprint's 2,000 dealers nationwide to get their feedback on Sprint's products, in particular the carrier's Framily plan. What he heard was not favorable. "Dealers said it was hard to sell. We are marketing a hamster talking to people," Claure said. "That's very hard to sell."
He said that the changes he instituted--shared data plans and cheaper unlimited data plans for individuals--are already resonating with consumers. Specifically, he said that there have been days when Sprint has gained more customers than it lost. "We will focus on getting customers back to us. The network is better and the value is better."
Sprint's new CEO also touted the company's spectrum position, particularly its 2.5 GHz spectrum holdings. He said that Sprint will be building out LTE in the 2.5 GHz first in certain cities to provide extremely strong coverage there. "We will go strong in a few cities, rather than 33,000 sites at once," he said, adding that he believes this will be a more efficient use of cash.
He also said that he is in the process of reviewing Sprint's advertising and marketing plans, noting that all wireless advertising in the U.S. is confusing and complicated. "I think there's a great opportunity to offer simple value to consumers," he said.
Claure also praised his competitors, noting that AT&T and Verizon have been very good at promoting their family plans and their networks. He also praised T-Mobile's executive team, saying that they have done a "phenomenal job" at disrupting the industry. But he also made it clear that Sprint would no longer sit back and let its competitors take the spotlight. "We are now the disrupters in the industry," he said.
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Can Marcelo Claure reinvent Sprint?
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