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Data Sheet—The Secret Behind T-Mobile’s Stunning Rise

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Fortune releases its list of the 100 Best Companies to Work For in the U.S. this morning. Tops is Salesforce, which has been collecting superlatives over and over.

No. 86 is wireless carrier T-Mobile, which under the flamboyant leadership of CEO John Legere has turned around an industry laggard. T-Mobile still lags Verizon and AT&T by market share. But it’s an industry leader in terms of best practices for customers, including the way it did away with annoying contracts that users love to hate.

As you’ll learn in this informative and entertaining profile of a company and a CEO—by Data Sheet’s very own Aaron Pressman—T-Mobile also excels by treating its people well. Sometimes that’s as simple as senior managers talking to retail workers and other line workers, a novel concept for sure at some companies.

The numbers reflect the behavior. Employee turnover at call centers, a critical and costly expense for phone companies, is 23% at T-Mobile compared to an industry norm of 43%. Employees clearly are energized by Legere’s over-the-top social-media presence, including his baiting of competitors. But there is a business logic behind it too. The company’s social media team has 300 people committed to marketing and responding to customer concerns.

We often necessarily talk about business in terms of data. The T-Mobile story, and the entire Fortune Best Companies package, is a reminder that business is a human endeavor too.

Adam Lashinsky
@adamlashinsky
adam_lashinsky@fortune.com

NEWSWORTHY

You’re holding it wrong. A white ringed controversy is developing around Apple’s new HomePod smart speaker. Apparently the silicon ring at the base of the HomePod can leave a stain on certain kinds of wood surfaces. Apple says the rings should fade in a few days, but if not, users should be “cleaning the surface with the manufacturer’s suggested oiling method.” An estimate of how much the HomePod costs Apple to make by TechInsight concluded that the device has a 38% gross profit margin, less than the estimated 66% margin for Google’s Home Max and 56% margin on Amazon’s Echo Plus.

You’re clicking it wrong. You may be seeing fewer annoying ads online starting today if you use Google’s Chrome browser. The idea is to block, and thus discourage, unpleasant popovers and jangly, loud videos, Google says. An incredibly self-serving complaint about the change from some makers of ad blocking software got a full write up in the Wall Street Journal. Making web browsing better in this way may “prevent users from adopting third-party apps that block ads Google wants to make money from,” says their lawyer. That’s one way to see it, but it doesn’t “prevent” anyone from doing anything.

Righting a wrong. Dara Khosrowshahi, Uber’s new CEO, gave a refreshingly honest view of his first five months on the job. “It looked messy and it was messy,” Khosrowshahi said on stage at a Goldman Sachs technology conference in San Francisco on Wednesday.

Getting to right quicker. A new microprocessor chip designed by MIT researchers is three to seven times faster at neural-network computing, often used for speech and image recognition apps, while reducing power consumption by up to 95%. That could make it suited for use in smartphones.

Who is in the right? Top executives from Qualcomm met face-to-face with Broadcom’s management for two hours on Wednesday to discuss Broadcom’s proposed but unsolicited takeover. Qualcomm has thus far resisted the overture and its stock price, at $66 and change, is well below Broadcom’s latest $82 per share offer.

Who is in the right II. The inspector general of the Federal Communications Commission is investigating whether the agency’s chairman, Ajit Pay, acted improperly by pushing to weaken television station ownership limits to benefit Sinclair Broadcasting, the New York Times reported. The rule change came weeks before Sinclair announced a $4 billion deal to buy Tribune Media.

One very wrong. Carbonite wrote in to note that the name of the company was misspelled on second reference in yesterday’s Data Sheet. Our apologies for the typo.

FOOD FOR THOUGHT

A backlash against big tech companies has been brewing for a while in Washington, D.C. But unlike in the past, the companies aren’t ignoring the political wrangling—they’re joining it. Spencer Soper, Naomi Nix, Ben Brody, and Bill Allison at Bloomberg explore how Amazon specifically has responded to growing pressure from lawmakers and regular jibes from the president on Twitter. After increasing lobbying spending 400% in the past five years, Amazon is now the second-biggest tech spender, trailing only Google. (It ranked 17th overall last year, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, in case you were wondering.)

What makes Amazon different from its tech brethren is the company’s insatiable quest to sell everything from advertising to entertainment, groceries, computing power and soon, maybe even health care. That forces it to wrestle with a growing list of issues, including transportation, shipping, aviation, taxes, immigration and antitrust. Last year, it lobbied on 24 general issues (each of which could include dozens of laws or regulations), up from eight in 2012. Entities lobbied, such as the Senate and NASA, jumped from eight in 2012 to 39 in 2017. Microsoft Corp., which survived a prolonged antitrust case in the 1990s, lobbied on 18 issues and engaged with 29 government agencies last year.

Amazon has fought for favorable rules regarding online sales taxes since 2000. But its rise as a Washington powerhouse really began amid a flurry of activity in 2013. That fall, Bezos acquired the Washington Post for $250 million from its longtime owners, the Graham family, and two months later, unveiled Prime Air, a nascent project to speed deliveries using drones. At the time, the Federal Aviation Administration required unmanned aircraft to be flown within the line of sight of operators. Amazon argued the rules were designed for hobbyists, not commercial operators.

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT

Richard Branson Admits He’s ‘A Little Bit Jealous’ of SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy Launch By Natasha Bach

Hackers Stole $50 Million in Cryptocurrency Using ‘Poison’ Google Ads By Jen Wieczner

Cisco’s Plan to Bring $67 Billion Back to the U.S. Could Be a Major Windfall for Its Investors By David Meyer

SpaceX’s Satellite Broadband Plans Gets Key Endorsement From FCC Chair By Emily Price

Here’s What We Know So Far About the Samsung Galaxy S9 By Don Reisinger

AT&T May Call a Controversial Witness to Get the Time Warner Merger Approved By Aaron Pressman

BEFORE YOU GO

Is it just me or do the Winter Olympics feel a little stale this year? Gold medal skier Lindsey Vonn has an idea to shake things up, though: let men and women ski against each other. A quick analysis by FiveThirtyEight.com found women have equal or higher speeds in most events (except the basic downhill race).

This edition of Data Sheet was curated by Aaron Pressman. Find past issues, and sign up for other Fortune newsletters.