1. BACK-2-BLACK's Avatar
    Financial Times article:

    "One of the first things John Chen did after becoming chief executive of BlackBerry last year was confiscate his wifes Samsung Galaxy.

    There were a couple of parties we went to and, when my wife brought out the Samsung, everyone kind of looked at me funny, he says. So eventually I said she needed to use a BlackBerry. No, I like my Samsung, she said, and I told her she was embarrassing me.

    Does she still use it in secret? That, I wouldnt know, he quips. There might be a lot of secrets I dont know.

    Initially, she found the new phone difficult to master, an experience that Mr Chen says is shared by many using a BlackBerry for the first time. It is harder in the beginning, but once you get it, its actually quite powerful. It makes other devices look a little toyish.

    He likens the experience to driving his friends Lamborghini. Theres a special sequence but, once you know where all the things are, it blows your mind. Still, because of that, I would never buy a Lamborghini. We too need to make sure the learning curve is not so steep.

    It is just one of many challenges facing Mr Chen, 59, who came out of semi-retirement a year ago to try to turn BlackBerry round. When we meet for tea in the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in New York, he seems surprisingly relaxed about the scale of the task.

    It is a beautiful late autumn afternoon, the sun streaming in through the windows of the lobby lounge on the hotels 35th floor. Mr Chen looks like many of the other executives enjoying the Central Park views, dressed in a sober suit with a striped tie and the addition of a BlackBerry lapel pin. Not for him the jeans and T-shirts loved by Apple bosses.

    His quiet confidence is not entirely without foundation. The company, which was facing an existential crisis when he joined in November 2013, is now on a surer footing after he took an axe to costs and dramatically slowed the rate at which the group burns through cash. The groups shares have risen by about half over the past 12 months.

    Yet BlackBerry is a shadow of its former self. At its peak in 2008, it accounted for one in every five smartphone sales and had a market value of $80bn, much higher than the $5.6bn it is today. Now its share of the global smartphone market is less than 1 per cent.

    He is clear about what went wrong. BlackBerry abandoned its enterprise customers and wandered off to try and get the consumer, a disastrous strategy given its failure to focus on apps.

    By his own admission, saving the company was the easy part, even if it involved unpopular choices such as cutting 4,500 jobs. It was do or die. I guess that while the decisions were a little profound at times, they needed to be made, and quickly, he says. Returning the company to growth will be much more difficult. The hardest part is yet to come.

    The job cuts have damaged the companys self-esteem. I cant say morale is in top shape. I dont believe it is. But its certainly not as bad as most people think, he says, adding that many in Waterloo, the Canadian town where BlackBerry is based, support his efforts.

    Mr Chen has form when it comes to turnrounds. He took control of Sybase, the enterprise software group in 1997, when its shares were trading at record lows and most in the industry thought it would not survive. He rebuilt the group with a strong focus on mobiles and tablets, and sold it to SAP in 2010 for $5.8bn, more than six times its value at the start of his tenure.

    Yet reviving BlackBerry will be tougher, and Mr Chen admits to oscillating when deciding whether or not to take the job. It was not an easy decision. It was well publicised that the company was broken, and I knew it would take up a lot of my time. Its not that I mind the work per se: I just wanted to make sure that I knew enough. It was very close.

    The award of about $85m of restricted stock when he joined a huge sum for a company of BlackBerrys size must have helped seal the deal, but he bats aside the question of whether it was too generous. What is big or small? Thats a question for the board. Remember when I came in we were teetering, we werent sure if we were going to make it or not.

    He says it takes a certain temperament to assume the top job at a failing company. When you do turnrounds, you have to have this very compartmentalised view of life. You do all you can to make a difference, but you cannot let everything drag you down.

    In an attempt to win back the companies who have abandoned BlackBerry, Mr Chen hopes to build on the devices strengths a good keyboard and strong security with some new innovations. In September, he bought Movirtu, a UK group which makes software that allows several different numbers to be used on the same Sim card, and acquired a company that encrypts voice calls.

    People still love the keyboard and security is very important. I have lunches with big fund managers and they all back BlackBerry because they dont want a breach or a data leak. Now we need to make our devices a bit more pleasing to those people.

    The square design of the recently-released BlackBerry Passport is part of this drive to reawaken the dormant CrackBerry addiction that once gripped the business community: the unusually large screen is aimed at spreadsheet users.

    Asked whether he can return BlackBerry to its former glory, I expect Mr Chen to say that the best the group can hope for is to become a small but profitable enterprise player, and that any attempt to take on Apple and Samsung would be hubristic folly.

    Yet he turns out to be more bullish than that. I dont have a perfect crystal ball but theres no point coming in saying that were not going to dominate again. One has to be realistic, but its not impossible.

    He points to Apples remarkable comeback after Steve Jobs returned to the company in 1997. Apple dominates today, but when they started out BlackBerry was definitely the dominant force. There was a changing of the guard in the industry.

    While BlackBerry might not necessarily become a leader in handsets again, Mr Chen reels off a list of areas where it could become a leader, such as the connected car and the internet of things, the latter being a reference to the drive to connect everything from our toothbrushes to our toasters to the web.

    I hope today there is very little question of whether were going to survive. You ask whether we could be great again. And I say Im looking for something to be really great in.

    Second opinion: the former colleague

    John has always had an open door office, hes a walk-around manager who would regularly show up at your desk, says **** Alberding, a former director
    at Sybase, where Mr Chen used to be chief executive.

    He has a knack of walking into a difficult situation and finding a way of sprinkling a bit of sunshine, but he is also tough and demanding. He expects his managers to know whats going on, and to understand their responsibilities. If they dont, he will give them a lecture.
    11-10-14 11:50 AM
  2. spike12's Avatar
    Nice read, thanks!


    Posted via CB10
    11-10-14 11:57 AM
  3. Fistmaster's Avatar
    Thanks you very much for this nice read!

    I love reading the biography, history and way of life of billionaires and CEO's like Branson, Jobs, Trump or Elon Musk. Sir Chen has a very interesting way of entrepreneurship.

    Respect for saving Blackberry after 1 year! He is focused and have no emotions when it comes to getting things done, while others would scream around and run in circles! 1+
    11-10-14 12:08 PM
  4. gokulesh's Avatar
    Good read.

    Posted via CB10
    11-10-14 10:16 PM
  5. doxa sub750T's Avatar
    I enjoyed the article very much. Thanks for sharing.

    Cheers

    Posted via CB10 with BlackBerry PP
    11-10-14 10:23 PM

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