The Strategy Of A Shadow Warrior

Paget Alves leads Sprint's charge on wholesale long distance

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Even if Sprint’s not your long-distance provider, you’ve probably used a service or product Paget Alves has sold. From prepaid calling cards to Internet browsers to discount long distance, his battlefield–the multibillion dollar world of wholesale services–is the fastest growing segment of the long-distance industry.

As president of Sprint’s Wholesale Services Group, which has an operating budget of over $30 million, the 43-year-old Alves is responsible for the sales, marketing, product development and customer support of Sprint’s private-branded long-distance services. Sprint markets these to three segments: independent resellers, regional Bell-operating companies (RBOCs) and emerging markets, such as utility companies. All three purchase Sprint’s wares to resell them under their own brand.

“There are over a thousand resellers in the U.S.,” says Alves. “What they need to compete is access to a long-distance infrastructure and network.” The newest players are the RBOCs, which within one to two years will be offering long-distance services to their customers. “They’re expected to achieve 10%-20% penetration,” explains Alves. “When that occurs, my business will double.”
Long-distance service is a mega-industry. In 1997, Sprint, which ranks third behind AT&T and MCI, captured $8.9 billion in long-distance revenues. The Wholesale Services Group contributed over $1 billion to that sum, ranking second in wholesale worldwide behind WorldCom. Additionally, in 1997, Sprint’s wholesale revenues advanced at a rate of more than 25%, twice as fast as the overall wholesale industry and four times as fast as the long-distance industry.

Prior to becoming president last February, Alves was vice president and general manager of Wholesale Services. During his tenure, he oversaw the independent reseller segment and transformed Wholesale Services from a sales-driven organization to a marketing-oriented team. He assisted in the creation of an in-house marketing group, which now develops proactive strategies. “We analyze our market first, then develop the products customers need,” explains Alves. Last year, Wholesale Services launched its first new product in years–a pre-paid long-distance card. This year there are plans for more new entries, including Internet and data transmission sales and services.

Alves came to Sprint in 1996 with the necessary arsenal to compete. Armed with both a B.S. and a law degree from Cornell, the White Plains, New York, native joined IBM as a law clerk in 1982. Four years later, he graduated to area counsel. In 1988, he joined Murata Business Systems as general counsel. Murata, a Japanese-owned company, was the first to offer a consumer fax machine and, at its height, held the No. 2 spot in the U.S. as a fax provider.

By 1996, Alves had become executive vice president, the highest-ranking American post at Murata, where he was responsible for expanding the company’s role with private-branded distributors such as Pitney Bowes and Monroe. Later that year, he joined Sprint. “Many people wonder about the legal background,” remarks Alves, “but the analytical skills I learned as a lawyer have been very helpful. I always wanted to be in business, but knew the legal background would give me the edge.”

Looking toward future victories, Alves explains that as the

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