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Reality Check: The question every board and shareholder wants you to answer

Across corporations large and small, directly competing or related industries across the telecosm, CEOs are being asked one question by their primary investors and their boards: How will Google affect our business model? Are they a friend today, and a foe tomorrow (as the saying goes, beware of friends bearing gifts)? Will their intellectual clout create more or less uncertainty of long-term profitability? Are they impacting our ability to create intellectual capital, and hire the best and brightest? Will they hurt our competitors more if we embrace their model sooner, improving our relative standing?
These complex, multi-paragraphed response questions used to be about significant economic factors (the foe in the 1970s was inflation, which we needed to Whip – Now; today, it might be the impact of a weakening dollar or a predicted decade of deficit-induced capital drought). Or they were concerned with multi-year technological trends (how many of us patiently explained “E-Everything” to our boards a decade ago, social networking three years ago, and Twitter today). Rarely, however, has the focus been a single company – that is, until now. White-space spectrum utilization, directory assistance, operating systems design, 3D mapping, software development, content delivery, voice services, government Internet policy, e-book publishing, and (of course) search and its related advertising – it’s hard to plan for the future in technology without factoring in the “Google Effect.”
So, how are you coming on your response? Are you ignoring… hiding… frustrated… jealous?
Google exits this decade as a broad, dominant force because it rewards passionate aspiration (the intent), not abject power (the result). The Google brand is synonymous with “smarter,” “simpler,” and, most importantly, “fun” to tens of thousands of employees and hundreds of millions of daily users. “People are our most important asset” is more than a slogan, but a lifestyle. Modern-day business has much to learn and adopt from Google’s behavior. How will your company respond?
Jim Patterson is CEO & co-founder of Mobile Symmetry, a start-up created for carriers to solve the problems of an increasingly mobile-only society. He was most recently President – Wholesale Services for Sprint and has a career that spans more than 18 years in telecom and technology. He welcomes your comments at mobilesymmetry@gmail.com.

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