CXO NEWS | Monthly Update for Senior Executives From The Stevie® Awards THE STEVIES
October 30, 2007 Stevie® Awards Homepage Back Issues Email the Editors
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Q&A With James Allred, Senior VP-Sales, VitalSmarts
From Bankruptcy to Broadway
Management Blogs & Sites of Note
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Lawrence HuntVitalSmarts won a Stevie Award for Best Sales Team in The 2007 American Business Awards. Allred helped pioneer the company’s sales program and now manages the on-site sales staff and a team of resellers nationwide.

What movie have you seen recently, and would you recommend it?
The Pursuit of Happyness. I recommend this movie. I really enjoyed it because I am a big fan of the underdog or people who have everything stacked against them but still come out on top.

What book are you currently reading?
I like to read multiple books at the same time and the two topics I am always reading about are health and sales. I’m currently reading The China Study by T. Colin Campbell and Selling to Big Companies by Jill Konrath.

What is your favorite sport or hobby?
Hiking with my family. My wife, son, and I like to hike up to different waterfalls in the mountains near my home (Provo, Utah). I love this activity because we can do it together, connect with nature, and recharge our batteries all at the same time.

Who is your favorite historical figure?
George Washington. I’ve been listening to 1776 on CD during my daily commute and have learned some fascinating things about George Washington that I admire in a leader. He was very good at building trust and rapport with those he led. He was down-to-earth, and he found many ways to connect with his officers.

Who is your favorite living person?
My son. I’ve learned more from him about relationships, about how I can be a better person, and about what’s really important, than I have from any other person.

If you could choose another profession, what would it be?
I would like to be a dermatologist. I have always been interested in helping people or providing a service, but I could never be a doctor or surgeon because I’d find it difficult not to let hard, sad situations—like injuries or life-threatening illnesses—affect me personally.

Is there anything you’d like to improve about your own work practices?
I try to do too much and would like to be better at delegating. I have the bad habit of saying “yes” to all meeting requests and requests in general, and I frequently over-schedule myself by being involved in too many projects. My days are packed from start to finish with meetings.

What quality or qualities do you most value in your business associates? 
I value honesty; I value people who are pleasant to be around; and I especially value persistence and people who are customer-oriented.

As someone at the top of your profession, what keeps you inspired or makes you hit the ground running in the morning?
There are three things: dedication to my family; the challenge of exceeding my goals; and commitment to my partners and our mission.

What do you consider has been your greatest achievement in business?
Building the VitalSmarts sales team to its current level of success and quality. My team members are the most stellar group of people I’ve ever had the privilege of working with. We have a tight-knit culture. We work out together, we goof around together, and we work hard together to achieve our team goals. 

What advice or useful tip would you give to someone who is just starting out in business?
Do what you enjoy the most. Excel in that effort and the rewards will follow. 

About James Allred:
James has been an anchor on the VitalSmarts sales team for the past eleven years. A consistent multi-million-dollar producer, James co-pioneered the current VitalSmarts sales process, which earned the company a Stevie for Best Sales Team in the 2007 American Business Awards. James currently manages the internal VitalSmarts sales team and educates associates and licensees nationally and internationally. James is the pacesetter for a sales team that has exceeded annual revenue goals, and he has played an integral role in the successful launch of three New York Times bestsellers: Influencer: The Power to Change Anything, Crucial Conversations, and Crucial Confrontations. Prior to joining VitalSmarts, James co-founded two successful companies. He graduated with a degree in technical sales from Weber State University.

