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MCI founder wouldn’t take ‘No’

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in Leaders & Managers,Profiles in Leadership

John Goeken didn’t earn the name “Jack the Giant Killer” for nothing.

The guy who broke AT&T’s grip on the telephone industry also pioneered in-flight phones.

The Midwesterner had a passion to make communication possible anywhere. If people told him he couldn’t do something, he’d do it just to prove that he could.

And boy, did he do it:

1. Goeken started out selling two-way radios to truckers. He reckoned that he could sell more radios if he provided uninterrupted contact, so he built microwave towers.

AT&T petitioned the FCC to stop his fledgling network, Microwave Communications Inc., or MCI. Goeken fought back and won.

2. He founded Airfone for in-flight calls, despite naysayers who insisted that executives “would not want to make calls from the air.”

3. He built the FTD Mercury network to wire flower orders around the world. And he was working on energy-efficient lighting systems when he died in September of 2010.

— Adapted from “John Goeken dies at 80; founder of MCI,” Los Angeles Times.

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