From The Executive Director – March 20, 2017

In the past few newsletters, you’ve read about the governor’s broadband initiative and how it is leaning heavily on electric cooperatives to deploy broadband in much of rural Tennessee.

That’s something I’ve given a great deal of thought to in recent weeks, and I’ve come to the conclusion that telcos and rural electric providers are not as different as we may like to think. Furthermore, starting with those similarities and then building on our individual strengths, I believe it’s going to become increasingly important to develop strong relationships and solid partnerships with our neighbors in the electric business.

At the end of the day, we do have much in common. We are experts in our respective fields and are responsible for tackling the most rugged, rural areas in our great state in order to bring service to our customers. We are all small and independent companies in industries often dominated by billion-dollar corporations.

In most cases, telcos and electrics are both pillars in the communities they serve, investing millions of dollars into infrastructure, hundreds of thousands of dollars into the local economies through the jobs we create, and thousands of dollars in sponsorships, donations, scholarships and other support.

Many telephone cooperatives even got their start at local electric offices and through the REA.

During my time at Ben Lomand Connect, we had good relationships and open communication with several of the electric providers in our service area, including Caney Fork, Duck River, Sequachee Valley Electric and others. If you don’t have open communication with nearby electric providers, I urge you to start having those conversations.

I recently heard some good advice from a GM at a telco in another state. He and his team have successfully navigated partnerships with electric cooperatives. In two of the partnerships, the electric cooperative and the telco — and, ultimately, the customers — enjoyed great results all the way around. Their other partnership didn’t turn out that way. He said that in the end it essentially came down to mission statements. In the partnerships that worked well, the electric cooperatives and the telco had similar mission statements that governed their company culture and helped inform leadership decisions. In the partnership that didn’t work out as well, the differences in the mission statements of the companies should have been a dead giveaway that they weren’t going to be compatible.  

Does your mission statement permeate your company? At every level, everyone in your company should understand why you’re doing what you do. Your mission statement should be your company’s guiding light.

I hope everyone will take a moment this week to read your company’s mission statement. In this time of change, I firmly believe it’s a good idea to remind ourselves of what we’re all about. That mission should help guide your everyday decisions — and help prepare you for potential partnership opportunities that may be just over the horizon.