When Guamcell Communications President Jay R. Shedd decided to leave Guam he was looking at his children huddled in a corner as the devastating winds of Supertyphoon Pongsona were taking pieces of their home out to sea.
It was Dec. 8 2002 and Shedd had been knocked out cold when the typhoon shattered all the windows in their Agana Beach Condominiums penthouse. His wife Sheila Baker Shedd had to pull him out from under the sliding glass door that had fallen on top of him. "When I came out of the stupor from being knocked unconscious I was watching this long bathroom mirror bowing because of all the pressure " he said. "Even though our house was wide open to the elements the pressure was just enormous."
Shedd sustained a concussion cracked ribs and cuts deep enough to require stitches on his elbow. He remembers being worried because his head would not stop bleeding and the family could not get out of the condo for help.
"I stayed awake all night because I was afraid to fall asleep thinking I might have a concussion " he said. Shedd was deeply affected by the experience and began looking for opportunities in the U.S. mainland as a way out of Guam. "I just didn’t want to do that again. So that was a big [reason for leaving]."
A year later the Shedd family was on its way to Phoenix. He had negotiated a separation package with Guamcell Communications that effectively kept him from working in the telecommunications industry. He was lured to Phoenix by the promise of a new technology which takes the contaminants out of coal without using chemicals. He is now negotiating the sale of a majority interest in the company called Revotech.
"If I do get that closed it will mean a lot of money to a number of people " he said. But when Shedd first moved to Arizona Revotech was still a fledgling business so he and his wife went into real estate.
Characteristic of most of Shedd’s ventures he turned this into a successful business as well ending up with five licensed agents under his employ. Still he wasn’t satisfied with the life he had built in Phoenix. "I lived in a place where the houses are fairly close together and I didn’t know my neighbors " he said. "It’s such a big place that everybody’s got their own lives. Once they leave their garage they’re not even in the same town. They’re driving 30 miles away to go do something. It’s very difficult to get to know people."
Shedd’s epiphany that home was on an island 6 450 miles away came during a presentation he gave to the Kiwanis club a year and a half ago. He was asked to speak about the nine and a half years he spent on Guam where he took Guamcell from a five-employee operation to one that services thousands of people in Guam and Saipan.
"I was talking about Guam with such love in my heart for the place that I didn’t realize how much I had missed it until that point " Shedd said. "After that was over I called my wife on my cell phone and I said you know if there comes an opportunity I’m ready to come back home to Guam.’"
Sheila Shedd immediately began making phone calls to people she knew on Guam looking for job opportunities. "It was a humbling experience leaving and starting over basically " Shedd said.
"I didn’t realize how much I missed it here."
Opportunity hit at the right time for Shedd. He called his old friend Mark Chamberlin Guamcell’s then-chief executive officer and began negotiating his way back to Guam. The two had met in 1995 when Shedd was senior vice president of Guam Cellular and Chamberlin was brought in as assistant general manager. When Shedd left in 2003 Chamberlin was promoted to president of Guamcell. Shedd continued to get paid under a non-compete agreement that kept him out of the market for five years.
When Shedd decided he wanted to return to Guam he heard two encouraging things: NTT DoCoMo one of Japan’s largest telecom companies had purchased Guamcell and Mark Chamberlin wanted to leave for Singapore.
"[Chamberlin] said ‘look if you really want to come back I really want to leave. I would love to recommend you as my replacement because you would be the best guy ‘" Shedd said. In May Shedd was hired as the new CEO and president of Guamcell Communications. But it wasn’t the same business he had guided to such success. It was now owned by NTT DoCoMo – a company known for being on the cutting edge of cell phone technology.
"The great thing for me is when I worked at Motorola and I’d see NTT DoCoMo’s booths I’d marvel at what they do " Shedd said. "They have the latest greatest things. They’re way ahead of the United States in regards to technology." One cutting-edge DoCoMo product that GuamCell plans to market is the 3G phone. It allows users to download video e-mail large files or browse the Web at high speeds. The company plans to offer these phones on a limited basis in August with a full-scale launch by the end of the year.
"I’m not sure what speeds it’s going to end up being but I do know this: It’s going to be super fast " Shedd said. "And it’s going to be very similar to what you’re dealing with on the Internet today."
To really appreciate how far Guamcell has come – and how much Shedd had to do with its success – it’s necessary to go back to the company’s founding in 1992. When it began there were only five full-time employees and three engineers. It was then known as Guam Cellular and its office was so small Shedd took customers to Winchell’s for meetings.
Three months after Shedd came on board in 1994 the company acquired Motorola PageTel Pacific – a paging business in Guam and Saipan – and acquired 25 additional employees. The company continued to expand and later that year it acquired PacifiCom in Saipan.
Shedd’s track record in the telecommunications industry helps explain how he was able to guide the company to such rapid growth. At Motorola he was the youngest sales representative in San Diego Calif. and then was promoted to business manager for Southern California. He was also the youngest Salesperson of the Year for his region. He then became the youngest regional sales manager in the country running lucrative markets in New York and New Jersey.
"I was making sales that were as big as some of the guys that had been there 15 20 years " Shedd said. "I just worked at it. I doesn’t matter what company you work for or what position you’re in. If you go for it and you go after your job you’ll be the best at it."
Shedd attributes his success to a fear of failure. He was offered his first job in the telecommunications industry in 1989 while playing golf with his dad and the Western division vice president of Motorola. By the ninth hole the Motorola VP said "Why don’t you come work for us." Shedd was 23 years old. "I was not about to fail " Shedd said. "It was my dad that got me this job and I didn’t want to let my dad down."
Now 47 Shedd said coming back to Guam and the industry he worked in for 20 years "is like putting on an old baseball glove. It fits perfectly."
It’s not only a homecoming; it’s a new beginning for the Shedds. His daughters Erica 14 and Aiyana 10 were with Jay when he lived on Guam five years ago. They are his children with his first wife whom he divorced in 1999. Shedd had his two youngest children Hayden 5 and Shane 2 with Sheila. They’ll now have the chance to know the island that so captured their father’s heart.
"I don’t want to move " said Shedd. "I want to be here as long as I can even if there’s another typhoon. I’m just not going to live up high anymore. I’m just going to live down low." MBJ