Vol. 52, No. 6
'How Hard Could It Be?'; Passionate About Customer Service; Here To Win
'How Hard Could It Be?'
Kim Dixon, president of Sprint Nextel's Midwest Region, who joined Sprint 11 years ago, says she viewed the merger as "a big adventure" when she first heard of it. It was her first experience with mergers, "and I naively thought it would take maybe six to 12 months. How hard could it be?"
Since most of her time in sales has been spent out in the field rather than at headquarters, she wasn't privy to many of the daily rumors flying around the Overland Park, Kan., facility. "I knew that a lot of work was going on in the clean room," she says, but it didn't really affect what she did from day to day. [Note: During the due diligence phase of merger negotiations, a third party may translate details of confidential information from both companies into generic terms to protect trade secrets during these "clean room" negotiations.]
Dixon quickly learned that this was a complex undertaking that would take much more time than she first thought. After almost two years, she expects it to take another 12 to 18 months to complete the "puzzle" of integrating all the legacy systems into a single companywide system.
"I'll consider that the merger has been a success when the systems and processes are all the same," she says.
Nevertheless, Dixon thinks customers already consider it a success. Although the new corporation's stock price continues to lag, she says it isn't low enough to cause undue financial concern for customers.
Passionate About Customer Service
Efron Mojica, executive staff manager for Sprint Nextel's network business operations, says he was excited when he first heard about the merger. A Sprint employee since 2001, he was familiar with Nextel and its popular walkie-talkie feature, and thought it would complement Sprint's offerings.
Nevertheless, he had the same questions himself that he was hearing from his staff: Do I still have a job? What's going to happen? What are our options? What can I do to help myself? Mojica says he had a good relationship with the employees he supervised and he answered their questions honestly. If he knew the answer, he told them. If not, he said so. Sometimes he had information that he wasn't yet able to share, and he told them that too. It all comes down to trust, he says.
Mojica, who works with HR to staff his division of 240 people, says he often goes to college campuses in search of "the smart minds of tomorrow."
At this stage of the merger process, Mojica says the next challenges are to integrate the newly organized teams, which are often a mix of employees from both companies, and to continue to improve the technology.
Mojica is passionate about satisfying customers. "When I talk to friends and neighbors or meet people at a party," he says, "I ask them about their phone services and offer to help if they have problems."
Here To Win
Nancy Beaton, Sprint Nextel director of consumer marketing, says it is to the company's credit that "decisive action was taken quickly." The challenge for the merged company was to accept change and to learn to speak the same language, she says.
Beaton says her salespeople are "dedicated and passionate, and both companies had smart people." In her case, "We cross-pollinated the team. My team [after the merger] was half Sprint and half Nextel."
As managers continue to discuss how to improve communications, Beaton realizes that they need to spend more time with their staff-a difficult proposition when they the marketing department is working more hours than ever before. "But we like it!" Beaton admits. "We tend to attract people who want to win."
Ann Pomeroy is senior writer for HR Magazine.