The Endgame at AFC: Lab Failure and the Verizon Letter

While all of this was going on, progress was happening on BPON for Verizon. I think a better way to say it would be that time marched on. As I have already said, there were no new people added to the team. We had a lab date to meet in February in 2004 and we missed it. I want to remind everyone that from October we had been working on the Marconi acquisition. So, nobody was doing much to impact the dates and quality of the BPON deliverables. This was primarily due to the lack of ability to focus on so many different initiatives.

Well, in February this began to change. There were new folks assigned but things were moving way too slowly. The reality was that the team assigned did not have the full experience necessary to complete the job efficiently. We had the people available to do the work but had them assigned to the current IOC release. This was all back to the inability of the Executive Team to make an agreement to put the right people on the job. This confluence of events was our failure in leadership. This should be an example to everyone on what happens when a team does not work together.

Over time the new people began to have an impact and we were able to turn over a minimally working product. And minimally is the correct word. Lab test failures were the norm, and fixes came slowly. One thing was clear at this point. Verizon was not kidding about the time frame for deployment. This was also something that was also not in our plan. It meant that we would have to ship ONTs at a significant loss. Well, this was shaping up as a peachy set of circumstances. And then we got "The Letter".

The document was simple. Verizon was declaring that we were in breach of our FTTP agreement and were threatening to toss us out. Well, what actually happened is that they began plans to deploy the Quantum Bridge/Motorola solution. Given our lead, we would still hit the field first. Several other things happened right then. We had to put the existence of the letter out to our shareholders on the Quarterly Conference Call. This led to the start of a change in the deal with Tellabs.

For me personally, it led me to one of the toughest jobs I ever had. Since all of this was public knowledge there, we were going to get pounded by various forms of analysts and press at Supercomm 04. John Schofield and Keith Pratt decided it was best that they not go to this show. This left me as the only non-Sales Executive out there. On top of that, our IR person had retired and we had brought in a temp. I spent 2.5 days in that pit. I never got a break from people. I left the booth just twice. Each time to make a presentation. The worst part was that if I said the wrong thing I could queer either the Verizon or Tellabs deals. I have never been out alone on an island like that before or since and it was exhausting.

Don't get me wrong. Keith and John were right not to go. It was just that this left the fate of hundreds of millions of dollars to my ability to shuck and jive in front of all kinds of folks. Many of the analysts and press I knew. Some I did not. What they wanted to know was very simple: What would happen with Verizon? What would the new deal with Tellabs look like? Would a Tellabs deal actually happen? My job was to be confident and say nothing. Or as close to nothing as possible.

Next week we get to install in Keller and close all these deals. Have a great weekend!


Jim Sackman
FocalPoint Business Coaching
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