Sol Trujillo, CEO, Telstra
Trujillo became CEO in 2005 when company was
losing its dominance in
Has run three communication company in three continents: U.S. West,
By Andrew Stevens
The Boardroom, CNN.com
Friday, March 7, 2008
Now, privatized and owned by millions of shareholders, Telstra
has struggled to remain a dominant force in telecommunications
down under as competition heats up.
Three years ago many were saying the company had lost its way.
So it brought in hard-charging American CEO Sol Trujillo to turn
He's now in the middle of a five-year turn around plan which
includes expansion in Asia.
CNN's Andrew Stevens caught up with him in
Hong Kong to talk about shaking up a corporate
culture, taking on regulators and the government and how to win.
First of all you have to have a vision or a strategy as people
like to say, something that really is compelling, that drives a
change. And sometimes you know it can be in crisis, a
company in crisis, this case, Telstra was a good company, it's
just over time it's getting outdone by all of its competitors.
So we came in with a strategy to essentially differentiate the
Secondly, the company used to be government owned and government
controlled, so it needed a cultural transformation, with people
(who) get up in the morning, they look out of the window instead
of in this case, looking at Canberra and say "what are we going
to do today?" Looking out at the markets, looking out at
our customer and saying "what do we do today, what do we need to
do today, tomorrow and in the future?"
So the cultural transformation, and then having the strategy and
then in between, having the executional focus, it says okay
great strategy be now so go get it done, and let's get it down
quickly. We've done something that nobody's done anywhere
in the world at this stage.
Stevens: Part of this transformation has been
dealing with government, with regulators, with your own
shareholders, and you have ruffled a few feathers since you've
been the helm particularly with the government, but also with
regulators and to a degree with shareholders; do you like a
Well, I don't like fighting. But, if we need to stand for
a principle, we will, and that's essentially what we've done in Australia. When I first
arrived, we had a situation where the government, I mean the
company really ran at the pressure of the government, which was
fine as long as it was the government branch, but once you
privatized and you have individual shareholders, that has to
change. So we are a principle based company and where the
principle is, we work for shareholders.
Stevens: You've run three big talker companies in three
continents, U.S. West, Orange in
the United Kingdom and now Telstra in Australia, are
there fundamental differences in running a company in different
Well, the answer is fundamentally yes, the core principles are
to be the same. You have to have a strategy; you
have to be able to differentiate in the market place; you have
to manage cost; you have to market well; you have to
execute well; all those things were all the same, I don't
care what continent that you're on. What tends to be a
little bit different are the nuances of cultures, the nuances of
language, and then you're competitive context.
the key thing that keeps you engaged, keeps you motivated now,
Trujillo: You know, first of all, I'm a competitive
person, so I love winning, and you keep scoring in business --
you keep score by how you're growing your competitors, how
you're growing your revenues, growing margins all that sort of
But also, in our case of
Australia, I want to, when the
board recruited me, I went there, because I had a vision about
where in this technology world that we've emerged to, how you
can create a new experience for customers. And it's
building a company around the vision or reformatting a company
around the vision that hasn't been yet executed anywhere in the
world -- that's exciting, that's challenging.