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Hawaiian Telcom

Hawaiian Telcom just lost $30.5 mil. Why are these guys smiling? They believe local leadership can save the struggling company.

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CEO Eric Yeaman and chairman Walter Dods in Hawaiian Telcom's new Network Operations Center.

When you define ‘local’ the way I define ‘local’,” says Eric Yeaman, who took over as CEO of Hawaiian Telcom this past June, “when you live and grow up in this community, you understand that this is a special place. There’s a lot about Hawaii that’s unique, and I think you have to know and have an appreciation of that in order to best serve your customers.”

Walter Dods, the new chairman of the board, nods his head vigorously as Yeaman speaks. The two of them are trying to explain the importance of local management, a subject about which both are passionate. “It has to do with sensitivity to the local marketplace,”

Dods says, offering an example. “The old McDonalds in Hawaii was owned by Sully [Maurice Sullivan, founder of Foodland], and it was extremely successful. It was also the only McDonalds in the United States that had Spam. Had saimin, too. Because Sully understood this was a different market. That’s what we’re talking about. We want Spam and saimin at the phone company.”

As Yeaman has named his management team at Hawaiian Telcom, there’s been plenty of Spam and saimin to go around. “I’ll tell you,” Yeaman says, “I looked first and foremost for people who were seasoned in what they were doing; second, people who were what I would call ‘natural leaders’; and third—and this was the non-negotiable piece—people who were teamplayers.” He also managed to put together a team composed almost entirely of people with strong local ties. John Komeiji, for example, the company’s new general counsel, was a founding partner at the well-connected local firm Watanabe, Ing and Komeiji. Steve Golden, the new vice president for external affairs came over from the Gas Company. William Chung, the new vice president of human resources and labor relations, spent eighteen years at Hawaii Tug and Barge. Even Geoff Louie, the new vice president of strategy and marketing, who spent most of his career on the Mainland, was born and raised here. In fact, of the new team members, only Mike Edl, the new senior vice president of network services, has no local connections.


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