Interview Date: February 8, 2017
Interview Location: Atlanta, GA
Interviewer: Seth Arenstein
Collection: Hauser Collection
ARENSTEIN: Hi there. I’m Seth Arenstein. I’m here in Atlanta, Georgia, at Cox Communications. It’s February 8, 2017. We are here for the Hauser Oral History Project for The Cable Center and our subject today is the EVP and COO of Cox Communications, Jill Campbell. Jill, welcome.
CAMPBELL: Seth, thank you. Happy to be here.
ARENSTEIN: I have to tell you, before we even begin, I heard you give a speech — we were reminiscing before. I heard you give a speech in Williamsburg, Virginia, must have been 10 or 15 years ago, and I remember Rob Stoddard was at the table. I said, “Rob, wow, that was a fabulous speech. This is a person who really speaks her mind, she’s so direct.” And then when The Cable Center said that you were one of the people who were going to be on the oral history list I said, “I want to interview Jill.” I really wanted to be here and I’m so happy to do this.
CAMPBELL: Wow, I hope I don’t disappoint you, Seth.
ARENSTEIN: No pressure. No pressure at all. Jill, where were you born and where did you go to school?
CAMPBELL: So, I was born in Oakland, California, but my parents moved us when I was two years old to Las Vegas. My dad’s a college professor and my mom was a school teacher and he took a job at UNLV. So, I grew up all the way through in Las Vegas. Went to UNLV because my dad was a college professor there and there’s really nowhere else to go, Jill, because it’s free and it will be a great education. So, I stayed there, as did all of my friends, because who knew, but in Las Vegas people don’t leave. I was the one who decided to go and everybody else is still there.
ARENSTEIN: What subject did your father teach?
CAMPBELL: He’s a psychologist, so he taught graduate students counseling and guidance. And his area of specialty was alcoholism and drug abuse, so that came in really handy for me. He was constantly leaving me books and, you know, “Look at this” and dragging in alcoholics and it was pretty good on the job training right there.
ARENSTEIN: Especially being in Las Vegas.
CAMPBELL: Yeah, and it really translates well to cable TV, is the thing. But honestly, I was going to be a shrink just like him. Majored in sociology and then I went on to graduate school and took a class from him. He gave me a B.
CAMPBELL: Imagine. Straight A student that I was. And I quit the program and moved to LA which is how I got in the cable industry, my dad giving me a B.
ARENSTEIN: So, it’s his fault.
CAMPBELL: It’s completely his fault. But seriously, till the day he died he would say, “Jill, you need to go back and get your doctorate so you can teach at the college level. It’s a great career, you’ll make good money.” And I would just say, “Yeah, thanks, Dad, I think I’m doing pretty good.”
ARENSTEIN: You’re doing pretty well. Now, I know on your official bio it starts in the ‘80s, the early ‘80s, and starts at Cox in Oklahoma City, correct?
CAMPBELL: Well, I didn’t officially start in the cable industry at Cox. That’s where I started —
ARENSTEIN: So now let’s talk about it.
CAMPBELL: Little known fact. In 1981 when I fled Las Vegas from the sting of the B, my dad knew somebody who knew somebody who got me a job with a company called PhaseCom Corporation. They manufactured head end equipment. Who knew? I didn’t have cable growing up. So, they needed somebody at all the conventions, the Texas show, the NCTA show, to be the Vanna White of the amplifier. So, my first job, seriously, right out of the college was, “And this is an amplifier.” And then if they asked me what it was I’d have to spin around and find the guy who knew what an amplifier was and that’s how I started in the cable business.
ARENSTEIN: And where did you go from there? What happened after that?
CAMPBELL: I met a boy at one of the shows and I chased him to Oklahoma and he was in the cable business and made the mistake of introducing me to the general manager of the cable system there who worked for Cox and he said, “Little lady, you want a job, we’ll find you something, you move to Oklahoma.” And I did. And he gave me a job as the interim HR manager because she was going to run for office. Luckily, she came back and then he had nothing to do with me. And I wrote pretty well so he said, “We don’t have a PR person, why don’t you do that?” And so, I did. And then he got fired and they brought in somebody who really knew what they were doing. He took one look at me and was like, oh my God. But he literally had an ad in the Smithsonian from when he worked at GE and here I am 22, whatever, writing the New Zoo Review — that’s what I called our newsletter. And I owe getting into operations to him.
