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On occasion, we will share with our friends throughout the industry our views on major events and issues in the telecom industry.
We will use TeleSparks as the primary vehicle for sharing these (usually highly opinionated) views and we welcome your feedback.

TeleSparks is authored by Danny Briere, TeleChoice Chief ExecutiveOfficer, with input from others throughout the TeleChoice organization.

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TeleSparks Archive

TeleSparks: The Stupid Issue 

The News

Our industry has forgotten how to think. 

The TeleChoice Take 
It has been hard for all of us to watch the industryís painful slide 
over the past two and a half years. For those of us who focus 
on strategic decision-making, the most painful aspect has been 
the elimination of intelligent, creative thought processes within 
virtually every surviving industry player. Itís as if strategic 
perspective has become a dirty word that no one dares consider. 

We know that the readers of this newsletter are creative and 
intelligent decision makers. But we also know from working with each 
of you that you share in this frustration. Weíve heard the same 
story from many of you: "I know weíre doing all the wrong things -- 
the strategy is all wrong. But, they donít want to hear it. All they 
care about is short-term financial tactics. By the time it 
becomes obvious that weíre headed in the wrong direction, it will be 
too late, but hopefully Iíll be gone by then." 

We may all be gone by then. Telecom companies are being painted 
with such a tainted brush that we may all have to join the Foreign 
Legion to avoid the scorn of our former friends and relatives, or join 
the Peace Corps or launch some human services ministry to prove 
that weíre actually capable of some tangible goodness, despite 
the stupid, selfish and criminal acts for which our industry is 
becoming best known. 

Of course, as an industry, we have no one to blame but ourselves. 

As for the criminal and immoral charges, I claim ignorance (although 
I wish I were so innocent when it comes to greed and pride). But 
Iím seeing clear evidence of the stupidity of our industry every day, 
and I can no longer stand silent before it. 

Current Situation
Clearly, the industry is in turmoil. I donít need to quote statistics 
about stock prices, bankruptcies, layoffs, and shutdowns. You 
know them better than any number could communicate. Youíve 
lived them. They have fueled both your tears and anger. 

There are fewer companies in our industry today than two years 
ago. Far fewer. And each of the surviving companies has 
fewer employees. Far fewer. In theory, at least, those that are left 
are the best and brightest. But you sure wouldnít reach that 
conclusion by watching todayís decision-making. 

I donít care what part of the industry you live in -- service 
providers, equipment vendors, wireline, wireless, data, voice, 
domestic, international -- itís the same everywhere. I donít care 
what aspect of strategy youíre involved in -- corporate 
strategy, operational strategy, network strategy, sales strategy -- itís 
all the same. Itís not strategy. Itís not even decision-making. 
Itís decision avoidance. What businesses should we keep? 

What businesses should we launch (oops, skip that question entirely)?
What business should we exit/shutdown/sell? On which markets 
should we focus (whatís focus???)? What markets should we exit? 
What are the right channels to market? How should we position 
and differentiate? What products do we keep? Which new products 
do we develop? How do we price? 

The right answer to these types of questions requires deep analysis 
and the courage to face what is true about your company 
(especially what is lacking) and what is likely to be true as 
the landscape shifts. 

Courage is the missing ingredient. 

And all of the analysis today is financial -- and short-term. 

If the right questions are being asked (see above for a partial list) 
the only answers that are being considered are those with dollar signs 
in front of them related to the next 3 - 12 months (especially the next 
3 months). 

More often than not, the only time that the "right" questions are 
being asked is when they are the tactical details being worked out 
to complete the financial spreadsheet that goes along with the 
real questions demanding all of the intellectual brainpower of 
the industry: 

- How do we come out from under bankruptcy? 
- How do we avoid going into bankruptcy? 
- How do we make our current funding last as long as possible? 
- How do we make customers and investors believe that weíll 
survive when no one is willing to believe anything? 

Donít get me wrong. I fully understand why these questions are 
being asked. If the critical financial questions arenít answered, 
then there is no company -- there is no tomorrow requiring a 
strategy. But, I tell you, if the other questions, the right 
questions, arenít also asked (and intelligently and creatively 
and BRAVELY answered), then there also is no company -- there is 
no day after tomorrow. 

