When Timothy Yager started at Revol Wireless in the fall of 2011, the company had been losing customers every month for an extended period of time. Late 2009 through the first half of 2011 were tough years for the organization — rumors of bankruptcy and new ownership were being floated around and the wireless communications provider was in desperate need of change.
“The company was having some financial issues,” says Yager, president and CEO. “So my arrival was a chance to hit the reset button for Revol, not only for our customers, but for our employees and say, ‘It’s a new day. The ownership change has happened and they’ve brought in new management and we’re going to focus the company on winning.’”
When Revol was first launched, it was a more than 300-employee, $100 million company. It had a reputation as being on the cutting edge of the prepaid wireless industry.
“Revol had a lot of success early on because it offered unlimited voice and those kinds of things on a prepaid platform,” Yager says. “They were the only provider in the footprint offering that type of service.”
In 2008 and 2009, other prepaid providers started moving in and the competitive forces grew. In a hypercompetitive industry such as wireless, Revol wasn’t as competitive as it should have been and it quickly began to fall behind.
“They needed some help getting the business turned around,” Yager says.
Here’s how Yager reinvigorated Revol Wireless with a strategy to get the prepaid provider winning again.
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Prior to Yager’s arrival, Revol’s strategy and day-to-day operations were hindered by its capital structure, which brought about a slow-to-react atmosphere. Once the company was free from that structure, there were a lot of people who were looking for strong guidance, enthusiastic leadership and setting of general objectives to get the company back on track.
When Yager was first introduced to the team, it was a transformation in enthusiasm, direction and general motivation. Everybody suddenly had a place to go and a job to do. Yager brought a lot of that enthusiasm and direction to the table, and that’s exactly what people needed.
“Those first few days and weeks were really about analyzing the team that was here and where the strengths and weaknesses were,” Yager says. “The other thing was trying to change the focus and mindset of the company.”
Yager wanted to instill a strategy that said the company was in it to win it. It didn’t happen overnight, but employees started to recognize that there was a new philosophy.
“Revol had gotten mired in the minutia and a lot of times in companies that are struggling, people retreat from making decisions,” he says. “One of the biggest things I did was come in and start making decisions.”
Simple things like “yes and no” decisions went a long way toward starting to improve morale and helped employees realize there was a new sheriff in town. Yager represented new ownership, new direction and new thought.
“I think people started to feel empowered to be successful,” he says. “In a turnaround situation, one of the biggest things you’ve got to do is make decisions. So often companies get polarized with the fear of making the wrong decision that they make no decision, and I firmly believe that sometimes a wrong decision is better than no decision.
“If people are just constantly treading water and they don’t know whether they’re going up, down, right or left, it zaps the life out of a company.”
People respect leaders who come into a company and lay out a plan of attack, are upfront about the plan and who are forceful.
“I can remember that first meeting and saying, ‘I’m not going to do everything right and I’m not going to pretend to do everything right, but we’re going to make decisions, have short meetings, focus on what needs to get done and we’re going to get it done,’” Yager says. “In our wireless industry, where it is so competitive, we don’t have the luxury of taking six months to analyze everything.
“Sometimes you’ve got to look at the facts, make a decision and move on.”
Revol started 2012 losing customers every month, just as it had been the year prior, but with Yager on board the wheels were in motion for the company to move forward.
“When I came in, one of the first things I did was put some extra incentives out there to our dealers to sell some phones,” Yager says. “I was trying to buy some enthusiasm from our partners to get reinvigorated about selling the Revol brand.”
Another key decision Yager made was to get out in the field and visit a lot of the company’s owned doors and indirect doors to help get the message across that it’s a new Revol and a new day.
“Those were things that didn’t cost a lot of money, but helped move the business forward because it put a face with a name they were starting to see on emails,” he says. “It also gave them a chance to meet me and realize that I’m a relatively aggressive guy.
“When you’ve got five to eight competitors in a marketplace, you’ve got to be aggressive, and by people meeting me and realizing that I wasn’t just saying we were playing to win, they could tell by meeting with me that we want to win the game.”
One of the most crucial issues that Revol and Yager identified that needed to be changed was their network.
“Revol was still operating on an older technology called 1X and had slower data speeds,” he says. “In today’s world of smartphones, Androids and everything else, data is key.”
Shortly after Yager joined the company, the board approved a plan to upgrade the network to a 3G network.
“Our key initiative in 2012 was the company deploying 3G,” he says. “We launched that service in September last year and noticed an immediate uptick in our sales to customers as well as a stickiness of our existing customers.”
Yager’s key to helping Revol right the ship was his ability to deliver on his decisions. He was careful not to promise too much.
“I came in and made a few simple promises — two or three key things and then I spent a year beating the drum on those things to do it,” Yager says. “Too often people come in and make a laundry list of 26 items they’re going to promise. No one can get that done in a reasonable timeframe and you lose credibility. Pick and choose what needs to get done and then deliver on it.”
In 2012 Revol was all about getting 3G launched. In 2013 the company is all about selling phones and keeping customers happy.
“When we launched our 3G network we saw an immediate turnaround to our gross sales and our net sales,” he says. “We have more than doubled our sales in January 2013 from January 2012. We’ve really seen that the successes are bearing out.”
Everyone at Revol had to put in the hard work to get the pieces in place, but now that that’s done, the company has seen noticeable improvement. To continue to see those sales and revenue numbers increase, the company has to keep a focus on growing its customers.
“I’m happy to report they are growing,” Yager says. “I’m excited about what we can achieve this year. Last year we had a hard time competing from a sales perspective because we hadn’t upgraded the network. This year we’ve got those key ground-level type things in place, so I’m looking forward to being able to execute and win.
“We have almost a singular focus in 2013, which is to grow the business. There’s really only one way to grow the business, and that’s to be successful in adding new subscribers and keeping existing subscribers.”
How to reach: Revol Wireless, (800) 738-6547 or www.revol.com