Since becoming CEO of BlackBerry we've already seen some bold moves from John Chen. He dug in right from the start and began making changes in hopes of turning around BlackBerry and getting things back on track for the long haul. He has a vision for what needs to be done, and so far he's done a great job of executing. There's still a long way to go, but John Chen has the company pointed in the right direction.
When Prem Watsa first met with John Chen last year, Chen said he wasn't looking for a job, but he also didn't want BlackBerry to fail. "This is an icon in the business," said Chen "and it really needs to survive. It doesn’t need to die." After turning around Sybase Inc. and then selling it to SAP AG for $5.8 billion in 2010, Chen was an obvious choice for such a grand undertaking in turning around BlackBerry.
Chen has a vision for where to take the company, and when he's moving forward with a plan he can't be deterred.
"If I’m in the mode of seeking ideas and advice, I’m very receptive. If I am already in execution mode, I’m not really that receptive. Because I am a believer that you could design something to death, and you would have not only missed the market, you would actually miss getting anything done.”
He's focusing on winning back the core enterprise customers first. He's done so by instilling confidence in both customers and employees. Chen has made it clear that BlackBerry isn't for sale anymore and has plenty of cash to move forward.
He isn't denying that BlackBerry isn't in the greatest of places, but he's not dwelling on it either. He also knows that if the enterprise base sinks much lower, “they’re going to have a real problem."
“I’ll tell you, there are pain points every day. If this could be done, it would put a statement in the world. I think it’s a pretty big deal if we could save BlackBerry.”
One of the big things for Chen is accountability. He says that BlackBerry has a bad history of "overpromising and underdelivering". Deadlines came and went and there was no coordination or quality control. “I realize that the company has some credibility gaps,” he says. Wireless carriers told him, “‘We’d love to help you out, but there are some things that you have to get done right."
In the end, Chen's plan is to take BlackBerry from a handset-selling “mobile technology company” to “a mobile solution company” that serves a broad range of mobile computing needs for customers. For now BlackBerry will remain in the handset business, but over time, that very well may change. Chen says, "The question is, Do we need to be in the device business? That remains to be seen.”