Editorial: Breaking the glass ceiling

Editorial: Breaking the glass ceiling

Any executive will tell you the longstanding proverb that 'two heads are better than one' does not apply when it comes to running a business - there simply has to be a single point where the buck stops. All too often when two organisations go through a merger, the appointment of joint managing directors or chief executives creates a slippery slope that leads inevitably to internal problems. Senior executives generally have big personalities, and any difference of opinion at the top can soon result in widespread confusion among staff, a lack of company direction and, all too often, infighting.

So last week's announcement that Mike Foster will be solely responsible for steering the good ship Kaz for the foreseeable future must have been welcomed by everybody that has a pecuniary interest in its well-being. But although the group's leadership has now been resolved, the fact that the new boss is a Telstra man will undoubtedly worry some existing and prospective customers.

Although Telstra ownership preserves the national identity of Kaz, there is a feeling in some quarters that a little Aussie battler has been swallowed by a much larger and less personable entity. There was something romantic about an independent Kaz standing toe-to-toe with the likes of IBM and EDS which has been lost in translation as a result of the acquisition. The feeling of a smaller local service provider that understood your business culture was intrinsic to the proposition of doing business with the Kaz brand. That feel good factor has, at best, been diluted by its incorporation into the Telstra Corporation.

Conversations with Kazacos in the months leading up to the company's sale revealed a man who was becoming increasingly frustrated with the fact that his business had hit a glass ceiling in the services market. Kaz had developed a growing reputation for coming out on top against larger multinational players for contracts of a certain size - deals that ran into several millions of dollars and were by no means insignificant.

But it was often unable to get a foot in the boardroom door when negotiations got underway for the really creamy deals. As an empire builder, Kazacos was not content to accept the place he had built in the market and keep winning those mid-size deals. He wanted the cherry on the top of the cake too.

The question now is whether selling out to Telstra - while arming Kaz with the financial clout to be taken more seriously at the higher end of the market - will erase the cultural capital Kazacos and his team spent so long building. Becoming a bigger fish in the service provider pool has its advantages, but it also brings a whole new series of challenges. Only time will tell, but its customers are going to need some convincing that the Kaz of tomorrow is more than a larger shadow of its former self. The ability of new Kaz to retain its old brand identity is likely to be a key factor in determining just how far it can climb up the services tree.

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