ARENSTEIN: Now tell me, what was — let’s set the stage. What was cable like back then and what was that system like? What products did they have, how many stations did they carry, how many channels?
CAMPBELL: We had broadcast stations and HBO, that was it. And then it just started snowballing from that, pretty quickly too. But we were just the people who brought you good reception and a little jazz on the premium side. It was one of, if not our first, it was one of our first franchises that we negotiated. So, it had all the trappings of the good old boy stuff with the city council where you took them to lunch and had martinis in the afternoon and then you’d take another one to dinner and that was kind of the job. And I thought wow, this is awesome. And then he got fired so we didn’t do any martini lunches with the next guy.
ARENSTEIN: How many employees were in that —
CAMPBELL: I’m not even sure I remember. Probably less than 100 at the time.
ARENSTEIN: Really, that many?
CAMPBELL: It was really a small system. And then grew pretty dramatically after that. And that’s why you could say, “Hey, why don’t you be our PR person?” Because you didn’t really need a functional skill set. And that’s why I think I was able to grow up in operations because they just said, “Why don’t you take the girls on the phone and you figure it out?” There wasn’t the expertise that we have now with these large call centers and supply chain and all that. You just kind of rolled up your sleeves and did it.
ARENSTEIN: Let me ask you this. Let’s try to blend in the college with your career. You must have taken some lessons from psychology into your career. What are they?
CAMPBELL: Well, sure. I mean leading is all about people, right? And having good EQ and knowing what to do when people are in tough situations or reading the tea leaves. So, I have always told people when they’re thinking about careers and college majors there is nothing better than a solid liberal arts background. You go back and I got an MBA later and you get the business piece, but if you can’t walk and chew gum and relate to people it doesn’t really matter how great you are with a spreadsheet, you’re not going to be good as a leader. It’s fine if you want to be an individual contributor, what have you, but I think it’s invaluable to have that background.
ARENSTEIN: So, are you going to go back and get that PhD?
CAMPBELL: Never say never. I’m so young. So, I clearly have time to do that. I actually really would love to have done that and teach. I think that would be really cool because I’ve got a college kid and the stuff he’s interested in and the discourse and the bright minds thinking in different ways, that’s really, really exciting. So, eh, you never know.
ARENSTEIN: So, can you go back? I know we’re jumping here a lot, but can you go back to the early ‘80s? You’re in the system. What did you think of — did you even think of this is going to be my — this is it, I love this, I’m going to be with this forever and ever and ever?
ARENSTEIN: Was cable at that point a viable business? Was it something that you thought oh, yeah, this is going to be around forever?
CAMPBELL: I was 22. It was a job. I was making $19,000 a year and thought I was hot stuff. That was amazing. And I’m a firm believer in timing and luck on lots of things and for me I’ve been very lucky in my career. One, woman, interested at all in getting into operations, having a boss who said, “You need to do this because there are not very many women, maybe two, in operations. You could do really well in your career.” And so, I think it was just okay, I’ll try that, I’ll try that, but I had no thought about the future at all. I didn’t even put into the 401K. He had to come and explain to me that Cox matches it and I’m like, “Yeah, but shoes.” So no, it wasn’t until — I’m trying to think when I even thought of it as a career. Probably my first general manager job because that was oh my gosh, this is it. It was a heady experience.
ARENSTEIN: Where was that?
CAMPBELL: Bakersfield, California. I was 31 years old and it was the perfect progression. I had managed the call center — they weren’t call centers. I managed the phones and then the field techs, but this was now the whole enchilada. And you quickly discover you don’t really have a collections manager, there’s no marketing person. So, 22,000 subscriber system, had to learn everything from scratch. And it’s fascinating to me today, as I look back, that they even took that risk or gave me that opportunity because I had no clue. And so, I think they gave me enough support around the edges so that I didn’t fall completely off and that’s really where I learned every facet of the business. So, I’m thankful I got to move in my career that way.
ARENSTEIN: But you know, you just used the word move and I know that’s been a part of your life too.
