Who is the telecoms boss with the hotline to success?

Market Leaders Pick Their Market Leader
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The Independent Online
Tim Samples

Managing Director

One 2 One

SUCCESS IN this business rests on two qualities that might seem to be contradictory. On the one hand, you need to know where the market is, target it precisely and stick with it. On the other, you need to be prepared to take risks, to try new ideas, to innovate constantly. You need to be prepared to take on and challenge existing establishments. In the brave new world of telecommunications, you need to be a pioneer.

One man who has had that vision is Paul Chisholm, Chief Executive of Colt Telecom. This former Catholic priest saw the light seven years ago when he realised the potential in the City of London, a highly focused but lucrative market. Since then, he has stuck to this market and has been rewarded with being the best-performing stock on the FTSE 100 last year and treble digit growth in sales. Like One 2 One, Colt has seen the advantage of having customers who are strong and committed users of telecommunications. This will deliver significant growth, since such customers will be using the network in many more ways - particularly for data communications and applications like mobile Internet in the wireless environment - and revenue will thrive accordingly.

Greg Clarke

Chief Executive

Cable & Wireless Communications

IN THE UK market, there is Mike Grabiner from Energis. Energis was a basket case when he took over and he seems to have turned them around. He is a sensible businessman and a nice guy. On the larger scale, Bernie Ebbers of MCI Worldcom is an extremely impressive player. Again he built up his business from nothing into one of the world's premier global telecommunications operators. Anyone who can sustain that level of achievement has to be a good businessman. He is tenacious, he knows a great deal and he has the capability to implement strategy tremendously well. There is such a proliferation of technologies and applications that the most important quality for a leader in our market is to make a clear choice and to stick to it. You need decision-making skills and bravery.

Jonathan Watts

Managing Director

Colt Telecom, UK

THE ONE person I see as being a market leader in this business is Paul Chisholm who is my boss. He is chief executive and runs the whole European arm of Colt. I admire him because he started off with a vision and he was able to carry this through and turn it into an organisation which is capitalised at about pounds 8bn. He was intimately involved from the start in terms of service set- up and customer relations. He is highly regarded because he will do exactly what he says he will do - he's a man of integrity. He's as much at ease with network control and customer services as he is in the boardroom. And horizontally because he has a vision, and the practical skills to bring that vision to fruition.

Peter Erskine

Managing Director

BT Cellnet

THERE ARE many architects of this new business sector and many to come. Looking back a bit, I'd have to single out a former managing director of BT Cellnet, Stafford Taylor, who died last year. He was a visionary about the mobile phone being for everyone, not just business people. He embedded in the whole BT Cellnet ethos that the customer is king, and to always be fair. Finally, Sven-Christer Nilsson, President and CEO of Ericsson. His business stuck with us in creating a new kind of phone, which brings together the home and the mobile phone into one. On a different level vital to our industry, I should mention John Clare, Chief Executive at the Dixons Store Group. He recognised mobile as an important new market and acted quickly, even forming a new kind of retail outlet, The Link. And there is also no doubt that Charles Dunstone has created a great business in the Carphone Warehouse, giving customers clear choices.

Leigh Wood

Chief Operating Officer


THE REPUTATION of Paul Chisholm's Colt as a premium provider of niche telecoms services is deserved, and Chris Gent's Vodafone has used its UK market leadership to become a world player. Hans Snook's Orange has shown what can be done with a great brand; something ntl plans to emulate in re-positioning as a national communications brand. I guess I admire others with a similar focus to ntl on delivering great customer service. Staying the course is not enough, setting a course is essential and in the vision stakes, our own Barclay Knapp tops my list.

Bob Fuller

COO and group director of UK operations

Orange Plc

TO BE successful you must have a vision, a simple proposition that differentiates you in the market-place and keeps you one step ahead. I thought long and hard about executives I admire and I choose Li Ka-shing, chairman of Hutchison Whampoa. He has an extraordinary grasp of telecommunications and a clear vision., with qualities I admire in any industry courage, integrity and decisiveness. He arrived in Hong Kong from China in 1928 with nothing, and now heads a spectacularly successful business empire. When Orange launched five years ago the UK mobile phone market was cluttered and uninviting, but Li Ka-shing had the vision to create a different concept, and Orange is one of the top dozen global telecoms brands, with a string of first and awards and an impressive market performance.

Graham Cove

Managing Director

Redstone Telecom plc

IF I were to pick a market leader, it would have to be Vodafone who were the most profitable firm in Europe. And I think they're about to be the biggest telecoms firm in Europe. They started 10 or 15 years ago, grew quickly and sustained the growth - I think Sir Gerald Went was at the helm. There is a similar story is at Colt Telecom - where I think Paul Chisholm is at the helm. You've got to be a fighter. You need the strength and spirit to get through the hard times and keep at it despite massive competition.