To Ted Rogers, Phil Lind was the “abominable no man.” The vice-chairman of Rogers Communications was notorious for challenging the legendary Canadian businessman on his prolific ideas, but over the course of nearly four decades together they built Rogers into a multi-billion-dollar empire. Lind, a Member of the Order of Canada, recounts their success story in a new book, Right Hand Man: How Phil Lind Steered the Genius of Ted Rogers, Canada’s Foremost Entrepreneur.
On being a voice of sober second thought
I think it’s very important that leaders hear “no” from time to time. It can be difficult when everybody is pushing and saying “yes, yes, yes,” especially if a leader is very strong and determined to show that he or she is right, but if you see the facts differently, you have to take a stand. I was lucky in my career because most of the things I predicted would happen did happen and, as the years flew on, Ted and I became sort of yin and yang when it came to business decisions. I could say no to him when almost no one else could.
On why he decided to write his memoirs
Most of the young people that join our company today think that Rogers has been around for more than 100 years, like Bell, but actually, the company was built in just one generation, and that in itself seemed like a story worth telling. I say that Ted was the most successful entrepreneur in Canadian history. I realize that’s quite a statement, but when I started with him, we had a couple of struggling radio stations and a licence to do cable in Brampton, Ont., and by the time Ted passed away in 2008 the company was worth $20 billion.
On how Canada’s geography shapes business decisions
Canada poses a big challenge to telecommunications companies. We’ve got a huge landmass, and somehow we have to serve outside of the major urban corridors. There’s a temptation to just concentrate on the cities and not so much on rural and remote communities, but those are still a part of Canada. In terms of infrastructure, Canadian telecom companies make a higher investment per capita than anywhere else in the world. It’s a big problem that we still haven’t completely figured out.
On the next big digital disruption
In the wireless space, 5G [the next generation of digital cellular networks] is going to change the way we live and work. The speed at which information can be shared and the amount of information that can be stored is incredible. Of course, there are risks and challenges. Take social media; a few years ago it was facilitating revolutions in the Middle East and we thought, “Oh, isn’t this great?” Now we’ve realized people are feeding us bad information, and we’re buying it because we thought everything we saw there was true. We really have to face up to this and find solutions.