Iím also no fool to the fact that this is not really a new problem. In 
fact, virtually every publicly traded corporation has "always" 
kowtowed to investors and focused on quarterly financial 
performance. However, this healthy focus on near-term 
performance has traditionally been balanced with longer-term 
strategic planning. Itís this balance that has been lost, contributing 
to the unhealthy tumble in which we find ourselves. (I picture a 
circus aerobat ungracefully falling from the high wire, as the 
audience turns from smiles to faces full of fear and concern.) Unless 
we pull together, find that safety net, and bounce back to a 
healthy balance of near-term performance and long-term 
strategic planning, then I fear the entire industry will just go 

But, this isnít just an industry problem; obviously, itís also a real 
threat to individual companies. No doubt, short-term myopia will 
enable some companies survive this year, but what will be 
left? Businesses with no strategic advantage? Markets to serve with 
no value proposition to serve to them? Products and services to sell 
with no effective channel to sell them? In short, companies with no 
long-term hope. Iím talking about your company, not some 
generic, nameless, faceless collection of fools. Iím talking about 
your hope, or your hopelessness. 

What's Next? 
What Can You Do? 

What do I ask of you? I ask you to be brave. I already know you 
are intelligent and creative (you wouldnít be reading this if 
you werenít!). I donít care where you are in your organization. If 
you are the CEO, then stand up to the investors to whom youíve 
been cowering. If you are somewhere lower in the organization, 
then stand up to the executives around you. Demand that the 
future viability of the company be given equal weight in making 
the critical decisions to get through today to tomorrow. 

Specifically, consider this: 

- If businesses must be eliminated or sold, obviously, the math has 
to work out given todayís financial realities, but make every 
possible effort to keep the businesses that position the company 
for long-term success given who the company is, what markets 
are most defensible, and what creates the greatest competitive 

- If markets need to be exited and product lines eliminated, 
obviously the cost savings must reach the target number, but in 
doing the math, take into account the products and services that 
are critical to your success in the markets that you can truly 
win. Choose to focus on the right markets and maintain/develop 
the offers that truly win in those markets instead of generally 
cutting back across all markets and ending up without a 
competitive offer to any market. 

- If people must be laid off, clearly thereís a target number in mind. 
But instead of bending to the temptation to do across-the-
board reductions or to political battles where the most stubborn and 
well entrenched executive wins, think strategically. Which functions 
are critical to your competitive identity and success? Which functions 
are commodities that can be outsourced without significantly 
impacting your competitive position? More strongly stated, where 
would it be smart to outsource to partners that focus on specific 
aspects full time, from many perspectives, rather than continuing 
to overload the leftover resources and stretching them too thin? 

These may be math equations that represent survivability, but they 
are math equations that must be solved for two variables, not just 

Bottom line -- Iím not questioning your intelligence and creativity -- 
in fact Iím taking it for granted. Neither am I doubting your need 
to make hard decisions to survive within very challenging 
financial realities. All Iím asking is that you be brave enough to 
re-ignite your strategic synapses and think hard (and carefully) 
about the long-term implications of your very hard financial 
decisions. These are not mutually exclusive topics -- stop acting 
like they are. 

The ability to cut through the confusion and fear in the industry, 
to logically and sensibly and bravely ask and answer the 
critical strategic questions, and to understand your 
competitive positioning and differentiation and act accordingly has 
never been more critical. Let us know if we can help. 

Need Some Help? 

TeleChoice helps companies everyday better position their firms 
and products for success, whether re-examining fundamental 
business strategy or clearly communicating unique position and value 
in todayís tough marketplace. Contact us at 

About TeleSparks: On occasion, we share with our industry friends 
our views on major events and issues in telecom. We use TeleSparks 
as the primary vehicle for sharing these (usually highly 
opinionated) views, and we welcome your feedback. Feel free 
to forward these on to others, but please copy us on the messages 
so we have a sense of the extent of distribution of our views. 

TeleSparks is generally authored by Russ McGuire, TeleChoice 
Chief Strategy Officer, with input from others throughout the 
TeleChoice organization. You may contact Russ 
( or your favorite TeleChoice contact to 
share your thoughts on these matters. 



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