You probably couldn't find a nicer, more dedicated or more sincere person than former Sprint CEO Dan Hesse...the problem is that sometimes nice guys finish last, no matter how good intentioned they are. Such is the case of Dan Hesse and his struggle to fix a very broken Sprint when the switch to LTE was set in motion. On the eve of the year anniversary since his departure and Marcelo Claure's hiring, Mr. Hesse sat down and spoke with our source about his painful decisions that affected not only Sprint's customers, but also his personal pain.
Long before Mr. Hesse was hired as Sprint's CEO, poor decisions had been made concerning network upgrades - they ended up with three different networks - including Clearwire's WiMAX - and three different air interfaces. When it came to fixing the situation, he could think of no better way than to rip out the old and replace the entire network. But then realized "...the implementation plan of getting to that long-term gain was more short-term pain than any of us had envisioned. And I don't know if we could have found a better way of doing it. I don't know that." He did say that had he known it was going to cause so much "level of pain" in 2013 and 2014, they might have looked to find a better way.
What bothered Mr. Hesse so much was the fact there were so many service interruptions - much larger and longer than expected. He said, "And it was particularly difficult for us because we had such a service ethic and customer experience ethic at Sprint. That's how we had gotten to the No. 1 position. It had been something we walked and lived and breathed 24/7. And then all of a sudden to be providing something less than excellent customer service, and doing it over a long period of time, was very painful to me personally and to the organization." He still believed that the "short-term pain" would lead to "long-term gain," and he still believes this today.
To his credit, Mr. Hesse did orchestrate the deal with SoftBank to take control of Sprint in a $21.6 billion deal. He also managed to avert Sprint's bankruptcy during the Nextel acquisition deal inked under former CEO Gary Forsee. He brought great customer satisfaction numbers to Sprint before the network upgrade. Most of the Hesse era have been replaced and this week Sprint announced that they were replacing CFO Joe Euteneuer - a former longtime Hesse associate - with former Telstra and Orange executive Tarek Robbiati.
In parting, and perhaps to ease some of his personal pain, Mr. Hesse said of his tenure with Sprint..."We became much stronger financially and we moved from last place in customer satisfaction and net promoter score and improved all those metrics dramatically, achieving the No. 1 position in customer satisfaction at one point, and receiving 20 awards from J.D. Power & Associates." Only the next couple of years will tell if those "short-term pains" will actually become "long-term gains."