EXCLUSIVE: Former Sprint CEO Dan Hesse On Going From Cleaning Sewers To Leading Billion-Dollar Tech Companies

Zinger Key Points
  • Dan Hesse helped lead a turnaround of Sprint after the company merged with Nextel.
  • Hesse shares business advice for CEOs and the most important items to help a turnaround.

Dan Hesse has led several telecommunications companies, including helping lead the transition of Sprint and Nextel merging to become one unified company. Hesse shared more on his time pushing the company forward during an appearance on the "Raz Report" podcast.

Leading Sprint Nextel Turnaround: Now serving as the chairman of Akami Technologies AKAM, Hesse might be best known for his role as CEO of Sprint from December 2008 to August 2014.

Hesse took on the role shortly after the telecommunications companies Sprint and Nextel had merged to form Sprint Nextel Corporation.

When he took on the role, Hesse said there were two headquarters, two companies, half the board members from Sprint and half the board members from Nextel. More importantly and potentially harmful, was two different cultures being followed by employees and directors, Hesse said.

"It turned out to be an opportunity," Hesse said.

The former Sprint CEO said both companies had good cultures and he wanted to use attributes from both.

"We are not going to survive with two cultures," Hesse said in an all-employee meeting.

Hesse wrote down 20 attributes he thought were the best and asked for people to vote on them, with the exception of one attribute he would use no matter what: accountability.

"The culture, I'm accountable for that as CEO. I'm accountable for it."

Hesse said that for the CEO role of a company three of the most important items are figuring out strategy, figuring out who your team is going to be and the culture of the company, or the how.

The former Sprint CEO says culture may have been the number one reason he was able to help Sprint turnaround.

Related Link: EXCLUSIVE: Patron Founder John Paul DeJoria On Never Giving Up, Overcoming Rejection And His Best Business Advice

Being Resourceful In Life: Getting started in the telecommunications sector was a matter of luck and being resourceful, or as Hesse called it, a moment of "serendipity."

To begin his career at AT&T, a company known for having the best summer internships, Hesse had to recruit his sister to get him an application from the company. Hesse knew that AT&T only interviewed people at Harvard and Wharton at the time and he was at Cornell.

His quick thinking to get an application filled out and turned in impressed a hiring manager to call him and ask where he got the application from and he was later hired.

Getting into the telecommunications sector could also be pure luck for Hesse, a man who once worked cleaning sewers in New York.

Hesse told Benzinga that it was a union job and he had it while he was going to college and his father was stationed in Queens.

The job paid $10 an hour, which was "good money back then" in the ‘70s, Hesse recalled.

"It was a really dirty, hard job, but it paid well. That's why I did it and I was very happy to have it," Hesse said.

Read Next: From ‘Billion-Dollar Mistake’ To $300M Exit: The Early Entrepreneurial Experiences Of Benzinga Co-Founder Jason Raznick

Market News and Data brought to you by Benzinga APIs
Posted In: Success StoriesExclusivesInterviewDan HesseExpert IdeasNextelpodcastRaz ReportSprintSprint NextelStories That Mattertelecommunicationstelecommunications stocksThe Raz Report
Benzinga simplifies the market for smarter investing

Trade confidently with insights and alerts from analyst ratings, free reports and breaking news that affects the stocks you care about.

Join Now: Free!