Editor’s Note: Time Warner Cable’s Glenn Britt won our 2011 Leadership Award in this summer’s Top Ops issue of CableFAX The Magazine. He will be honored at the Program & Top Ops Awards on Tues Oct 18 at the Renaissance Hollywood Hotel & Spa. Register to attend here.
Time Warner Cable’s leadership over the past year earned it our Top MSO award. But it’s the vision of chairman/CEO Glenn Britt that has helped plot the company’s course. “Glenn is a leader who is not satisfied with the status quo,” says TWC president/COO Rob Marcus. “He encourages debate and a thorough examination of new ideas. No matter how busy his schedule may be, his door is always open to his employees and their ideas on how to improve and grow the company by focusing on the customer.”
It’s not all revenue and sub gains though. One of the areas most important to Britt is making sure that TWC reflects the communities it serves. You can see some of that in the number of female executives in senior ranks and in its third consecutive year on Diversity Inc’s Top 50 Companies for Diversity list. And then there’s Time Warner Cable’s Connect a Million Minds initiative, which inspires students to pursue education and careers in Science, Technology, Math and Engineering. “Glenn takes the idea of being a ’connections’ company very seriously, and the impact of his passion in that has a lasting effect throughout the company,” says Marcus.
How would you describe your leadership style?
Britt: I think in a way you should ask other people because they get to watch me. But I would say I am very informal and very casual. I like to make sure we have really good people in the right spots. I tend to let people do their jobs. I delegate and tend to not second guess them. I do set direction and try to steer things if it’s going in the wrong direction, but I don’t micromanage.
Who would you identify as your mentors?
Britt: My early career was at Time Inc before Time Warner. I really have three mentors, all names that at one point were known in the business. Dick Munro, who became chairman of Time Inc just before Time Warner and CEO. The other one was Nick Nicholas, who subsequently became co-chairman of Time Warner. And the other was Gerald Levin. Those three guys were my main mentors as I was growing up.
Best advice you received?
Britt: The most important characteristic of successful senior managers is having good judgment, rather than having some technical expertise such as being great at finance or a great lawyer or whatever.
Time Warner Cable has taken a major leadership role in several key areas—from your iPad app to economic video packages to the Lakers RSN deal. Why have you chosen to be in the forefront?
Britt: Our business is very dynamic. The consumer and the consumer culture in our society keeps changing. What’s possible in a technology sense keeps changing. And in order to be successful and thrive, we need to keep changing as an industry. I think we need to recognize that some of the things we’ve done historically aren’t going to be the things that work in the future.
But it seems kind of risky too?
Britt: There is always a risk with doing new things. It represents change, so people feel threatened by that. But I think it’s actually riskier not to change than to attempt to change.
Are you doing anything concrete right now to prepare for a shift to it?
Britt: As I’ve said many times, I think it’s inevitable. As usage grows and grows, which is a good thing, we’re all going to have to invest more money to keep up with demand. The opponents of this look at marginal costs and say, ‘Well the next bit doesn’t really cost anything. You don’t really have to charge anything.’ But the reality is… for the Internet as a whole to keep up with the potential usage, the companies who provide the physical Internet are going to have to provide a lot of money. That’s going to require a return… I have a lot of trouble with rhetoric that makes it sound punitive… if you use more of something, you pay more. We don’t today have the plumbing to count the bits even if we wanted to. So we are working to put in that infrastructure. If for nothing else so that we can put in meters so that people can find out what they’re using. But we’re not in a position to do that today. Some other people are, but we’re not.
When it comes to your Science, Technology, Engineering Math (STEM) outreach, why is this important?
Britt: We’re falling behind in competitiveness with other countries. And it relates to our business in that we have a great need for employees who have technical skills. The nature of our business is that we affix geographies. We don’t have factories that we can pick up and move offshore. The economic and cultural health of our communities has a direct impact on our business. Another area that’s been important to me personally has been diversity… I’m very proud of the track record we’re building at Time Warner Cable. I like “inclusion” better than “diversity,” by the way. That’s really important for the future of our business for some of the same reasons STEM is important. We are a part of the communities where we do business. We need to have all the best thinking, wherever it comes from, and we need to serve everybody in those communities.
Is there still a significant role for groups like NAMIC and WICT to play in the industry?
Britt: Absolutely. One of the unique things about the cable industry is that we tend to operate in geographies where we were franchised. … It has meant that to get scale on a lot of these initiatives we need to team together as an industry. You see organizations like NAMIC, WICT, Emma Bowen and others that really have come to be because [of that].
TWC has about 48,000 employees.
Time Warner Cable has 18 employee-resource groups and diversity training.
Time Warner Cable recently produced a half-hour pilot, “It Ain’t Rocket Science,” as part of its Connect a Million Minds initiative. In April, the MSO launched “Cracking the Codes in the Wireless World,” a signature curriculum that gives young people the opportunity to explore and experience the technologies behind the wireless products they encounter every day.
As part of the “Cracking the Code” effort, more than 60 events were held across the footprint in which more than 1,500 employee volunteers engaged 7,000 students.