Bob's Gutsy Leadership Blog

T-Mobile: The Secrets of a Fabulously Successful CEO

Very few Fortune-500 CEO’s have been as successful in growing a company as John Legere.  He became CEO of T-Mobile in September of 2012, and the overhaul has been massive, and the results have been spectacular.  When he took the job, the stock price was in the $19/share range.  Today, it sits at $145.  The company was a distant #4 in the wireless carrier industry, and now it is #2, and in hot pursuit of the leader Verizon.  Legere retired in April 2020, and was replaced by the existing Chief Operating Officer, who is riding the thrust of what Legere put in place. 

So exactly what did Legere do to make this amazing success story happen?  There are three things that have led to this very positive transformation:

  • Create a “Shut Up and Listen, Then Do Something” Culture – Legere launched this customer-centric mind-set soon after taking the job and it focused on both customers and employees.  He had a line installed in his office to listen in on customer service calls, which he would do for hours.   Also, as a colleague described: ‘He spends a lot of time with the T-Mobile workforce listening to what they believe will make the company stronger.” 
  • Most importantly, he would dramatically act on what he was hearing.  The culture he spread was to “embrace customer desires and eliminate their pain points.”  That led to dramatic changes such as no more multiple-year contracts, no more roaming fees, no more incomprehensible charges at the bottom of every bill, no more monthly data limits and annoying overage charges they generated.  Competitors reluctantly followed on some of these things, but very slowly. 
  • Lead in Spectrum, the Core Infrastructure Element of a Wireless Network – Legere led the effort to acquire Sprint, the struggling competitor who happened to own a gold-mine of airwave spectrum, the precious but limited commodity of the wireless industry on which all the data travels.  Thanks to the Sprint deal, T-Mobile has vast swaths of underused spectrum in the 2.5 GHz band, which is well suited for creating the fastest 5G services.  Verizon and AT&T don’t have anything like it and have been bidding like crazy at the most recent federal airwave auctions to try to catch up. As a result, T-Mobile’s fast 5G already covers where more that 100 million people live and will double that by the year end.
  • Marketing That Makes the Customer Advantages Clear – In 2013, one year after he was appointed CEO, John Legere focused all marketing efforts on the “Un-Carrier” rebranding effort.  That is still their marketing theme, and it is all about showcasing the big advantages T-Mobile has versus the old, entrenched carriers (i.e., AT&T and Verizon).  All advertising is focused on customer advantages such as having the fastest 5G service with the most coverage, no monthly data limits, no hidden fees on monthly bills, etc.

Hat off to John Legere as he moves to retirement.  He has been a tremendous force in the wireless carrier industry, and an incredibly successful CEO.

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