LAS VEGAS -- Broadband Vision -- Telcos need to hire new talent, not only to bring new skills into their organizations but also to find individuals with entrepreneurial mindsets who won't limit the potential of a telecom network, Windstream President and CEO Jeff Gardner said here Thursday.
"Our future is more determined by our ability to adapt and take advantage of our opportunities today," he said, in a question and answer session with Shirley Bloomfield, the CEO of NTCA - The Rural Broadband Association . "That's why I want people that are aggressive and come in every day and think about the potential of the company."
Telecom operators have invested heavily in the US infrastructure and are uniquely positioned to capitalize on that, but they "need to think more proactively about that and not about defending" legacy market positions, he said.
Gardner pointed out that Windstream Communications Inc. (Nasdaq: WIN) is a dramatically different company today from what it was at its creation in 2006 from a combination of independent telcos, including Alltel and Valor Communications. One reason for that, he stressed, is an aggressive acquisition effort. The company completed its tenth acquisition just this week, snapping up fixed wireless provider Business Only Broadband. (See Windstream BOBs for Fixed Wireless Broadband.)
Windstream works to retain the talent of the companies it buys because they represent much of the value of the acquisition, he said, and it's important to give those folks room to succeed by not trying to limit their thinking. By acquiring Hosted Solutions, for example, the company was able to launch its cloud business, and has grown from the four data centers it acquired to 28 data centers today.
Where it was once a local telco, addressing its local consumer markets, Windstream is now a national provider that is more focused on the enterprise market, while endeavoring to continue caring for its consumers. Just hours before Gardner spoke, for example, the company announced plans for an IPTV deployment in Lincoln, Neb. (See Windstream Plans New Pay-TV Service.)
Being open to new possibilities was what led Windstream to explore the strategy announced earlier this year to spin off its network assets into a real-estate investment trust, something Gardner was encouraging the Broadband Vision crowd to explore. He went so far as to promise that Windstream's former CFO Tony Thomas, who will head the new network REIT, will answer the phone and answer questions if other telcos call for advice.
"We did all the heavy lifting on this one," Gardner said, referring to Windstream's work to get IRS approval for putting copper and fiber assets into a REIT.
— Carol Wilson, Editor-at-Large, Light Reading