Marianna Papadakis Reporter

Marianna writes for The Australian Financial Review and Business Review Weekly from the Sydney newsroom. She has an interest in legal affairs, technology and business.

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CEO Q&A: John Featherstone

Published 07 February 2013 00:50, Updated 16 May 2013 10:22

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CEO Q&A: John Featherstone

“The premise that a fish rots from the head is true of companies,” says Sony Mobile’s John Featherstone Photo: Dominic Loneragan

Name a business leader you admire and why.

Former Telstra chief executive officer Frank Blount. He would invite employees to the pub to talk about what was working and what wasn’t. He was charismatic.

Even in the toughest press conferences he presented a vision of what needed to be achieved and the way to do it.

What is the best piece of advice you have ever received?

Former O2 boss Peter Erskine now at Ladbrokes got up in front of the company when I was working there and said “Don’t believe your own bullshit.” The company had just turned around being in the red to black and on its was to being among the top two in the market. The more you go from thinking like a start-up to being a market leader you have to constantly ask that question. It reminds you to ask yourself, am I changing the dynamic of the market and industry, have we covered everything, is there more we can do.

What are you reading at the moment?

A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin. I’m on the fourth book [A Feast for Crows] and I’m concerned I’m running out. You think corporate politics are bad, you win or die in this.

What was your best deal?

When I was at UK telco group O2 I sold one of the first Windows mobile devices – the XDA – to Telstra. It was chunky with a big aerial, not very flattering. It was a start-up backed by a gorilla.

Your biggest regret in business and what you learnt?

The premise that a fish rots from the head is true of companies. I worked for a company as a change agent. But its leaders were only partly supportive. It ended up getting absorbed. It taught me to consider carefully the jobs I take.

What keeps you up at night?

Wanting our products and business to be relevant. That’s the most important thing these days. At Sony we have so many assets and it’s a question of how do I leverage that.

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