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October 2009 | Volume 12 / Number 10
Top of Mind

Place Your Bets

Years ago I was attending a trade show and someone on one of the panels mentioned that many of the great companies were created – or earned their standout status – during down times.

As management guru and author Jim Collins mentioned in a January interview with Fortune magazine, 15 of the 18 companies mentioned in his book “Built to Last” lived through the Depression, and all of the 18 are standalone companies today. Collins, who also authored “Good to Great,” added that two keys to helping companies survive and thrive during tough times are key values and people.

It’s important “to have moorings” in times of tumult, he said, meaning the presence of company values (such as great customer service, for example) and the ability and will to uphold those values. Having great people on staff is the other important component of strong companies, he added. “If you do not find a way to get those great people, you're not thinking long term enough,” Collins said. “ In the long-term research into tumultuous environments that Morten and I are doing, we find that great companies manage for the quarter-century.”

Whether we’re talking about investment in process, people, marketing or infrastructure, now is a great time to invest in whatever will help you better position for today and the future – if you’re in the position to do so, of course.

That’s exactly what some of the most important companies in communications seem to be doing.

For example, Arunas Chesonis, CEO of PAETEC (News - Alert) and a keynote speaker at last month’s ITEXPO West, appears to be poised for new investment as it aims to expand beyond telecom to become a competitive electric supplier in some 12 to 15 states in the Northeast and Midwest.

Meanwhile, several of the tier-one telcos, including AT&T, Verizon (News - Alert) and Sprint, have announced plans to up their capital expenditures for the rest of 2009.

AT&T expects to lay out nearly $18 billion in capex this year, the bulk of which it hasn’t yet spent. A major HSPA network upgrade is among the projects to receive funding this year. Verizon is placing its bets on LTE. And Sprint (News - Alert) reportedly has $1 billion in capex left to spend this year.

Times are tough, but companies and individuals who have planned well can now take advantage of the low prices and hungry companies in the equipment and services sectors that often result from a downturn.

So place your bets. IT

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