Today marks the one year anniversary date for Thorsten Heins as the CEO of Research In Motion. And WOW!... what a year it has been for BlackBerry. First, just want to say it's an honor for me to be able to write this piece. So let's talk Thorsten...
Out with the old, in with the new. That's exactly what happened with RIM when Thorsten Heins was called up to take the place of co-CEOs, Jim Balsillie and Mike Lazaridis. It's what had to happen. When Lazaridis and Balsillie finally stepped down, RIM was at a painful low of a 5 billion dollar net worth. That's down from once being a 80 billion dollar company!
It seemed that all was lost. But then came riding in on a white horse, our beloved leader (which we didn't realize at the time), Thorsten Heins!
We got our first real dose of what Thorsten was about at the BlackBerry World 2012 conference. He spoke with confidence and displayed for us the first life of the BlackBerry 10 OS that shaped the rest of the year. It's also when we first heard the notorious punch line that has become a staple in how RIM started performing... "Let's rock 'n' roll this!" Check out a full recap of the BB World 2012 keynote here (at the very end is when Thorsten says the line).
It wasn't too long after that Thorsten was on the trail of emBOLDening BlackBerry 10 to the community of mobile users. He quickly made his way into the community and started in on regular interviews, and answering the questions coming from BlackBerry enthusiasts.
It has been a no-holds barred adventure. Thorsten is the type of CEO to shamelessly display that he uses a competitors phone. But let's be clear here. You got to understand your competition in order to rise above them. Only a true leader understands this.
But even the boldest of leaders realize that one can't always charge through the front gate. Thorsten is a balanced man. He understands that to keep BlackBerry alive, you sometimes have to consider your options. Which is why we have heard (and again) about the possibility that BlackBerry 10 could be licensed out to other smartphone manufacturers.
When obstacles are in the way and outages have stricken, Thorsten has been on top of the situations immediately. His quick response to the EMEA outage, shows that he cares about each and every BlackBerry user out there, and how they are affected by the performance of RIM. Thorsten is the kind of leader who gives no excuses.
When BlackBerry Jam Americas 2012 rolled around, Thorsten came out with confidence to the developer community, giving them the tools they needed to build for BlackBerry 10. He even showed his humor during the keynote when he took a shot at Apple for changing up their power connectors on their customer base, by saying, "... and don't worry, with our sleeker, lighter, BlackBerry 10 designs, you can actually continue to use your existing BlackBerry power connectors." The crowd laughed and cheered.
Thorsten continued to be confronted with resistance. During the BB Jam Americas 2012 press meeting, he was taken out of context for saying, "We have a clear shot at being the number three platform on the market." Of course we all understood that Thorsten isn't a leader who is going to lie and give his company false hopes and goals. Thorsten is all about reality, and seeking the top position within the realms of what can be achieved realistically. Jumping to #1 overnight isn't going to happen in a tough competitive smartphone market. For RIM, third place is just the first step.
The path forward continued for Heins, and BlackBerry 10 continued to pick up momentum. A big milestone happened at the end of October when Thorsten announced that BlackBerry 10 achieved Lab Entry with more than 50 carriers. This was a key step to meet the BlackBerry 10 launch goal of Q1 2013.
Thorsten has proved to be a perfectionist. Anything less wouldn't be unacceptable. Which is why he rightfully delayed the release of BlackBerry 10 from the fall of 2012 to Q1 of 2013. Boy, was that the smartest decision ever made in the history of a company! He maintained confidence.
Throughout the month of November, Thorsten was on the path of continuing to strengthen BlackBerry 10, and even came out and said that, "A one-minute sales pitch in a shop" is all that will be needed to convince customers that a BlackBerry 10 smartphone is right for them. For us BlackBerry 10 Dev Alpha users, many of us have already experienced this by showing off our devices to our local smartphone retail salesman. And we don't even have a final BlackBerry 10 build.
During basketball season, at a LA Lakers vs Phoenix Suns game, a 6 foot 6 inch Thorsten could have been playing on the court himself... minus a few years of course. While he wasn't shooting hoops, he was promoting BlackBerry, as he was caught in some nice camera shots with fellow RIM VP of product management, Andrew Bocking, taking some pictures with their BlackBerry 10 smartphones. This PR stunt, or whatever you want to call it, turned out to be a success in sparking the sporting world's interest about BlackBerry 10.
He continued forward through the year with more interviews. This time though, those doing the interviews, instead of criticizing, were just as excited for BlackBerry 10 as Thorsten. The tides have turned and now BlackBerry 10 is full speed ahead for the Jan 30th, 2013 launch.
And what no better way for Thorsten to start off this New Year than to receive a well deserved reward of being named Cantech Letter’s 2012 TSX Executive of the Year!
We now sit at January 22, 2013, Thorsten's one year anniversary day, and we are only eight days away from the launch of BlackBerry 10. It's madness, I tell you! Thorsten has brought us from RIM is dead, to RIM instead. And each and everyone of us should be thankful that we got him to lead BlackBerry into a new era. I know that many of us have lost sleep over the uncertainty of BlackBerry in the past. But we now have a renewed confidence, thanks to our understanding, fearless, compassionate, courageous, honest, and BOLD leader, Thorsten Heins.
Let's rock 'n' roll this!