CAMPBELL: Yeah, we moved six times in 10 years and several were year, year, year. We did Bakersfield for three years, Santa Barbara for a year. That was probably my biggest mistake, not staying there and just surfing and retiring. But oop, out of there. Phoenix for a year. Then we bought the Las Vegas system. So, super cool, back home for three years. And then I’ve been in Atlanta for 16. So, my oldest moved in first, fifth, sixth, seventh, and tenth. Yeah, lots of therapy going on now.
ARENSTEIN: Let’s talk about that. I mean, again, we’re going out of order here, but moving still is a big part of the cable business, especially if you want to move up, and it’s not easy. How did you do it?
CAMPBELL: You know, they talk about Hillary Clinton, takes a village, I say it takes like a multifaceted city with a lot of roadways. It’s support. You can’t do it on your own and you do sacrifice stuff. My favorite question that still gets asked after however many years I’ve been around is life balance, how do you do that? And you don’t. You do the best that you can at the time that you’re doing it. So, you could say did my oldest sacrifice a lot because I moved her so much? Perhaps, but when you look back now and you ask her she’ll say, “It really formed who I am. I’m comfortable in any situation. I learned different cultures.” It’s a little bit like being an Army brat, I guess, but it does take its toll in areas of your life and I think you just, along the way have to be practical about what you can and cannot do. So, I don’t regret any of them because I think it led to the next thing. Did I need to make all those moves and still get to where I am today? Probably not, but hindsight is always so great. Each place I went I learned something new about myself and what I wanted from a career or personally. So, I don’t regret doing that.
ARENSTEIN: And the support, you talked about support and I read in the research about the respect and admiration that you have for your husband.
CAMPBELL: That’s the ex. I still have respect and admiration for him as an ex. He’s much better in the ex department. But no, he was there. He was an attorney and he moved with me along the way and was there to help support the children which I think was very, very beneficial and helpful because especially when I started to travel that was the case. But you think about did all that travel, did my career versus his cause us to grow apart? Probably. I think that had a lot to do with what occurred there, but through it all we were very much a partner and supportive of each other, and I think that’s why it worked.
ARENSTEIN: Is moving still a big part of moving up in the cable industry?
CAMPBELL: It’s less than it used to be because we’re so centralized and we’ve consolidated in lots of areas. There’s still opportunity, particularly if you want to be in a region. We have regional managers who are inside. Then you would move up from a market leader up to a regional manager. Or if you want to run a bigger call center. But generally, the path isn’t a general manager P&L any more on the MSO side. It’s very much here. So, people now aspire to go from the field, which I think is amazing training and you should be in the field first, and then come to corporate to run field service or all of care or customer experience, whatever it is. Same with marketing and sales. Everything strategically is done in Atlanta and then it’s executed locally. So, it’s less important than it was which in some ways is a shame. We’re trying to figure out how do we get to make sure that people still have P&L experience because you can get very functional and not be able to look end to end. And so, I think thinking through rotations and getting people to move, even for a couple of years, to experience what is it like on the front line is going to be more critical.
ARENSTEIN: I was just going to say that. There have got to be very few people like you around at this point who have this breadth of experience.
CAMPBELL: I think that’s fair. There are fewer and farther between than there used to be. And that used to be the path if you were an operations person. You wanted to run a region, then you wanted to be a division person, and we don’t have those paths anymore. So, it’s going to be difficult to get that.
ARENSTEIN: Just curious, do you send people, not back to the field but to the field periodically to get some of that experience?
CAMPBELL: We do. We don’t have a formal you have to go here before you get here and that’s I think something that the industry is going to have think more about. Because used to say you couldn’t run a system unless you had that field experience and you knew you’d have to move. Now it’s not as definitive, you have to have been in the field, but if you’re in a role that requires a link back to the systems then you are in the field quite a bit going to visit the folks on the front line and we encourage all of our officers to get out there, do ride-alongs side by side so that they get firsthand experience. I don’t know that that’s enough. I really think you have to be there for extended periods of time to feel it in the fray. And they don’t get the calls every day. The really hard part about Cox being in Atlanta, we don’t have a cable system here. That’s a blessing and a curse because when you’re in the market you see the advertising, you have your neighbor telling you there’s something wrong with their cable or the person in the grocery store, and so you’re living it every day and you get that experience. You don’t get that in Atlanta. So, I think we can get much more disconnected than if we had a system here.
