Brian Miller | Executive Profile | ATLANTA TREND
Sprint’s decision to decentralize with a local market approach to retail, business sales and marketing has helped lead to dramatic improvement for the wireless carrier in a number of areas. “In July, our region was up over 30 percent year over year in handset net additions and we’ve seen improvement in many other key company metrics,” says Brian Miller, the Sprint Regional President for Tennessee, Alabama and Georgia, based in Atlanta. “Building the team to work on this together was a challenge, but the wisdom of empowering local regions can be seen in the results,” he says.
Brian Miller was born in Kansas City, Missouri but moved frequently as a child. He considers Slinger, Wisconsin – just outside of Milwaukee – home. A lawyer by training, he practiced for over six years before moving into the telecom industry. After brief stints with AT&T and Qwest Communications in Milwaukee he joined Sprint in 2003 as Director of Sales. In 2005, he was asked to move to Chicago to help Sprint integrate sales with the recently acquired Nextel.
“Sprint had an existing team in Chicago and it would have been perfectly natural to simply incorporate the Nextel employees into the Sprint team,” says Miller, “but I wanted to take a different approach. I made a decision to intentionally shape the culture that I wanted rather than flow with the culture of the teams that already existed.” Brian believes that this approach made a big difference in getting everyone to work well together as a team. “Culture happens all the time, so we made an intentional decision to change and shape it into our own,” he says.
One interesting challenge Miller’s team faced was during 2010 as the wireless provider for a company that was facing a public corporate crisis. “The experience was edifying. We had to be fast and customer-focused,” says Miller. “For example, the company would come to us and say that they needed a building to be networked within 48 hours, so we did it,” he says. “The timelines were demanding but we met every challenge and every one of their needs. As a result of our team culture and effort, this company became one of our fastest growing customers.”
In November of 2012, Miller was asked to take the job of Vice President of Regional Sales, Southeast for Sprint in Atlanta. “My wife was reluctant at first, but the whole family loves it here now.” Miller was now in charge of business sales for a 10 state region, and he once again focused on the dynamics of building a high-performing team through culture. “One thing I’ve learned in business is this – people want to belong to something bigger than themselves and it’s the job of a leader to give that to them.”
“I genuinely believe that it begins with the people on the team,” he says. “I want everyone to be part of the team so, once again, I said that we are starting a new team,” Miller says. “I don’t take the approach of ‘you’re lucky to be on my team,’ but instead it’s ‘we’re building a new team together. Then we can start addressing the challenges.”
Sprint’s CEO, Marcelo Claure, began restructuring the company in November of 2015 to help Sprint compete more effectively locally. With Sprint’s new decentralization strategy, and Miller’s new job of Regional President – overseeing Tennessee, Alabama and Georgia (which he refers to as the TAG Region) – his approach was to build a new team of 550 people with the job of getting closer to the customer.
“Sprint made a strategic decision to listen to and work more closely with the customer,” says Miller. “When a company becomes more centralized, it sometimes looks inward too much, and we wanted to do the opposite.” In addition to sales, the new local approach gives Brian oversight over network, customer service, marketing communications and general operations supporting the full portfolio of Sprint products and services from enterprise to consumer in the TAG Region.
“We want to be a part of the communities where we live, work and play,” says Miller. “We’re doing more charitable work and sponsorship of community events and that translates to overall engagement in the community.” One example Miller gave is the commitment to serving the Hispanic community in metro Atlanta. “We immediately saw that the Hispanic community was underserved. We are closing that gap by hiring more bilingual representatives and increasing bilingual signage and advertising in our stores and around the community,” he says. “These are all decisions that we can now make locally. It’s a benefit for the community and for Sprint.”
The new customer centric approach appears to be working. Both sales and the stock price are up dramatically and the network has improved throughout the region. Miller says that sometimes people ask him if the network is done. “I tell them that the network is never done,” he says, “because we will constantly be expanding and improving.”
As the head of Sprint’s TAG Region, Miller let it be known that no one on his team could be designated as an emerging leader unless that person worked as a “TAG Streetfighter.” “Our TAG Streetfighters go the extra mile,” he says, “doing appropriate charity work, competing store-to-store and with groups of stores. It’s all about having the right attitude.” He awards “TAG” bracelets to employees when he sees them doing something good. “I much prefer to reinforce right behavior than to punish wrong behavior,” says Miller. To stay in touch with his front line employees, Miller is constantly visiting stores but he also does a YouTube video two or three times per month and a TAG monthly e-newsletter to keep his team informed of what is going on and emphasize why what they are doing is important.
“I know I’ve said a lot about teams, but teams are important because people are important,” says Miller, “and you need everyone really wanting to be successful to have a great team.”
Brian Miller has been married for 16 years and has three children – a daughter, 15, and two sons ages 13 and 12.
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