How Did T-Mobile Do It?
After Sunday’s blockbuster merger announcement between T-Mobile and Sprint, and the news that the combined entity would be run by TMO, I started to think about how T-Mobile clawed its way from being the perennial fourth place carrier to where they are today. In 2016 I wrote about the transformation of T-Mobile CEO John Legere into the literal embodiment of the brand. Given this week’s developments I thought it was worth a reshare. Lmk if you think the analysis still holds true.
About a decade ago the US Telco industry went through a phase of consolidation which took the playing field from several smaller competitors down to the current Big Four – Verizon, AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile. But all four were not created equal. For a while Verizon and AT&T commanded most of the market share while TMO and Sprint wrestled one another for the scraps.
Then something interesting happened with T-Mobile. In 2013 they rebranded themselves as the “Uncarrier” under the leadership of their new CEO John Legere. The key to doing this was for Mr. Legere to legitimately walk the walk by embodying the brand he wanted T-Mobile to become. Not an easy task for a 50-something VC exec, but check out the transformation in the before and after pics below. The work was hard, with a near 24/7 dedication and a relentless commitment to spending time in the field with employees and customers alike. The results have been worth it. On a personal level Legere has achieved a Rock Star CEO status that’s comparable to Richard Branson. This is what you get by totally committing one’s self to doing things differently (and better) than anyone else
T-Mobile’s business has also benefited from this transformation. Over the last five years the strategy has inspired TMO to zig while the other guys zagged, with innovative features like no-charge streaming, unlimited data, and all-you-can-eat-for-one-price plans. The results have been impressive. In 2016 TMO surpassed Verizon as the #1 handset seller in the US – which correlates to in-store foot traffic and new account sign ups. And now T-Mobile and Sprint are merging under John Legere’s leadership to become to second largest cellular provider in the US.
For me this is a lesson in the value of completely dedicating one’s self to the mission. As you can see in the example of T-Mobile, the sky’s the limit when you really commit.