ARENSTEIN: All right, so the next question then is how do you stay connected with your customers? And you do it great. A hallmark of Cox is its customer service, has been for a long time. How do you stay in touch?
CAMPBELL: Honestly the hallmark started with Governor Cox, our founder. In his value statements, he speaks about employees and customers. So, it’s ingrained. It’s not just Cox Communications, it’s in automotive, it’s in our media group. We start with local communities and I think it’s just in the DNA of how we operate. But as we got more centralized that is a concern. So, one of the things I really encourage particularly my ops team to do, besides go to the field which they do, is to listen to calls regularly. In my staff meetings and groups, we do that weekly so that we’ve got attention and usually we’re getting calls and letters and emails anyway. They find you. I mean it’s interesting with social media how many people figure out who to contact, but I think staying close to the customer experience is really all about hearing it on more than a monthly basis.
ARENSTEIN: Is that something you learned out in the field?
CAMPBELL: Oh, absolutely, yeah.
ARENSTEIN: I’ll bet.
CAMPBELL: You’re always on when you’re in the field. You are the company. That’s why I said you’re in the supermarket, you have a Cox logo on, people know and your neighbors know that you work there. Here you can just fade into the woodwork and because it’s Comcast here and not Cox people don’t really associate that Cox is a cable company. So, you are a little bit immune to it, definitely.
ARENSTEIN: But there must be some good points about being here far away from the customer too.
ARENSTEIN: Well, I mean in the sense that yeah, you can look at another system, i.e., Comcast and say are we doing that or shouldn’t they be doing this and are we doing this. I mean there’s comparisons and things like that.
CAMPBELL: Yeah, you can do that and I mean we obviously are really good partners with Comcast and we have their platform and we’ve learned together a lot of things. I think there’s more benefit to being in a market than not. I guess the benefit of not being in the market when you’re the corporate office is you can then be a little more objective and not so much reactive to what’s going on. Because when you’re there the customers are telling you in your face. You can maybe make decisions that are more short term than long term. So, in that case I think there’s a little more of a buffer in thought, but then the downside is the bias for action. There’s a customer in your face, you’ve got to move now, that sense of urgency doesn’t exist. So, I’d take the sense of urgency and having the customer constantly in your face any day over not.
ARENSTEIN: Really? Wow. What about cable then and now, from when you started to today? I mean there’s almost no comparison.
CAMPBELL: There is no comparison. I mean it literally was for reception and, like I said, one channel. And then it exploded into hundreds of channels and then we got into the cable business — I mean into the telephone business which seemed very odd at the time and then we took the majority of the market in almost all of our markets which was fantastic. And then you think about internet on top of that, add that into the mix, and then more programming starts and more programming, and then faster speeds and all the things you can do on the internet. The industry was cable TV, wired, getting it there, and now it’s this explosive entertainment information source for customers. And I think we really have underestimated all of the changes that have occurred in our industry. I like to say — people are like, “You’ve been with Cox in the cable industry 35 years?” I’m like, “It’s not like I’ve been putting mail in the mailbox every day of my life for 35 years.” This industry is so dynamic it changes every day. And when you’re in an operations role — people say, “What do you do every day?” I’m like, “I start with this whole list of meetings or whatever and then something can change dramatically.” We have an employee issue out in New England we have to deal with, customer calls and we have something there. AT&T makes an announcement, we regroup and have to do something else. So, every day is dynamic and different and that’s amazing. You can’t say that in most other industries.
ARENSTEIN: No, and I have to agree with you because I remember writing stories and saying cable wants to be your internet provider, you know, that’s going to be interesting. And telephone too. And I remember Cox was probably the first —
CAMPBELL: We were the first to get into the telephone, the circuit switch. But I think that’s true with Cox on lots of things. Partly because we’ve been private most of the time. We were public for a period of time. But Jim Kennedy, our owner, he’ll take risks and he’ll put money where he believes the future’s going to go and he bet big on cable and he was certainly right about that. And we have found as management, he has said, “You guys bring me what you think is the right thing to do and execute on it and I will always fund you.” And that’s been the case. We saw that with Gigablast in our Phoenix market. Google was announcing all over, they were considering going and Jim said, “Oh, hell no, uh-uh, what do you need?” and we built an amazing network there that really helped inform the future of our company from a network perspective on what we could do, what we should do, where we should go with fiber, where we could do DOCSIS. It was a true gift that we had that opportunity because honestly had we been public I don’t think that would have been possible. So, he did that with telephone, PCS — we were one of the first to get in that. We made a bet on wireless a couple of times and timing wasn’t on our side, but that doesn’t mean we wouldn’t make other big bets in the future.
