Hawaii Business CEO of the Year: Eric Yeaman
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One of his first actions was to rekindle a local cultural sensibility, something employees complained was missing in the years that The Carlyle Group was in charge.
Yeaman, second from right, joined his family for a reunion in
“Fierce Resolve,” say signs now emblazoned on walls everywhere at Hawaiian Telcom. “Aloha Spirit … Superior Service … Trustworthiness.”
“We call them our FAST values,” says Yeaman. “I told employees we need to find our North Star – what’s going to guide us – and that is a set of values. And that became something our employees could rally around.”
Yeaman’s down-to-earth style reflects his origins as a local boy who spent summers picking tomatoes, cucumbers, coffee beans and macadamia nuts on Kona farms. Nowadays, he personally greets employees in the elevator or on their own turf at far-flung Neighbor Island baseyards several times a year. He also makes time for a slew of community organizations and speaks at local events, especially back home on the Kona coast. He knows the importance of homegrown heroes because he vividly remembers how Kona-born Ellison Onizuka would speak to his and other classes before the astronaut perished in the 1986 Challenger explosion.
“It helped me dream about what I could do and be,” says Yeaman, whose father was one of Onizuka’s high school classmates. Yeaman remembers his dad and Ellison’s brother Claude getting together for meals. “I was this kid listening to adults talk about life and business. I was gaining real-life experience. I was this lucky kid.”
Chasing New Clients with New Technology
Hawaiian Telcom is moving from being “the phone company” into being an “integrated, full-service communications-technology company,” says Eric Yeaman. That places HT head to head against Oceanic Time Warner and other companies on a host of technology, data and communication services.
“We’re aggressively going out there to expand our footprint and go after new customers,” says Hawaiian Telcom spokesman Scott Simon.
Its new and expanded services include a full range of Internet Protocol services (IP), including ethernet, high-bandwidth data services, managed services and cloud-based services, which are coming online shortly. After almost a year of study, focus groups and equipment tests, the company in July began rolling out a new generation of TV/phone/Internet packages that use fiber-optic technology in partnership with Cisco and Microsoft. TV/phone/Internet package deals have helped Oceanic convert many phone customers away from Hawaiian Telcom in recent years, and now HT is fighting back.
Hawaiian Telcom is expanding this service neighborhood by neighborhood on Oahu, using the phone network. “Oahu has approximately 300,000 households and we’re looking to build out Oahu over the next four to five years,” Yeaman says. (To find out if your area is covered, go to hawaiiantel.com/TV.)
Yeaman touts the quality of his company’s technology and then adds, “What we’ve seen on the mainland is that price is not the area where you want to battle. You want to battle on the value and product and service side. It’s still competitive pricing, but not a race to the bottom either.”
HT’s revenue comes from three main sources: about one-third from residential customers, 43 percent from businesses and the rest from wholesale.
Wholesale includes servicing wireless phone companies and long-distance companies that use the statewide Hawaiian Telcom network. HT has upgraded 141 cell sites to 4G for its wireless customers and more upgrades are coming.
“We’re a wholesale provider to AT&T, Verizon, Sprint and T-Mobile,” Yeaman says. “They buy network access capacity from us.”
The Yeaman Effect
Source: Presentation to investors, November 2011
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