by Jay Bradley
Jay Bradley has served as the President of Telecom Services for Master Agency Intelisys Communications since January 2007, and has been with Intelisys since October of 2002. Jay has been in the telecommunications and related industries since joining MCI in June of 1985. You can reach him at: email@example.com or at 707-238-8107.
Intelisys will earn almost $36 million in gross commissions in 2011 on total net billed customer revenue approaching $200 million annually. Why would a small, privately held company like Intelisys be willing to disclose such tightly held information in the first sentence of a new blog? We believe that we have only scratched the surface of the enormous opportunity before us, and we want the best and brightest in the industry to continue to join us in the pursuit of much bigger targets – targets that many in the channel never believed possible. We do.
The math is not so crazy, and without good analytics readily available in terms of channel share and opportunity let us propose the following: Conservatively we believe the US addressable market share for the telecom services channel of which we are all part is $100 billion annually, or $8.3 billion in monthly spend. This excludes most of the Fortune 1000 on the high end, and the SOHO/consumer segment on the low end. Addressable is defined as traditional SMB voice and data networks (and the IP services those are morphing into today) access services, corporate liable wireless, managed services, audit and fee-based consulting, and everything making up cloud that is just getting underway.
If you can agree for a moment with these basic assumptions, that means by the end of 2011, Intelisys Sales Partners (we have zero direct sales) will own about .2% of the addressable net billed market share in the channel, or roughly $16.6 million of the $8.3 billion in monthly end user spend on telecom services. That leaves us 99.8% still to go after, and we think that’s a huge opportunity.
Achieving Size and Scale
Intelisys is on a mission to become the first $100 million distributor in the channel. As I discussed with Khali Henderson, Group Editor for Phone+ (now Channel Partners) in the March 2008 magazine, we want to raise the ocean for all the boats as our collective small share of the revenue continues to grow. Most of our companies started as small one or two-person shops, creating a highly fragmented marketplace that still exists today. To change that we will need a few break-out years of telling our stories on a national scope as communications infrastructure becomes more and more important to competitiveness. Just as a company like CDW launched as Computer Discount Warehouse in 1984 and grew into a multi billion dollar enterprise in less than 20 years, there is an opportunity for a telecom master distributor to do the same and that will in turn raise the ocean for the entire channel.
Going back to the numbers again, imagine how the channel might change if we could collectively grow our share by as little as 1% over the next two or three years, or even five years. That’s $83 million in monthly net billed revenue, or five times what Intelisys does today. Reality tells us that that appears to be a very steep climb, but logic reminds us that it is just 1% of what is available, and we are thoroughly inspired by the possibilities.
In March of this year, Intelisys announced that one of our sales partners, NetSource Group out of Portland, OR, was the first to achieve Platinum status in our Club TPC Incentive Program by exceeding $1 million in monthly net billings. Not only were we thrilled for Tricia Ward and Brian Newman, the owners of NetSource, but we were excited to hear that NetSource was already plotting their next moves to achieve Double Platinum status and they were moving ahead to the next goal. After proudly announcing this achievement in March, the most common reaction I observed was a most wonderful sense of disbelief. It got some folks rethinking what really is possible.
Key Growth Levers
A quick review of the National Broadband Plan released by the FCC in 2010 is in itself enough to make your head spin when considering the forces driving our industry. In that plan the #1 goal is to ensure affordable internet access at 100 MB down and 50 MB up for 100 million US households by the year 2020. The excitement here for the channel is not the consumer opportunity for household internet services, but the services the SMB market will require to fill these pipes with new voice, data, and who knows what other applications – think “cloud” here and effectively reconsider everything as a service.
Another huge growth driver for the channel which plays right into the strength of our value propositions’ as “independent” telecom advisors, consultants and agents – telecom carriers have reduced their payrolls by over 500,000 employees in the last few years in order to remain competitive. The need for a carrier-neutral advisor that can assist with everything from carrier and service selection to provisioning and ongoing support has never been stronger.
