Tell us a little bit about your background before coming to SmartIP.
I’ve been in the business for 25+ years prior to coming to SmartIP. Predominately in the Telco Space, I worked for Bell Canada. I grew up throughout the whole realm of Bell Canada, I guess that’s what was known for. I started in the mail room and finished as the director. There’s not many jobs I didn’t touch throughout my career. I started with the very basic functions and ended with the very complex, of course.
Tell us a little background about SmartIP.
SmartIP, probably the best way to describe it is, why I came here. Working for a large organisation for many years, I had a couple of goals that I wanted to achieve in my second career path, which was number 1 – work for a smaller firm, giving me more flexibility and more responsibility right down to the PNL. What I loved about SmartIP is that, even though it was a smaller firm, it’s a very historic firm. The main things that it’s known for is its 35+ years. Great survivor in this space, which is a very competitive environment. A lot of change that the company has had to adapt to, including a rebranding exercise that it went through in late 2007 to become SmartIP from its former name Lexis Networks. Second of all, the important piece for me was the fact that, it was historically known as the first Nortel reseller outside of Telco to be awarded a Nortel distribution contract. It’s got some very unique milestones throughout its life and it was something that hit home with me.
How has IP telephony changed the telecommunication landscape?
From my point of view, I’ve been in the business so long that I’ve seen the birth of many technologies, IP being one of them. Essentially what IP has done for customers is similar to what the internet has done for customers, meaning that large enterprises always had an advantage in the investment and infrastructure and the complexities and the applications, that they were willing to purchase, that separated from their competitors. Now, most customers can buy enterprise-grade applications and technologies to compete with the big guys, and they can do it at a very low cost. IP has really changed the playing field, so people can be a lot more competitive. They can use a lot of these tools now to be a lot more productive. Of course, that would lead them for stronger growth models in the future.
Brief elevator pitch for SmartIP?
SmartIP, I think the best way to describe the company is, because of our size is that we’re big enough to compete, we’re small enough to move fast. Decisions are made very quickly. Single owner who created the company through acquisitions, Jose Fernandez has managed the company through speed of execution and the ability to adapt to the changing environments of business and technologies. We don’t sit and fret about anything. We see curve balls either way from manufacturers or customers on a daily basis. Our ability to alter our business plan and take that curve ball and turn it into a fastball for our success, has really been the change in the company, that’s kept it moving in the right direction, which is growing every year. Maybe not always at the rates we wanted to, but it’s been a steady growth model, since the day I came here 8 years ago.
It’s not about trying to hammer on to somebody’s calendar. If it’s important for the business, it’s important for everyone in the company. We take that as our next priority.
For us the other thing that we were known for, for people that come and visit us, and our customers see is that, it is a family organization. We have more than Jose working here. There is internal relationships that make it a pleasant place to work, and the fact that as an example we have our own gym here. We try to enhance the employees’ lives through nutritional classes and so on, to make the customer experience less stressful, more what they’re used to and what they would like it to be, which is everything sold through a casual discussion.
Tell us about a typical client.
The sweet spot for SmartIP is the fact that everyone has a different philosophy on market. The two factors at our table is that SmartIP plays what I consider the mid-to-high end of SMB. Usually multi-site clients, usually a 100+ users in that organization. The reason that’s a sweet spot for us is that, essentially it gets them to a point where they’ve gone beyond the breadth of doing everything through an outsourced model. Essentially now they’re around where they have the higher internal IT staff, voice controllers, etc. to manage their business internally every day. That’s where SmartIP is a perfect fit for them. We go with the mantra that we want the ability to be the one throat that they have to choke to get the service complete. Essentially whether we are providing strictly voice services, or data infrastructure, video contact center, or our whole variety of products. It basically allows them to do everything through one vendor.
Do you also sell the maintenance plans and the support plans that go along with that?
When we talked about one throat to choke is, usually we’ll establish a relationship with a client. We’ll sell them their initial products. We will get those products in place.
The big thing about us is the other mantra that we state to our clients and we live with our clients, is that we want to be their trusted advisor. We’re not just selling you the products, we’re here to maximize the benefits of those products.
One of the things that we push at our clients is the whole change management philosophy. That is really built on what we call the 70-20-10 rule. Talking about the early adoption of technologies, our opening about IP is that we look at technology adoption as 10% of the early adopters. Not tough to sell them. They want the product. It’s like the people that will stand at every Apple Store, the day that they launch their next cell phone. There is that 10% in our base as well. The next chunk comes to the 70%. The 70% are clients that will come at their own pace. They’re interested in technology. They’d like somebody else to try it out, but essentially they know it’s part of their future. They’re more concerned about buying something and actually getting the right ROI on that product, over the life of the product overall. The 20% are the people that, it’s dial tone to them. They’re not real technology believers. It’s just a telephone. They don’t want it to be anything more than a telephone. It’s not something that’s going to change their business model, so we know that they are clients that we still have in our base, but essentially we let them just ride the curve as they see fit.
Ken is responsible for all aspects of the customer experience at Smart IP, including system implementations, order fulfillment, customer service and technical support. Among his many attributes, Ken has a proven track record as a senior leader with extensive hands-on business management and technology experience.