Robert P. Dotson is a wireless industry leader who knows
how to answer a higher calling.
When he was 19 years old, the Church of Jesus Christ of
Latter-day Saints tapped the Utah native to lead up to 40
other young Mormon missionaries in northern Germany.
"You're not paid for the service. You can't fire people," says
Dotson, 43, chief executive officer and president since March
2003. "How could I motivate, uplift and inspire people?
It was a key learning in my life."
The missionaries had to be aggressive, knocking on doors
and stopping passersby to talk. They worked 6 1/2 days a
week, suffering bitter North Sea winds in winter, and sweltering
summer days dressed in suits and ties.
"It clearly stripped down some of my own bashfulness," says
Dotson, who graduated in 1989 with an MBA in marketing and
finance from the Kellogg School. "And it also involved
some level of confrontation."
what Dotson recalls most about those years (1980-82) is
villages that dotted the countryside. Those
days, he says, "were always filled with some of my favorite
people --- die Bauern (the farmers). So different
from being in Berlin and Hamburg."
Dotson's calling is different, but his passion and sense
remain much the same. His central message
about T-Mobile is: "We're not a tech company at all.
We're a service industry."
explains the "Get more from life" advertising
campaign, which Dotson started when he was in charge of marketing
at VoiceStream Wireless, T-Mobile's predecessor. He personally
chose actress Jamie Lee Curtis as spokeswoman.
"Get more" is
also the same customer-driven commitment --- and passion
--- that Dotson preaches to more than 23,000
employees to better serve more than 13 million T-Mobile subscribers,
an increase of 32 percent from last year.
says he initially selected Curtis because "she
embodied the attributes I felt were important to the development
of the VoiceStream brand. She is confident, alluring, edgy
and lives the mobile life."
was a perfect fit for a "challenger brand," he
says, because "she had also done very little in the
way of product endorsements."
Dotson's marketing savvy was tested when Deutsch Telekom
purchased VoiceStream three years ago, and he was named T-Mobile's
chief operating officer. (Such is Dotson's career trajectory
that even his fluency in German was a plus.) Dotson was faced
with introducing a new company name and spokeswoman, actress
At a breakfast at Lil' John's diner in Bellevue, Wash.,
--- the Seattle suburb where T-mobile is based --- Dotson
met with friend and adviser, Robert H. Bloom, now retired
chairman and CEO of the U.S. division of Publicis.
Sitting among laborers and truckdrivers, they talked while
demolishing plates of pancakes, eggs and sausages. Dotson
then decided the changes would occur without any transitional
"Yesterday it was VoiceStream," Dotson told Bloom, "and
today it's T-Mobile." Bloom adds, "It was the most
brilliant decision I've ever seen."
says besides being "very, very smart," Dotson
has a "very strong marketing discipline," as seen
in the Curtis to Zeta-Jones succession. In addition, says
Bloom, "Robert is one of the most intuitive marketers
I've ever met."
Kirkpatrrick, T-Mobile executive vice president and chief
knows the Dotson style well. "He's
open, he's direct and he's very effective in any situationÖ.
He's able to form a vision and articulate it. He builds trust
among the people he works with."
Dotson was raised in Ogden, Utah, where his parents, Phil
and Marie, taught school. His father, now deceased, also
was an entrepreneur and professional nature photographer.
spent summers traveling and helping his father, and his
today reflect the outdoor life: fly-fishing
for trout in the western states, Alaska and New Zealand,
and bow hunting for Rocky Mountain elk. He also plays the
acoustic guitar, collects "old" cell phones and
enjoys attending his twin 14-year-old daughters' basketball
He and his wife Kelli, who live in Bellevue, also have
three sons, ages 20, 17 and four.
earned a bachelor's degree in economics from Weber State
in Ogden. He credits the Kellogg School
with demonstrating "the collective power of honest,
introspective challenging of commonly held beliefs and traditions
to get to uncommon, innovative results. As one Kellogg professor
put it, ëcommon sense ain't so common.'"
After Kellogg, Dotson joined PepsiCo Inc., where he was
responsible for marketing the two-in-one stores (KFC and
Taco Bell), among other things. In 1996, wanting a new challenge
in a bigger growth industry, he joined Western Wireless,
a regional company that later became VoiceStream.
T-Mobile announced it had moved from sixth to fifth place
in subscribers. That's ahead of Nextel in
the highly competitive wireless industry, which recently
saw Cingular Wireless purchase AT&T Wireless Services
Inc., for $41 billion.
merger hardly intimidates Dotson, who says: "What
is often overlooked is that T-Mobile International is the
third largest wireless carrier in the world. As such, T-Mobile
USA is able to leverage the full resources of a global carrier,
resulting in industry-leading cost structures and compelling,
differentiated devices and services." He is referring
to innovations such as T-Mobile HotSpots and Sidekick, a
popular phone/email/PDA hybrid.
With a battle-tested management team, Dotson is ready for
"We're absolutely the aggressor in the marketplace," he
--- Daniel Cattau