To build on that even further, most of the strong carriers in the channel today do not want to build large and expensive direct sales forces to serve the SMB market. Instead, they very much want a robust third party channel, but they need to be able to count on those partners to perform in order to meet their targets. Imagine again if a dozen or two dozen carriers reduced their sales forces down to providing for their marquee enterprise accounts, and relied on the channel to cover the rest of the business market. They will, and some have already begun to do so when they were convinced they could count on the channel to perform.
Rethinking “The Competition”
One of the biggest challenges in capturing more share for our channel is that we tend to think of our competitors as a very narrow slice of like companies. We tend focus the vast majority of our energies on a small circle of known players, when the real answers to significant growth can only be found by looking outside these circles.
The truth is our toughest competition in the marketplace is not other agents, master agents or VARs, it is a carrier’s direct sales force and the lack of awareness and understanding of the independent telecom sales channel. Everyone understands what an insurance broker does, but after explaining your business to Uncle Leo at Thanksgiving dinner for the 13th time in a row – it never seems to sink in does it? And further complicating the matter is that most of our businesses have become much more than simple brokerage businesses.
As we look out through 2011 and beyond, Intelisys is completely rethinking how we can engage our sales partners in new markets and help them to grow their businesses in ways they likely have never considered. Through our Club TPC initiatives of mentoring and business acumen development, the new Partner Investment Program, which offers capital to our sales partners to help them grow, and through an entire lineup of sales best practices delivered through our sales team, Intelisys is inspiring our sales partners to rethink their own barriers to growth.
Setting the Record Straight
Intelisys Sales Partners today are the top performing agents for many of the largest and highest profile carriers that compete in the channel, expressed in terms of base of business and new sales annually. In 2010 Intelisys was #1 in new sales with Paetec, XO, Global Crossing, Level 3, AboveNet, Sprint wireline, and #1 with Qwest (now CenturyLink) in two of their three regions. This is a testament not only to the performance culture at Intelisys, but to the skills, professionalism, and ambition of our sales partners. They are simply the absolute best partner community in the industry, and they will not be satisfied until they are #1 with every provider with which we do business.
Qwest (now CenturyLink) is the supplier partner we are most often asked about based on their high visibility and tenure in the channel, and yes we are CenturyLink’s largest business partner and we have been for 10 years. Qwest (now CenturyLink) is also Intelisys’ largest supplier partner and while we are not able to disclose the specific revenue numbers, we can tell you that the CenturyLink/Intelisys partnership has been the most successful partnership in the history of the telecom channel – and we are just as bullish on the future. As the QBPP team moves into a new era based on their acquisition by CenturyLink, we believe they will emerge as an even stronger player in the channel and we welcome anyone interested in representing Qwest/CenturyLink to join us. As CenturyLink’s first and largest Premier Elite Business Partner we have much to offer and we are eager to grow our business with Qwest/CenturyLink.
While on the topic of setting the record straight, and as the leader in the Telecom Master Agency category, we know we are a target and we accept that reality. Over the years a few in the channel have been jumping up and down and shouting at the rain that Intelisys is arrogant and somehow a bully – nothing could be further from the truth. Our entire business model is built around top performing sales partners and we treat them with the utmost respect and admiration that they have earned. In fact I have never worked with a group of owners, leaders and staff who bring more humility and gratitude to in doing business, and it is a source of great pride at Intelisys.
What to Remember, What to Do?
Collectively, we have a unique and historic opportunity to change an industry and make it better, and we want everyone who is interested in this outcome to be a part of it. My roots in this industry began at MCI in the mid 80’s, and we did change an industry for the better. Now, 25 years later I am overwhelmingly grateful to have another opportunity to lead a company with the foresight, determination, and community to change it again.
Our mission is nothing short of a crusade – to enable Top Producing Partners to grow faster, to live better, and to change the landscape of our industry. Ten years from now, even five years from now when the next big carrier play comes to market, we don’t want them to even consider building a direct sales force for the SMB market; we want them to rely on the strength of the channel and to know we will perform.
If you want to be a part or it please let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org, or give me a call at 707-238-8107.
And thank you for taking the time to read my initial blog on our new website. After almost 26 years in this industry I have never been more passionate about the opportunity we have before us. My colleagues at Intelisys share my enthusiasm. And on this topic we speak with one voice. We welcome you to join us! Let’s make history together…