If you don't believe that one must take some backward steps to get ahead in the world, just ask Edward Rogers.
Sixteen years ago, as a fledgling teenaged cable guy with the company built by his family, Rogers - son of communications mogul Ted Rogers - spent a lot of time backpedalling on rooftops and occasionally found himself precariously perched on the precipice. Since that time, Rogers' career has been on a forward fast track.
After cutting his teeth with U.S. cable company Comcast Corp., Rogers has spent the past decade climbing the corporate ladder with Rogers Communications, the company founded by his father. The grandson of radio pioneer Edward Rogers Sr. has held numerous roles in the company in sales, marketing, technical operations, strategic planning and management.
In 2003, at age 34, the fast-stepping Rogers was appointed president and chief executive officer of Rogers Cable Communications. His career, you might say, has gone through the roof.
|Ken Kerr, Business Edge|
|Edward Rogers, CEO of the cable giant, started at the bottom but had a close call on a roof.|
1. Who was your most important mentor?
"During my youth, it was John W. Graham, who was my stepgrandfather - my father's second father. He was chairman of our company. My dad's father died when my dad was only five years old and his mother married John W. Graham when my father was only seven. John W. Graham passed away six years ago. As you get older, you tend to reflect on and appreciate those influences. You don't understand the importance of that until you're older. Following college, he inspired me to a strong work ethic, which I now have. I love my work and I love work. He instilled a drive and accomplishment in me."
2. What do you remember about your father's influence?
"I'd say it was about persistence, and never giving up. In his business career, he has had ups and downs and one of the things I like about our business is that we have had downs, we have failed, and I think that that has created a culture of appreciation much more so than at other businesses where it's always been all good."
3. As a youngster, did you aspire to work in your father's company?
"I always knew I enjoyed working, and knew that our company offered growth and an exciting future, and were in businesses that were quite exciting and changing. When I was in high school and college, I worked summers in various jobs (at Rogers) and got a better taste for the company. But you still don't appreciate it as much until you've been there for a few years. I worked jobs at call centres, out on trucks, working in warehouse engineering and helping plot out the strength of the paging network. I remember 1989, which was fun, because I was on top of a building and almost walked off of it backward (laughing). You kind of got the sense that you should stop walking and then you figure out why. Those early years were good experience, being in people's homes and listening to them express their satisfaction and express what we needed to do better."
4. After graduating from the University of Western Ontario, why did you start your career with Comcast Cable in the U.S.?
"We've had a family tradition where you work outside the business first. So, I worked at Comcast Cable in Baltimore for a little over a year, then I worked at Comcast Metrophone, a cellular company they've since sold, and finally I worked in their head office (in Philadelphia) as part of a product-management team that was trying to get their Internet high-speed wireless connection up and running. We didn't have much luck with that. Working there was really enjoyable. I learned an immense amount about the business and it was a place where my last name didn't matter. I was just like the fella next to me. And the Toronto Blue Jays won (American League titles) both years that I was out of the country. So a lot of my friends are telling me that it's time for me to leave again."
5. What has it been like working for your father?
"For most of my career, I didn't actually work for him, so it was good. We obviously talk a lot of shop. In my last two roles in the company, I've had a lot more interaction with him. It's certainly wonderful to work with your family in business. We're all passionate people and that comes out. One of the things my father is really good at - in a group (meeting) or with just the two of us talking about an issue that we're passionate about - is making it just business, so it doesn't interfere with our personal relationship. We've never had the confusion of being animated or passionate about a business issue where it became a problem on the personal side."
6. You've held a broad range of roles with Rogers. How has that contributed to your personal development?
"That has helped in an immense way. When you deal with issues, you have a much better understanding of what it means. It's one thing to read or hear about an issue, but it's another thing to be able to say you understand it, having been part of that group."
7. What's been your major focus since being appointed CEO of Rogers Cable in 2003?
"There have been a number of things that I've focused on. One of them was to continue to evolve the company to be more customer-focused. We grew up in a space where we were the only company that could offer television services (in its market). Since we've had competitors, our customer satisfaction has gone up quite a bit because we're doing a better job, and because people can attribute value with other offers out there. We're also trying to invest in the right areas and to keep the revenue growth going. We've done a good job of that in our high-speed Internet area, which has been a wonderful new business for cable companies to be in ... We've been told our growth will slow and it will, in time, as our business matures. Yet, we're still seeing very strong growth. We're launching our local telephony product (home telephone service) this summer (in the Greater Toronto Area) and rolling it out across our company over the next three quarters after that."
8. What kind of potential do you see for the telephony product?
"It'll be a great growth vehicle and it will mean that Rogers competes in all four major product groups - cable television, high-speed Internet, local telephony and wireless telephony. And it's also exciting to a lot of people within the company because it is a new business. One of the things that I think is inspiring to a lot of people at Rogers is that their jobs can vary. We've been defending our turf on cable local television, but now we'll be going after our competitors as opposed to just defending.
"We're thrilled about that. I think we'll be a long-term player in the local phone business. Over time, we see the local phone business and the wireless phone businesses complementing each other and becoming one for some customers."
9. There was a time satellite television was considered a major threat to cable television. What's been the key to maintaining your company's strong foothold in that business against satellite competitors?
"Initially, when they (satellite companies) came to market, they obviously had more advantages, but today we believe we offer more product value to customers. We're local, our service works in bad weather, we have local employees for service and installation and we guarantee our inside wiring. I think we have advantages on the service side.
"Of course, they got the low-hanging fruit, but they're still a competitor and they're going to be a formidable competitor as we go forward."
