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Richard Cooke, chief executive officer of Esat, spends much of his time at meetings during his long days at the office. There are few opportunities for a break in his packed schedule.
6:45am Alarm sounds, a quick shower and shave followed by breakfast means that I try to be out the door by 7.20. Leaving the house any later than 7.30am will make it impossible to arrive at work on time so beyond that time I work from home using ISDN for a couple of hours.

8:00am Arrive at the office and the first thing I do is review my email before briefly perusing the national papers to catch up on the day’s news.

8:30am Preparation for our weekly operations meeting is next, where I am joined by 12 - 15 key personnel ranging from our finance director to our engineering director. Here, all aspects of the day-to-day business are discussed, including customer care, sales performance, network quality, and regulatory issues - all key metrics of the business. Like most businesses, operations in Esat are a lot more cost-focused than they were in the past due to the downturn in the technology sector and increased market volatility in telecoms.
My primary focus at the moment is the bottom line and achieving profitability. Esat has invested ?400m over 5 years in its backbone network, which is now largely complete, and so achieving a return on investment is a key goal. Much of the meeting is spent discussing how many new customers are connected to the network, the types and levels of sales achieved, customer service and cost reduction projects.

10:30am After a pretty intensive two hours we break and I head back to my office for a quick caffeine fix. I respond to more emails and then return calls.

11:00am Subsequent to this morning’s operations meeting, I call an internal meeting with David Taylor, head of regulatory affairs in Esat. From a personal perspective the more interesting part of the job is to be out there winning business and solving problems, but I also find the regulatory issues enormously interesting because they have such great implications for our overall business and the broader market. We discuss the current issues and tactics are decided on.

As Eircom’s biggest competitor, we have a large part to play in regulatory policy. For example, the recent launch of Eircoms i-stream, a high-speed internet product using digital subscriber line (DSL) technology, led to an inquiry with the Office of the Director of Telecommunications Regulation (ODTR), who is responsible for implementing government policy in the telecoms sector. Esat and the ODTR have a close relationship and we continue to work closely with them to encourage fair competition. The delay of the release of Eircoms i-stream product was largely due to Esat’s input to the regulator, as we substantiated the position that Eircom’s proposed implementation of i-stream did not facilitate a fair regime towards other operators, nor was it cost-orientated. Other issues discussed in this meeting include, gaining access to the last mile of the telecoms network known as the ‘local loop’, the current dispute on interconnection rates and issues concerning flat-rate Internet access.

12:30pm Time for lunch, I decide to leave the office for a change today and head for Ocean Bar, which is one of the few good places to eat around these parts and makes a good change from eating a sandwich at my desk.

1:30pm Meet with Derek Kickham, who heads Esat Fusion, Esat’s residential division to discuss and review business performance in our mass market business. At this stage, over one in seven Irish homes use Esat as their voice provider and almost one in two for Internet access.

2:30pm Another internal meeting, this time with our human resources guys, Ciaran Coleman and Ronan Walshe. Esat is faced with the same issues as a lot of companies at the moment. Tight marketing conditions and the negative spending climate in the business sector have called for a review of Esat’s divisions. Turbulent market conditions have resulted in high levels of talent being available at the moment, but we have had to impose a ‘hiring freeze’ on the whole organisation due to the cost focused stance we are currently taking and our determination to achieve profitable growth. The guys and I discuss Esat’s options and future forecasts for a while until I have to end the meeting in order to speak to the press.

3:30pm In my job I have quite regular contact with the press and today I’m speaking to the Sunday Tribune, who are publishing a special technology report which will provide a comprehensive overview on the major areas of technology and telecommunications in Ireland. They are looking for Esat’s perspective on the current state of DSL and broadband infrastructure in Ireland and are analysing current and future trends in the telecommunications sector. Once I finish the interview I turn my attention to other matters that have cropped up during the day; more emails, more phone calls and a quick scan of the main news websites, including Bloomberg and Reuters.

4:30pm I have a conference call with Neil Rogers, president of BT Ignite, to discuss progress made since our recently extended e-Business and communications solutions portfolio was rolled-out, in partnership with BT Ignite. This will help us deliver managed and outsourced total business solutions to help customers to gain competitive advantage. This move is expected to increase Esat Business revenues by ?5m. We’re both pretty excited about the future prospects and possibilities open to Esat Business, which is continuing to evolve as an organisation and the call leaves me feeling in high spirits.

5:30pm I finish off the day in the office by spending some time preparing for the upcoming monthly management meeting. Here, we look at how Esat is doing in terms of the overall business. I review last month’s financial forecasts, market focus and strategic targets and put together a short document based on my opinion of our performance in these areas. I then try to clear my desk of the mountain of paper that piles up daily. I sign a few documents, reply to some letters, throw out some junk and decide this is enough for one day.

6:30pm After leaving the office I head for home. I try and spend as much time with my family as possible, as my wife works as well and we have two young daughters Rachel (6) and Claudia (6 months.) Occasionally I try and take in some exercise, which usually involves going to the gym. Of late I have taken up golf and although I am just a beginner, I’m really starting to get into it. The major problem I find, outside of my swing, is the time it takes.

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