George Carlo's work as a pathologist
and epidemiologist for the Cell Phone
It was, in a sense, a fluke that first brought George Carlo
and Tom Wheeler together in 1993. But in another sense it
was the sort of happenstance that actually occurs just about
every day somewhere
in the nation's capital. The two were introduced by a
public-relations man who was trying to become a power broker
between industry and government.
In the spring of 1993, Carlo was at a bed-and-breakfast inn
he owned on the Maryland shore of the Chesapeake Bay when he
received a telephone call from Mark Shannon, of the Ketchum
public relations firm in Washington, D.C., who knew of
Carlo's work as a pathologist and epidemiologist willing to
get involved in the business of giving advice to industries.
Shannon wanted to consult—to get a few expert thoughts and
phrases. He was about to meet with the cell phone industry's
chief lobbyist, when he would be making a pitch on damage
control in the hopes of landing a lucrative PR contract.
Carlo listened, then gave some quick advice. Almost as an
afterthought, Shannon asked Carlo to come along to the
meeting with Wheeler, thinking this would add scientific
credibility to his PR pitch. And so, a few days later, Carlo
found himself in an office building on 21st Street NW that
at the time housed the CTIA. (As the industry's fortunes
soared in the years to come, Wheeler moved the association
into its current headquarters on Connecticut Avenue.) A
dark-haired, 46-year-old career lobbyist, Wheeler had
already earned a reputation for his ability to move within
Washington's corridors of power.
He'd become known as one of the capital's most savvy movers
and shakers when he served for five years as president of
the cable television industry's trade association. He'd been
with the grocery manufacturers' trade association before
that. In short, Wheeler had long ago proven his mastery of
the Washington art of political science. In the coming years
of crisis in the cell phone industry, he would expand his
skills into the selective use of highly political science.
Wheeler struck Carlo as a formidable and commanding
presence, a take-charge CEO. Indeed, he was that. His book,
entitled Leadership Lessons from the Civil War, summed up
his own management style in his choice of chapter titles:
"Lesson One: Dare to Fail; Don't Confuse Victory With
Avoiding a Loss . . . Lesson Three: Yesterday's Tactics Make
Today's Defeats; Embrace Change . . . Lesson Five:
Information Is Only Critical If It Is Used.