ARENSTEIN: All right, we’ll talk about the future as well, but let’s sort of get back to your career. I guess you were in — you mentioned coming back to Las Vegas, coming back home. What was that like?
CAMPBELL: It was very surreal. Because I mentioned at the beginning none of my friends left and they all grew up there and they’re all still friends and they’re married to very wealthy people who own casinos. And so, they just did not get the concept that I had a job and they would call like the night before, “Hey, we’re going to go to New York tomorrow” — because they all have planes — “and go shopping. Do you want to go?” And I’d be like, “It’s Tuesday. No, I have a job.” And they’d go, “Oh, that’s cute, that’s great.” So, the adage you can’t go home, it was a little different. And I also realized that growing up in Las Vegas isn’t exactly your normal Ozzie and Harriet upbringing. I didn’t get it growing up, but when I went back and went to the grocery store and there are slot machines, that’s kind of weird, isn’t it?
ARENSTEIN: Yeah, sure.
CAMPBELL: And your friends have Lear jets. So, it was good to go back and see it, but I realized probably not where I was going to end up with where I wanted to be in my life. It’s good to visit.
ARENSTEIN: And after Las Vegas what happened, where did you go?
CAMPBELL: Here. Yeah, Pat Esser took a chance on me. I was sort of the long shot when people were betting on who was going to get the role because I had only been in Vegas three years. That was our first time that I had been in a larger system so when he was promoted he kind of looked around and GMs were the people who he would choose from. He gave me that shot and so I’m forever grateful for that one and it was he, Claus Kroeger at the time and John Dyer who’s now our president at CEI, the three of them ran the divisions. And then when Pat was escalated it was John, me, and Claus. And so I had, again, that cocoon where I think they took good calculated risks on me but knew there was enough of a safety net that I wasn’t going to fall off a cliff.
ARENSTEIN: Okay, and now so somebody comes to you and says, “Jill, I’ve got this opportunity, I don’t know that much about the job, I don’t know the technology particularly, but I’m a good people person, I’m a good manager, I’m responsible.” Do you tell them to take the job?
CAMPBELL: I do.
CAMPBELL: Yeah. I wouldn’t tell them take the job of CFO if they couldn’t count without their fingers so that would like, not be me or maybe chief technologist. There are some engineering, very specialized. But when people say, “You’ve never run the field” I’m like, “Okay, it’s people management. You can learn how many points you should put on a job or what have you.” So, I’m less concerned about the functional expertise as I am the leadership skills, definitely.
ARENSTEIN: Talk about leadership. Talk about some of the leaders you’ve met here at Cox. I know you want to talk about Pat Esser, you want to talk about Jim Robbins.
CAMPBELL: Yeah. So, I mean who doesn’t want to talk about Jim Robbins? Honestly, there isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think about him and I think that’s true for most people that grew up with him. I have more Jim stories than any other story. He’s just such a salty character and he really did teach me to not take myself too seriously and tell it like it is. That’s who he was. My favorite Jim Robbins story though is when I was in Oklahoma City he came to just get with the troops and he had his ratty old vest on, moth-eaten, and he decided he wanted to go door to door with one of the sales reps and we’re like, okay. And we get a call into the call center and it’s an older woman and she says — and he’s still here — “You have somebody who’s impersonating your president. He said he’s the president. There’s no way. You should look at him and by God, you need to do something about it.” And so, we said, “Oh, ma’am, that is our president.” And he sat down, had a cup of coffee with her. Her husband had been in the war. I mean they had this long chat and friends for life. But that was Jim. He just connected on a level that nobody else did. And he was very visionary. He had the best business sense of almost anybody I have ever known. He just knew. And he really knew the cable industry. So, it was really an honor to get to be with him as many years as we had him.
ARENSTEIN: And Pat is kind of a different type of guy?
