Welcome to a special section of the Chairman's Newsletter, where we highlight the backgrounds and expertise of each of our esteemed WWT board members.
Here we feature John Dyer, an extraordinary leader with a great heart.
John is a cable industry stalwart with more than 40 years of experience at Cox Enterprises, serving as president and CEO of Cox from 2014 to 2017. He currently sits on Cox’s board of directors where he helps craft the company’s innovation and leadership management strategies. His community involvement includes board work with Marcus Autism Center, Georgia State University Foundation, Atlanta Committee for Progress, Carter Center and the Atlanta Botanical Garden.
Q: Tell us a bit about your background?
A: I was born and raised just outside of Atlanta in a small town called Newnan. I grew up on a farm and I think I had been on an airplane a grand total of once when I saw this classified ad for a traveling auditor position. So I called the search firm and they said it was this great opportunity with a great company, which was Cox, this family-owned privately-held company. Quite honestly, they should have gone with the other candidate, but thankfully, they hired me and I really got to see the country and world courtesy of my jobs with Cox. I spent 40 years at Cox and in that 40-year career, I spent probably three-fourths of that in a finance role and the other part in operations in general management.
Q: Cox has a long history of supporting diversity and inclusion. What role do you see diversity and inclusion playing with corporate strategy and growth?
A: If you’re a values-led organization like Cox and WWT are, it’s just one of the things you’re committed to and do. If you look at it from just a business standpoint: If you reflect the communities you do business you will be more successful. And there are reports after reports after reports that prove that point. WWT’s rich history of commitment to diversity is just another thing that makes you feel confident that the business will grow and flourish not only this year, but for years to come.
Q: Shortly after you retired from Cox, you said one of the greatest leadership lessons you learned was the need for engagement and communication. How do you see WWT leadership in that regard?
A: I learned those lessons the hard way after I was in my first leadership role and I didn’t do right by my employees. And I heard about it loudly and clearly. That made an impression on me. It’s easy for companies to say we do this or that, or we are involved in the community and talk to employees regularly. But when you ask the follow up question like “Tell me about a time when...” — with WWT leaders like (Dave Steward) or (Jim Kavanaugh) you don’t get one example, you get two or three or four. That’s a real indication that they not only say they do it, they actually do it. And every board meeting I’ve been in since I’ve joined has an element of commitment to employees and the community that gets discussed and expressed.
Q: We talk a lot about disruption here at WWT. How much is disruption talked about on a board level? And what is WWT doing to guard against being disrupted?
A: Every industry in business is impacted and being disrupted by new innovation. It’s no longer the expectation, but the rule. You just cant take anything for granted. One of the things that differentiates WWT is the customer-first model we have. When you start with a customer-first model and work backwards to your business model, rather than a business model that works forward to your customers, it’s a recipe for success. And that is what WWT is doing. A tangible example of how WWT adopting a customer-first, innovative approach is the Advanced Technology Center. I don’t know of another one of those that exists in the country. And to be able to bring your customers in and not only tell them but show them what our capabilities are — that’s unique.
Q: What has you excited about WWT?
Part of what I love about private companies is they can deploy patient capital. They can make investments and not be swayed by having to achieve quarterly earnings by a group of analysts have projected. You can make the right decision, stick with it and watch it grow and flourish. I’ve seen plenty of examples of where that is happening at WWT. This commitment and ability to make good decisions and stick with them turns businesses from good to great. More specifically, the strategy to move to services is clearly one that is rooted in good strategic thought. There is a heck of a lot of opportunity here and I can’t wait to see how it plays out.