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Perceptive Eye: Faulkner Sets Sights on $1 Billion Revenue in 2010

Kristine Faulkner
Vice President
Product Development & Management
Cox Business

just out of college in the early 1990s, Kristine Faulkner was a photographer for Tribune Co.’s Daily Press in Newport News, Va. it was her dream job, and she thought she’d spend her career shooting for newspapers or ad agencies.

Luckily for cable, she soon decided to do something completely different. For the last decade, she’s trained her perceptive eye on Cox Communications’ fastest-growing business: commercial data and voice services.

Faulkner joined Cox in Atlanta in 2000 as a senior product manager of Web-hosting services, after serving as general manager and director of Internet publishing for the Daily Press. (She had been promoted from the photographer’s desk several years earlier.)

Faulkner knew the Web, but “I knew nothing at all about the rest of the cable business, which was kind of intimidating,” she said. “I had to really learn to ask the dumb questions, because you’re never going to get to a place where you know all of the technology.”

In short order, she acquired deep cable expertise and was elevated to vice president of product development and management in 2004, leading the definition and implementation of commercial products for Cox Business.

“One of my big learnings is, don’t ever think you can’t switch careers,” she said. “First and foremost, you have to be nimble.”

To say Faulkner is a quick study may be an understatement, according to colleagues past and present.

“She has a tremendous command of a lot of information,” said Bill Stemper, who ran Cox Business from 2003 to 2006 before moving to Comcast as president of its business services group. “She can juggle a lot in her head at one time. She can answer the second and third question.”

Her current boss concurs: “She’s a sponge,” said Cox Business vice president Phil Meeks.

Meeks joined Cox in July 2008, having previously spent 28 years at MCI, AT&T and other telecom companies. Faulkner, to get him acclimated to cable nomenclature and up to speed on Cox’s offerings soon after his arrival, had prepped a two-inch-thick binder and spent “the better part of the day briefing me on Cable Telecom 101.”

And did they stop for lunch? “Kristine doesn’t stop until she’s finished,” Meeks replied.

Noted Stemper: “Kristine is a very giving professional. She’s very transparent and open, and she is very receptive to interaction and feedback and ideas. She gets the most out of her team as an individual leader.”

What motivates Faulkner is using technologies to develop new ideas. At the Daily Press, for example, she built the newspaper’s first Web page. “That’s what I found exciting: building a new business in an established company,” she said. Unlike Cox, though, the newspaper business she left behind has been steadily receding.

The opportunity at Cox to build something new was one of the things that attracted her to the position, Faulkner says. “My team and I have the excitement and challenge of working in a high-growth business within a well-established cable company,” she said.

In the last five years, Faulkner and her team have launched a wide array of business services, including tiered, high-speed data service; fiber-fed dedicated Internet access; metro Ethernet services; and hosted IP voice platforms.

Cox Business has grown from less than $100 million in revenue when Faulkner started to on pace to exceed $1 billion in 2010.

“She’s an innovator,” Cox chief financial officer Mark Bowser said. “She was first in our industry to drive capabilities down-market, to give smaller businesses the same features and services that large companies have.”

According to Stemper, Faulkner has a modus operandi of staying close to the field. “She’s active in following through in what’s going on with the customer,” he said. “She does a lot in primary-research mode. I think that has helped her be very effective.”

Outside of Cox, Faulkner serves on the Women in Cable and Telecommunications Atlanta board, and is a graduate of the Betsy Magness Leadership Institute, WICT’s flagship executive leadership program. She is also an active member of the Cable & Telecommunications Association for Marketing and co-chairs the organization’s business services council.

In addition, Faulkner serves as a community board member of Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, where she has provided volunteer counseling to parents of kids with congenital heart defects. Faulkner’s down time includes skiing and cycling. (While her husband, John, is an avid reader, Faulkner confesses that much of her reading includes telecom research and analyst reports.)

As for photography, there’s a studio set up in her basement, but Faulkner says she wishes she made more time to take advantage of it. Some of her most prized pictures are ones she took of her husband, when they were dating, for ads in the newspaper. “I used him constantly in shoots, holding umbrellas and other props,” she said. The photos have been heartily amusing to their two kids, Corin, 9, and Brennan, 7.

To Jill Campbell, senior vice president of Eastern division operations for Cox, what’s impressive about Faulkner is that she’s able to manage a work-life balance very effectively.

“She gives 200% at work, and if she’s not here, she’s BlackBerrying,” Campbell said. “But she also makes sure her children get full attention … That to me is impressive.”