CAMPBELL: Pat’s a totally different leader than Jim is. The thing I love about Pat, you talk about authenticity, Jim was authentic in his way and Pat is as well. And he will connect with anybody. He’s got an open door policy. Employees will say, “Hey, I have an idea” and he’s like, “Come on in” which most CEOs really would never consider doing. But the thing I love the most is that he takes the chances on people. He is a huge champion of diversity. He heads up our diversity council, him personally. And he really thinks about how do we make sure next gen that we’ve got officers in the future that are going to look like the world and he’s very deliberate about that. I also love that he treats everybody just like he does. He still hangs around — he’ll love this. I hope he doesn’t get to see this video. But he still hangs around with all his buddies from the years gone by. You know, all his success has not changed him and fundamentally who he is. He’s still fine drinking beer, eating a pizza, and sitting at the Mellow Mushroom. That’s at the core of who he is. And I think that’s why he’s such a great leader, because he connects. Everybody can relate to him. And he didn’t lose that.
ARENSTEIN: What do you want people to say about you when they’re doing your —
CAMPBELL: That’s why I’m never retiring, because I’m not going to deal with that. No, no, no. We’re not going to have these stories. I don’t know, I think it’s probably the authenticity and that I was able to take some great raw talent and give them shots and let them move up and explore their full potential and keep my pension safe at Cox for years and years to come. Because really, Seth, at the end of the day nobody really remembers the last P&L or you launched whatever. They remember what you did for them as a leader or what advice you gave them or what stupid thing you did that they learned from. And if that’s one or two people then that’s really worth it, isn’t it?
ARENSTEIN: Sure. I was just thinking, the last conversation I had with Jim Robbins was he had retired and I said, “Jim, your golf game has to be getting better, you have all this time.” He said, “It’s getting worse.” I said, “Really? Why is that?” He said, “If I knew I’d be out on the course hustling people, not talking to you on the phone.” So that’s what I remember about him.
CAMPBELL: Exactly. That’s true.
ARENSTEIN: What about, you talk about when you started at Cox and here we are today 35 years later. What’s the future for cable? What do you think it’s going to look like in 10 years?
CAMPBELL: Oh, yeah, no, I’m not going for that one. Ten years? I mean seriously, any more in this industry. Look back a year. Who would have thought what’s happened would have happened then? So, I’m not going to crystal ball, but I believe cable is the future. I mean we’ve been talking about the wire to the home forever and that nothing can usurp that. Now, you know, are there alternatives that people will like? Fine. But ultimately everything that passes over that wire and everything we’re going to connect to it is what’s going to happen in the future. You know the coined phrase, connected home? I absolutely believe that that’s where the industry is going. question marks over how does mobility fit in and wireless and where will those converge and play? But all the investments that we’ve made and are going to make I think are where people want to get their entertainment, where they want to get information, and how they stay connected in the world, we have all of that technology for them. So, I’m not worried about it. The other piece too that I think people forget is how much entertainment this industry has brought not just to the United States but to the world. Think of the channels and the international reach that this industry has and people just take that for granted. It wasn’t that long ago that Ted Turner said, “Hey, I wonder if people would like to see news every day?” and now look at it. So, we’re just looking at, I think, a group of people that are scrappy and pioneers and things and willing to take risks and can see what’s going to happen next. And that is in the DNA of the industry. It’s ingrained in everybody and I think the next generations will feel very similar to that.
ARENSTEIN: How do you stay — you mentioned all these technologies, all the different things that cable is doing, how do you in operations stay on top of all that? Because at the end of the day it’s your headaches that you have to deal with. You have to deal with everything.
CAMPBELL: Yeah, you do, but there are functional experts that are there as partnership. You can’t know everything so we’ve got people steeped in technology. We have strategists who look ahead and know what’s going on and the product people. So, I’m not going to be able to look in a device, set-top box, and go, “Hey, I think there’s a bug in it.” I can hear from a technician, “something’s not right. I’ve checked the lines, I’ve done this.” And what we have to do here is listen to them. When they say, “Trust me, I’ve checked it all out, I think there’s something wrong in the box” you’ve kind of got to take the box and test it until you find it. And sometimes we’re not as good at listening to the front line as we could be, but I’ll place my bet on them any day of the week. They will know what is wrong or where we’re falling down from a customer perspective.
ARENSTEIN: You know, since we’re talking about technology I read some of the research about medical devices in the Cleveland Clinic. I guess it was a couple of years ago now I read this quote. What’s going on with that? That sounds fascinating.
