Press 1 for unity

When John Rooney first got to United States Cellular Corp. in April 2000, there was nothing united about it.

“It was a company that was really sort of out of sync with modern business,” he says. “They had 26 different areas that they covered with their network, but they also had no uniform culture or uniform approach to business. They were basically, as one of my senior executives called it, 26 engines under the same hood. While they all had U.S. Cellular signs, they weren’t even uniform signs, so there was no real single character for the business.”

So when Rooney took over as the president and CEO, he saw a chance to immediately bring the company together under one culture — in this case, he put into place his dynamic organization, focusing on a culture of business ethics, employee training and focused customer service at the wireless carrier that did $4.2 billion in 2008 total operating revenue. It would be an understatement to say that it wasn’t an easy task when he first tried to bring everyone under one tent.

“We had a tough time getting it in because it was one of these things where there was no way to hide, so if you didn’t want to follow the principles and behaviors, then you were out,” he says.

But Rooney started off by making a clear declaration from the top, retraining his leadership team to get everyone on board, then, with a solid blueprint in place, he got his front-line people fully invested in pushing change.