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Sol Trujillo, CEO, Telstra

  • Story Highlights
  • Sol Trujillo, CEO of Telstra speaks to CNN's Andrew Stevens in The Boardroom
  • Trujillo became CEO in 2005 when company was losing its dominance in Australia
  • Has run three communication company in three continents: U.S. West, Orange, Telstra
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HONG KONG (CNN) -- They don't come much more Australian than Telstra. The former state-owned monopoly which literally linked Australians together, across a harsh and unforgiving continent.

Sol Trujillo, CEO of Australian communications company Telstra

Sol Trujillo, CEO of Australian communications company Telstra speaks in The Boardroom.

Now, privatized and owned by millions of shareholders, Telstra has struggled to remain a dominant force in telecommunications down under as competition heats up. Three years ago many were saying the company had lost its way. So it brought in hard-charging American CEO Sol Trujillo to turn things around.

He's now in the middle of a five-year turn around plan which includes expansion in Asia. CNN's Andrew Stevens caught up with him in Hong Kong to talk about shaking up a corporate culture, taking on regulators and the government and how to win. Video Watch the interview »

Trujillo: First of all you have to have a vision or a strategy as people like to say, something that really is compelling, that drives a change. And sometimes you know it can be in crisis, a company in crisis, this case, Telstra was a good company, it's just over time it's getting outdone by all of its competitors. So we came in with a strategy to essentially differentiate the business.

Secondly, the company used to be government owned and government controlled, so it needed a cultural transformation, with people (who) get up in the morning, they look out of the window instead of in this case, looking at Canberra and say "what are we going to do today?" Looking out at the markets, looking out at our customer and saying "what do we do today, what do we need to do today, tomorrow and in the future?"

So the cultural transformation, and then having the strategy and then in between, having the executional focus, it says okay great strategy be now so go get it done, and let's get it down quickly. We've done something that nobody's done anywhere in the world at this stage.

Stevens: Part of this transformation has been dealing with government, with regulators, with your own shareholders, and you have ruffled a few feathers since you've been the helm particularly with the government, but also with regulators and to a degree with shareholders; do you like a fight?

Trujillo: Well, I don't like fighting. But, if we need to stand for a principle, we will, and that's essentially what we've done in Australia. When I first arrived, we had a situation where the government, I mean the company really ran at the pressure of the government, which was fine as long as it was the government branch, but once you privatized and you have individual shareholders, that has to change. So we are a principle based company and where the principle is, we work for shareholders.

Stevens: You've run three big talker companies in three continents, U.S. West, Orange in the United Kingdom and now Telstra in Australia, are there fundamental differences in running a company in different continents.

Trujillo: Well, the answer is fundamentally yes, the core principles are to be the same. You have to have a strategy; you have to be able to differentiate in the market place; you have to manage cost; you have to market well; you have to execute well; all those things were all the same, I don't care what continent that you're on. What tends to be a little bit different are the nuances of cultures, the nuances of language, and then you're competitive context.

Trujillo: What's the key thing that keeps you engaged, keeps you motivated now, doing business?


Trujillo: You know, first of all, I'm a competitive person, so I love winning, and you keep scoring in business -- you keep score by how you're growing your competitors, how you're growing your revenues, growing margins all that sort of thing.

But also, in our case of Australia, I want to, when the board recruited me, I went there, because I had a vision about where in this technology world that we've emerged to, how you can create a new experience for customers. And it's building a company around the vision or reformatting a company around the vision that hasn't been yet executed anywhere in the world -- that's exciting, that's challenging. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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