About VitalSmarts
An innovator in corporate training and organizational performance, VitalSmarts helps teams and organizations achieve the results they care about most. With award-winning training products based on more than 30years of ongoing research, VitalSmarts has helped more than 300 of the
Fortune 500 realize significant results using a proven method for driving rapid, sustainable, and measurable change in behaviors. VitalSmarts has been ranked twice by Inc. magazine as one of the fastest-growing companies in America and has taught more than two million people worldwide. VitalSmarts is home to multiple training offerings, including Crucial Conversations(r), Crucial Confrontations(tm), and Influencer(tm). Each course improves key organizational outcomes by focusing on high-leverage skills and strategies. Along with Influencer, their latest book, the VitalSmarts authors have written two New York Times bestsellers, Crucial
Conversations and Crucial Confrontations. VitalSmarts also offers on-site consulting, research, executive team development, and speaking engagements. For more information visit


David EricksonBy winning two Stevie Awards at The 2007 American Business Awards earlier this year, RCN Corporation has shown they are back with a vengeance.  Here we look at what they did to win in the Best Communications Organization category.

RCN Corporation is a leading provider of video, data, and voice services to residential and business customers, but not so long ago the company outlook had been bleak.

In his June 2007 acceptance speech for the Stevie Award for Best Business Turnaround at New York’s Marriott Marquis, RCN President & CEO Peter Aquino said: "My thanks to Team RCN, who has taken us from bankruptcy to Broadway tonight. I share this award with all of them.  And I'm delighted that Richard Ramlall and his organization have been recognized for their outstanding communication effort."

RCN Senior Vice President, Strategic & External Affairs Richard Ramlall claims that his department is unique. Says Ramlall, “It combines investor relations, public relations, and government relations and is a tightly integrated, unified, and interdependent operation.”

But this team of staff and consultants—whose talents, efforts, and expertise made such recognition possible—did not exist two years ago.

In 2005, RCN Corporation emerged from bankruptcy with a new executive team and board of directors. It was then that Richard Ramlall, a seasoned telecom and cable veteran, took over responsibility for RCN public relations, investor relations, and regulatory and government affairs. Since entering into bankruptcy, RCN’s voice in the telecom industry had become muted.  The company had fallen off the radar of most of the industry press, regulators, and sell-side analysts, and it had no consistent central strategy. There was little targeted corporate PR support for the regional markets, and no investor relations (IR) infrastructure. Overall, there was no consistent PR or IR policy, process, messaging, or governance structure.

At the same time, from being the first company to offer bundled triple-play services, RCN was now facing stiff competition in their areas of operation from telecom and cable giants that were also beginning to offer triple-play services. Competitors were using the bankruptcy to disparage RCN, and the financial community doubted RCN could survive, never mind make a come back.

New Plan
Mr. Ramlall’s strategy was to combine RCN’s public relations, investor relations, regulatory/ lobbying, and government affairs groups into an aggressive, proactive, integrated, and unique department. He did this with a limited budget by bringing in seasoned outside consultants to assist with PR, IR, legal, and lobbying actiivities. 
His strategic vision ensured that the new communications team provided consistent messaging to all external audiences; unified strategy and activities; increased brand and product awareness; and worked to position RCN favorably with customers, industry, government, and financial communities alike.  Through this coordinated planning, RCN was able to use the department’s integrated functions both as a sword and as a shield.

New Rules
RCN moved to lobby Congress to update the Telecom Act of 1996.  They also lobbied the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) to change rules that created competitive disadvantages for smaller companies, like RCN.

RCN used public relations to support their lobbying efforts to secure valuable programming protections in the FCC’s Adelphia/ Comcast/Time Warner Merger. These efforts also helped include Open Video System (OVS) protections tailored for RCN in House and Senate bills. Mr. Ramlall also led lobbying efforts that resulted in $50 million in savings for RCN by making it  one of only a few companies to get FCC waiver request approval on set top boxes.

New Initiatives
In addition to working directly with RCN’s CEO on key strategic initiatives, Mr. Ramlall has negotiated and executed corporate partnerships with D.C. United, Georgetown University Athletics, Kettler Capitals IcePlex, George Mason Patriot Center, and the Washington Redskins. He also oversees RCN’s corporate giving program, including a first-of-its-kind $3 million donation of airtime to the United Way of America’s "What Matters" campaign. 

New Confidence
In 2006, RCN’s proactive media and analyst outreach helped to restore public and investor confidence.  It supported the launch of new products and services, and it was able to protect RCN’s interests at the FCC and Congress.

