O2's Ronan Dunne: "Your brand should lead your company"

Ronan Dunne, chief executive, Telefonica UK
Ronan Dunne, chief executive, Telefonica UK

The chief executive of Telefonica UK shares his business and life learnings.

A higher purpose is a huge motivator. If we're honest, what we do has no lasting legacy. Outperforming the competition in whatever industry or sector we operate in is sweet, but it's a momentary event. You need to stand for something.

Have an agenda. It's about bringing people on a journey - not just an external perception, but a real desire to change the capitalist model.

Think way beyond revenues. Profit in itself is not the answer. The CEO needs to be thinking further ahead to changing the landscape for long-term success. For example, we've just spent hundreds of millions of pounds rolling out the infrastructure to provide 4G services. But it is not enough - we need our young people to have the digital skills to use it.

Be introspective. To take a stand, you have to ask not just "what?", but "why?". It helps to give clarity on your business strategy. Don't stop at the underlying drivers for your business; look deep and hard at your own values and motivators.

Use crisis to your advantage. You can achieve so much more when there is a burning platform. It is an opportunity to differentiate and stand out.

Believe you are doing the right thing. Authenticity is an enabler of leadership. Your brand should lead your company, rather than your company leading the brand.

Communicate. You may be clear about your strategy - but no one else will be if you don't give proper time to communicating it articulately.

Failure to invest in your brand values is a false economy. I often get asked how we can afford to invest in O2's "start-up accelerator" or provide 30,000 work-skills opportunities for young people. My response is: we can't afford not to; the opportunity to differentiate and show leadership is too important.

We need to be a more digitally confident nation. Confidence and trust really matter in a digital society. They will accelerate our progress and create an environment in which technology is available to all and everyone is empowered to innovate.

Leadership brings increased influence. In effect, you gain permission to have a different conversation.

Trust matters. You need credits in the bank. It means that customers are more forgiving when things go wrong - I found that out when we had a network outage last year. It certainly wasn't our finest hour, but as a company in a digital age, we were able to use social media to engage with our customers in a tone that I don't believe would have been possible without the trust that we had built up in our brand positioning.

Accept personal risk. You cannot save your way to glory: growth is key. But with analysts judging your business every 90 days, there is no room to take business risk. The risk that chief executives must take is a personal one.

Leave time for what's important. Whether that's family or other personal interests. I have never missed a hockey game that my daughter was playing in.


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