Merger Maestro

Bruce Gordon answers the call for Bell Atlantic by helping to build one of the nation's largest telecommunications companies

while, he was making a name for himself with a winning marketing philosophy focused on three things: what the customer wants, what the competition thinks and what will distinguish the company from the rest of the pack.

Then in 1985, on the heels of deregulation, the AT&T behemoth crumbled into seven regional Bells. Gordon was appointed vice president of sales at what then became the Bell Atlantic Corp. As a Regional Bell Operating Co. (RBOC), Bell Atlantic provided local telephone service for 12 million customers in Delaware, New Jersey, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia and the District of Columbia. But the company had to find ways to keep its head above water.

Enter Gordon in 1988, now vice president of marketing and sales. After a year as an Alfred Sloan Fellow at MIT with a freshly minted master’s degree in management, he took hold of the 100-year-old corporation and turned it “upside down and inside out.”

Gordon admits he can be impatient, compulsive, and intense. Hermann Hesse’s novel Siddhartha, about an East Indian merchant in search of the answers of life, has helped him harness those emotions. “As I moved through the business, taking on more responsibility, the book taught me that having balance in my life will make me a better person,” notes Gordon, who’s learned to summon patience and tranquility when under fire. “However, I also learned that even positive things in excess are a problem.”

This philosophy helped Gordon cut costs and revamp operations so that Bell Atlantic could weather the shake-up. In 1994, as group president of consumer and small business services, Gordon launched a mass-marketing program that put kiosks in shopping malls and sales outlets in retail stores such as Sears. Gordon shored up the customer service
department by cutting out endless meetings, training sessions and goofing off. He held customer service reps to rigid schedules. As a result, the number of calls answered within 20 seconds–the time it takes before a customer hangs up-jumped from 70% to 90% in two months.

“Bruce is an extraordinary executive whose marketing instincts and skills are unsurpassed,” notes Ivan Seidenberg, vice chairman, president and CEO at Bell Atlantic. “We start off with a leg up on the competition because we have him leading our customer care efforts.”

Most recently, a 100-day sales campaign resulted in residential customers buying 8.5 million units of discounted optional services such as Caller ID, call waiting, three-way calling and home voice mail at discounted rates. That beat the record for combined sales in any quarter, surpassing the company’s goal of 7 million units.

Besides the quantifiable elements, Gordon knows there are things that affect the bottom line that don’t fit neatly into any category. One of those is corporate diversity.

During last year’s Consortium of Information and Telecommunications Executives conference in New Brunswick, New Jersey, Gordon was the man. His welcoming remarks struck a chord in the hundreds of African American Bell Atlantic employees in attendance. “CEOs don’t run the company; middle managers and senior executives do,”

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