CAMPBELL: It’s huge and that, I think, will be the next area. We’re very committed to telemedicine. We have the partnership with Cleveland Clinic. We bought a company called Trapollo which is part of our Cox business suite of products and we continue to look at new businesses by which we can connect in the home telemedicine, what have you. Still not right here in front of us, but you talk about the next three to five years, that area will clearly explode. And the industry is the best suited to partner with health care, insurance providers, hospitals, etc., because we have the infrastructure.
ARENSTEIN: So basically, what are we talking about here?
CAMPBELL: I think the future is going to be you’re sitting in your home, you’re connected to your doctor, your hospital, your health care provider, and all the diagnostics that Trapollo does now they’re able to monitor for you so you don’t have to go in. It’s all kept on a computer and you do virtual care that way.
CAMPBELL: I know. It fascinating, but think about the aging public and how important that’s going to be. Or you sell it to an apartment complex, that’s part of their feature offering and you can also do that with doctor groups and hospital groups. I mean it just is endless in the possibilities of what you can do.
ARENSTEIN: What other things would I go wow at if I knew that cable or Cox is doing? Any other businesses that I would, you know, would really knock me over? I think the medical thing really is great.
CAMPBELL: For us, for our parent company, conservation is really important. Jim Kennedy with sustainability has preached that for years and years and we have Cox Conserves. All of our systems come up with ways to figure out how to save the environment and do things better. Every building is LEED certified, what have you. He’s invested in solar panels and we give discounts to employees to do that. But they are looking at businesses that can change the world from an environmental perspective. Everything from using Cooke bottles from the plastic in order so they don’t break down for other sources. Tires, where you can repurpose shredded old tires for other things. So, I think what we’ll see or my hope is from Cox Enterprises that’s where some of the big bets are going to go in how do we really impact the environment with these companies that we haven’t even thought of yet? And there’s a lot of work being done in the arena here in the US so that’s one area. And I still do think health care is going to be the other leg of our stool from a broader perspective that you’ll see Cox get into and grow. Alex Taylor who is next generation, Jim Kennedy’s cousin, who will be the heir apparent, very committed as well to that. But he has a vision for growth for the company and over the next 10, 20 years I think you’ll see us invest a lot more in companies that are either adjacent or maybe a whole new industry.
ARENSTEIN: Let’s talk a little bit about the culture here at Cox because everybody talks about that, and frankly it’s a culture that has kept you loyal for 35 years. I mean we do have to talk about somebody who stays at one place for 35 years, I really think we do.
CAMPBELL: We have a lot of people who stay for a very long time here. Call it the secret sauce, I don’t know, I really think it is. But, as I said, it goes back to Governor Cox. It is just their unwavering commitment to employees that is ingrained in everything we do. I have a wonderful story that I heard when we had a family meeting which they do every couple of years and the head of HR for Cox Enterprises told a story on Jim Kennedy where we had to close a couple of the smaller newspapers back in the day, rural, etc. And a lot of these employees had been with us 20 years even though they were 40 because they started really young and so they were not going to be bridged to their retirement. And it was a lot of money, but she went to Jim and she said, “Here’s the situation” and he said, “Marybeth, what is the right thing to do?” And she said, “Bridge them to retirement.” He said, “Absolutely. You don’t need to ask me that. That’s our core value.” We have made our money and our companies on the backs of our employees and we will always treat them right and be loyal to them. And so, it’s stories like that that you hear. And Pat’s that way and Jim was that way and Sandy Schwartz runs auto that way. That’s just what we do. And employees recognize that. Even when we had to close down call centers, we made the strategic business decision to consolidate, we had a couple thousand people impacted by that. That was huge for us. We were teeth-gnashing and Pat and I sat up for hours, what should the severance look like, how should we do this? And we gave people relocation if they wanted to move to another Cox location along with the time to be able to do that, generous severance packages. We also told them as far in advance as we could and we decided to do that because we wanted them to have the opportunity to find something else with the outsource firm that we used and/or maybe go to another Cox entity. People told us who stayed they watched how we behaved and they knew that we would take care of them if something were to ever happen and we needed to do something else from a business perspective. So that we treat people right on the way out, they knew we treat them right when they’re here, and that generates a lot of loyalty. We don’t nickel and dime people. That’s just not what it’s about. Our building, we just built a new building last year, it’s phenomenal. We have a cafeteria that’s five star. I bring friends here and they’re like, “You want me to come to your cafeteria?” I’m like, “Yes, it’s fabulous.” We have a gym that makes LA Fitness look like a dump. I mean we just really invest in our people because we know if you have happy employees they’re going to treat customers well and that’s the core of why we’re in business is to keep customers happy. So, they’re happy, they’re happy, everybody’s happy, we make more money. It’s just our philosophy.