As a result of these efforts, studies of focus groups showed a heightened awareness of RCN’s services by the general public, and Consumer Reports ranked RCN as the fourth-best U.S. Internet provider.

News Coverage
Because of the huge increase in the number of news releases, interviews, and position statements to the media, RCN’s communications team saw coverage of RCN by The Associated Press, Bloomberg, the Boston Globe, Boston Herald, the Chicago Sun Times, and The Washington Post. Briefings were held with financial reporters and business editors, including The New York Times and The Washington Post. The Post ran atwo-page feature story about RCN and its competitive strategy.

New Investment
All this communications activity enabled RCN to increase institutional ownership of its stock from 74% to 93%, and sell-side analyst coverage more than tripled from 3 to 10.  RCN generated more than 500 IR contacts and held more than 20 road shows and conference presentations.

New Awareness
And it’s not just the American Business Awards that have recognized RCN’s successes over the past couple of years.  The company picked up a 2006 Thoth Award and an Award of Excellence from the National Capital Chapter of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) for RCN’s investor relations and integrated IR/PR programs.

About Richard Ramlall:
Richard Ramlall serves as Senior Vice President, Strategic & External Affairs, and is responsible for regulatory affairs, investor relations, public relations, external affairs and strategic issues. He is responsible for regulatory due diligence and approvals on all merger and acquisition deals. He also works directly with RCN’s President & CEO on key corporate strategic initiatives and new business development. Prior to joining RCN Mr. Ramlall served as senior managing director and executive vice president of Spencer Trask Media and Communications Group, LLC (a division of New York-based venture capital firm Spencer Trask & Company), based in Reston, Virginia, from June 1999 to March 2005. From March 1997 to June 1999, Mr. Ramlall served as Vice President & Managing Director for strategy, marketing, and international government affairs for Bechtel Telecommunications. Prior to that, Mr. Ramlall was Executive Director, International Nusiness Affairs, for Bell Atlantic International.  He spent over eighteen years at Bell Atlantic in a number of areas, including strategy, corporate development, finance, marketing, operations, regulatory, and legal. In 1990, Mr. Ramlall was selected to serve a one-year appointment under the Presidential Exchange Executive Program of the White House. Mr. Ramlall holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration and an MGA (Technology Management) from the University of Maryland.

About RCN Corporation
RCN Corporation,, is one of the largest facilities-based competitive providers of bundled cable, high-speed internet, and phone services delivered over its own fiber-optic local network to residential, small business, and commercial customers in the most densely populated markets in the U.S. RCN provides service in the Boston, Chicago, Eastern Pennsylvania, New York, and Washington, D.C. metropolitan markets. In addition, RCN operates two commercial divisions: RCN Business Services, a provider of bulk video, broadband internet access and voice services to small and medium business customers; and RCN Business Solutions, a fiber facilities-based provider of high-availability telecommunication services to both retail and wholesale business customers.


Blogs, or web logs, are all the rage these days. Each month in this space we'll point you to several blogs that we think might be of interest to you.

Leadership Journal: A blog from the Department of Homeland Security, with contributions from Michael Chertoff, Secretary as well as executives from FEMA, Transportation Security, and US Customs & Border Protection.
Stephenson's Strategies : W. David Stephenson—known as the “disaster guru techno-geek”—is a leading homeland security, e-government, and crisis management strategist and theorist.
Blog Maverick : Find out how "bionic billionaire" Mark Cuban really feels about leaving Dancing With The Stars.
Trend Hunter: See the ultimate in luxury transport: the Ferrari Segway!

Events of Interest to Senior Managers
November 1 : Final entry deadline for 2nd annual Selling Power Sales Excellence Awards
November 12: Awards ceremony of 4th annual Stevie Awards for Women in Business, Caesar's Palace, Las Vegas, Nevada
December 6 : Awards ceremony of 2nd annual Selling Power Sales Excellence Awards , Las Vegas, Nevada
December 14 : Early-bird entry deadline for 6th annual American Business Awards
January 2008: official Call for Entries issued for 6th annual American Business Awards