When Chris Stansbury joined Lumen as CFO just under a year ago, he didn’t come from the telecom industry. And the biggest surprise to him about the industry was the telecom mindset, he told participants in an investor conference today.

“It’s playing to not lose,” he said. “Winning is recognizing that it’s an industry that tends to move down and to the right over time and trying to figure out how to do that more slowly than the guy you’re standing next to.”

That’s very different from a growth strategy, Stansbury said. Accordingly, he said, there’s an “enormous opportunity” for Lumen to define winning as growth.

Noting that Lumen is less dependent on legacy products than some of its competitors, Stansbury said, “We’re starting in a pretty good space.”

Contradicting Himself?

Stansbury appeared to contradict himself at one point, however, when he noted that at the time he joined Lumen, employees responsible for different products in the company’s line were all looking for growth. And that wasn’t the best approach, he said.

“Everybody was trying to grow,” he said. “It didn’t matter whether they were a new product or a legacy product. It didn’t matter if they were number one or two in the space or number five or six in the space.”

Lumen’s new approach is what the company calls “grow, nurture and harvest,” Stansbury explained.

The company adopted the approach as a means of allocating resources.

In an apparent reference to the saying “that dog won’t hunt,” Stansbury said “things that weren’t going to hunt long term no longer get the kind of resources that the growth products do and that allowed us to focus more acutely on where we need to go.”

That thinking went into Lumen’s budget process for 2023, he said, and employees knew why their products received the resources that they did.

“The natural human response is ‘if I’m harvest, then I’m not here for the long-term,’ but that couldn’t be further from the truth” he noted. “Product lifecycle management is something that technology companies do. They manage products through a lifecycle. . . What is growth today down the road will become nurture and then become harvest.”

Stansbury made his comments about the telecom mindset and about Lumen’s product strategy at the Morgan Stanley Technology Media and Telecom conference. An archive is available at this link.

Updated first reference to Chris Stansbury to confirm that he is CFO

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