10. How do you see Rogers Cable evolving in the next few years?
"We hope to grow the number of Canadians we serve for cable television. We want to look at high-speed Internet, for instance, and ask how we can create more value for customers so we can generate more revenue beyond the access business. We want to increase the reliability in our service, and ultimately improve our customer satisfaction so we keep the customers we have and take a good market share of customers looking for new products."
11. What are your thoughts about your family's legacy in the Canadian communications business, particularly that of your famous grandfather (Edward Rogers)?
"We're proud as a family to be able to contribute to Canada and my father's very passionate about that. We've had investments in cable in Ireland for a time and south of the border for a time, but both times my father retracted on those, saying that our home is in Canada and that's where we want to have our base.
"I know my father is passionate about keeping his father's legacy alive. My grandfather's business (Toronto radio station CFRB) was actually sold but, even though my father's business was a different business, it came from my grandfather's legacy, which inspired my father to be in this business and to be entrepreneurial."
12. How do you think your management style differs from that of your father?
"I'd say I'm more focused on being a professional business manager. I'd say our styles are fairly similar. You always have differences on how you look to execute some things, but it's fairly consistent. The major difference is that I'm more hands-off. If I'm asking a person or group of people to achieve something and they're achieving it, I won't get into that as much. But then there are other things I dig deeper into than he does."
13. What would it mean to you to be your father's successor at the helm of Rogers Communications?
"It's something that I definitely aspire to, and I think the family aspires to keeping the Rogers name and Rogers Communications alive, thriving and continuing to grow. We're in a wonderful business that changes constantly. It's a great business and I'm proud to be a part of it."
14. Do you know what your father's plans are for the succession of the company? (Ted has suggested he'll retire when his contract expires in June 2008.)
"Well, right now, my father is a young man (71) and a healthy young man who enjoys what he's doing. So I'd say my focus is on doing the best job I can in my current role and, in time, I'm sure things will play out in the best interests of what is needed for the company. My father is not going anywhere. The company is Ted, he's tremendously passionate about it and he enjoys it. He's like a kid in a candy store when he's at work. He's always going to be part of the company. He may relax a little more as time goes forward, but I think he'll stay as involved as he can."
15. Your father has mentioned Nadir Mohamed (CEO of Rogers Wireless) as a frontrunner for his successor. What are your thoughts about that?
"I think the company is extraordinarily lucky to have a man as talented as him as part of the Rogers group, and I hope Nadir stays and is a core part of Rogers in whatever role he's in."
16. Would you like to see your daughter (Chloe) working in the company one day?
"I've actually asked her. Right now, unfortunately, she's going to be a dolphin trainer. She's only seven."
17. Are you, like your father, a kid in a candy store when you're at work?
"It does feel like that. Work has never been a chore or labour for me. I may slow down in my later life a little sooner than my father may. But that's easy to say now."
18. Do you think you'll have to leave the country so the Blue Jays (owned by Rogers Communications) can win a pennant?
"They look great. I was just listening to the radio on the way in and I think the city's (sports) hungry, having missed hockey this year (due to the NHL lockout). The fans want something to cheer for, and I think the Blue Jays will be it. We're going to have a better team this year. We're trying to put some money into rejuvenating the Rogers Centre (Blue Jays' home stadium) and try to reinvigorate some of the spirit with the team and within the Rogers Centre. We're going to have a good year."
19. What are your favourite pastimes?
"I enjoy photography and video editing. It really started when I had Chloe. As a new parent, I took pictures and video of her every move and, from there, I learned how to edit and create short films, which is quite a lot of fun."
20. What's your most important life goal beyond business?
"We've all done our part to give back and my parents, especially my mother, have been very generous in helping education in Canada. It's tremendously rewarding for myself and the great Rogers family to give back and do things to help Canadians. I hope to do more there myself."
* Title: President/CEO, Rogers Cable.
* Born/raised/age: Toronto, 35.
* Education: University of Western Ontario, BA, political science.
* Career: Rogers began his career with a 21/2-year stint with Comcast Corp., a cable and cellular company, in the U.S. He has spent more than a decade with Rogers Communications. Prior to becoming president and CEO of Rogers Cable in 2003, he was senior VP, planning and strategy, for Rogers Communications; VP and general manager of the Toronto region for Rogers Cable; VP and general manager, paging, data and emerging technologies, for Rogers Wireless; and director of sales for Rogers Cable. He is also a director of Rogers Communications, Futureway Communications and Rogers Sportsnet.
* Mentor: John W. Graham (the late chairman of Rogers Communications and stepfather of Ted Rogers).
* Family Ties: Rogers' father Ted is the founder and CEO of Rogers Communications; his sister, Melinda Rogers, is VP of strategic planning and venture investments for Rogers Communications; and his grandfather Edward Rogers Sr.
was a radio pioneer and inventor.
* Pastimes: Photography, producing home videos, rooting for the Toronto Blue Jays.
Rogers Communications Inc.
* Brass: Ted Rogers, president/CEO; Alan Horn, chief financial officer; Nadir Mohamed, president/CEO, Rogers Wireless; Edward Rogers, president/CEO, Rogers Cable; Anthony Viner, president/CEO, Rogers Media.
* Profile: Rogers Communications is a Canadian communications and media company, operating primarily in three divisions - cable, wireless and media.
* Stats: Rogers Cable is Canada's largest cable television company, serving approximately 2.25 million basic subscribers representing approximately 29 per cent of the basic cable subscribers in Canada. Rogers Cable also provides digital cable services to approximately 627,000 households and Internet service to approximately 879,500 subscribers.
* Recent stock price (RC.MV.A): $34.12 (52-week range, $23.22-$38.60).
* Website: www.rogers.com
* Head office: 10th Floor, 333 Bloor St. East, Toronto, M4W 1G9
(Gyle Konotopetz can be reached at email@example.com)