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Top Company: tw telecom



What could tw telecom do better?

Go on, tell them. The Littleton-based company really wants to know.

It's all part of delivering world-class service on a very local level.

"We survey our customers at least once a year, and we ask them how we're doing and what we could do better," says Mike Rouleau, tw telecom's senior vice president for Business Development and Strategy. "What that comprehensive package of local people with national support and listening to our customers has done for us is really improve customer satisfaction."

There's no question that tw telecom is doing a lot right already. A leading provider of managed networking solutions to businesses and organizations in 75 markets across the nation, it was one of the first companies to deploy a national ethernet network with local reach. Today, it's the third-largest service provider of business ethernet ports, right behind Verizon and AT&T.

Two of the keys to that kind of success, CEO Larissa Herda says: collaboration and communication.

"No one succeeds alone, in business or in life," she says. "We create cross-functional work teams in nearly everything we do. We combine that with frequent communication, so that all employees know our goals and vision, which makes sure that everyone is moving in the same direction."
As for moving ahead, the recession didn't slow down tw
telecom one bit.

"We discussed two approaches - retrenching like virtually all other companies, or using our strength to invest for growth and to further separate us from our competition," says Herda, who shepherded the company from $26 million in revenue in 1996 to $1.3 billion in 2010 and oversaw acquisitions totaling more than $1.2 billion.

"We took the less comfortable route and invested for growth," she says. "We invested in new products, in new systems, in furthering our industry-leading customer experience."

Part of the result: no layoffs, an accomplishment of which Herda is particularly proud.

"Rather, we hired more staff to support our growth," she says.

Which brings up two other keys to tw telecom's success: caring and balance.

"Our employees work hard and are very productive, which is reflected in our results," Herda says. "But life within tw telecom must also be balanced with life outside the office. At the end of the day, healthy, happy employees, who care about each other and the success of our company, help us to serve our other constituencies even more effectively."

Among those constituencies are local charities, which benefit from a policy giving employees an opportunity to make proposals for funds each year for nonprofits where they are personally involved. The company puts special effort into SungateKids, a nonprofit dedicated to helping abused children and their families, hosting an annual golf tournament to raise much of the nonprofit's operating budget. It's part of the company's focus on local groups with no national fundraising clout, Herda says.

"I guess you can call it the underdog approach," she says. "We chose them because they have incredible leadership and staff who are very effective in providing a much-needed community service with very small overhead. We know we are making a difference in the lives of children."
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Lisa Ryckman

Lisa Ryckman is ColoradoBiz's managing editor. Contact her at lryckman@cobizmag.com.

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