ARENSTEIN: But I think you’d agree that that’s not the way most companies go about things.
CAMPBELL: No, I think that’s true.
ARENSTEIN: So, what are they missing? Why are they not doing that?
CAMPBELL: I don’t know.
ARENSTEIN: You’ve been here for 35 years.
CAMPBELL: Exactly. I can’t speak to that. When I have people who come here from other places they’re like, “Oh my God, this is so unusual.” And I couldn’t speak to that other than knowing people who work in other companies and they just say, “Wow, we don’t have that at all.” I feel extremely lucky to have grown up in a company that really cares about me as a person. And you know, we’ve got employee relief funds that our employees invest in. When anything happens, we are all there. When we just had the recent floods in Baton Rouge, unbelievable the amount of support that these folks got. Really heartwarming to see what our employees will do and what our parent company kicks in. Jim wanted to know every person and did they have a place to stay and did they have enough money and were they okay? Names, everything. We were that way in Katrina. It just is a family. We see ourselves as a family and when you’re in a family you stay together even if sometimes you’re like ugh, Seth, pissing me off. We’re just still — we rally and come together.
ARENSTEIN: That was the theoretical example. I’m not pissing you off?
ARENSTEIN: Okay, all right. Jill, a couple of legacy questions. We always like to throw these in the oral histories. We’re hoping that people will be looking at this years from now. So, what do you want them to say about you and your career and what about the cable industry itself? Is there a story or is there an impact or an influence that you really want people to know, hey, this industry did all this, whether you know it or not in 2050 or something this is where it kind of started?
CAMPBELL: The cable industry created in home entertainment. That was what it was all about. And so, when you think about everything from news to animals to travel, there’s just a subject for everything and this industry did that. You can say broadcasters started it, what have you, but the cable industry is the group that really made that come to life and explode. And the second thing I don’t think we get the credit for is we built the broadband infrastructure in this nation and we didn’t get a guaranteed rate of return on it. We did it well ahead of when people even needed some of these speeds. The reliability has been incredible. We did that because it’s good business and we knew that that was the future of what the consumer was going to want. And then we look at things — we got into home security and we didn’t make it just about security. We really made it about how do you make your lives easier. Cameras to be able to watch your pets, your children, interconnect. It’s back to that connectivity with what’s going on in the home. But all of that was done just without fanfare. The industry didn’t take out big ads about that. We just did it. And then politically we did not get the credit for having done that. So, for me I think when people look back 50 years to just pause and say it used to be getting the broadcast channels in with a good picture and maybe HBO and then look at it today which who knows what it’ll be in 50 years. But we will have created all of that. It’s a pretty extraordinary story.
ARENSTEIN: Speaking of extraordinary stories, Jill, congratulations on going into the hall of fame. What does that mean to you?
CAMPBELL: It started with I told Michael Willner when he called, I said, “I think you’re calling me too early because I’m not old enough to be in the Cable Hall of Fame.” And then he kind of said, 35 years, hmm.
ARENSTEIN: You started when you were 10.
CAMPBELL: And that’s what I told him and yet still here I am. But no, it’s an extraordinary honor, especially this class. When I looked at the people in it I was very humbled to be part of that because I just still don’t see myself as having done everything that these folks have done. So, it’s pretty cool. Kind of wish my parents were around. As my dad used to say, even a blind squirrel finds an acorn. I am a classic example of that. And he’d be really proud of me so that would be awesome.
ARENSTEIN: Jill, thanks so much. This has been a pleasure.
CAMPBELL: Thank you, Seth.
ARENSTEIN: And I’m glad I get to do it with you. This is great.
CAMPBELL: Thanks. I appreciate it.
END OF INTERVIEW