Saturday, December 24, 2011

2011 Year in Review

Sometimes this business feels a lot like dog years. The past 12 months have flown by, and at the same time, it's mind-blowing have far we've come as a company since last year. Let's start back in January 2011, in our small, dreary office in Draper.

We had just learned from Comcast executives that we had been selected to be one of three national distributors. New people were hired to help us keep up with the demand that was soon to hit us like a ton of bricks. January was spent in and out of Comcast trainings - it was pretty hard to distinguish our back office from the actual Comcast support team near the end. Sandra Jeffs (new), Jessica, Daniel Smith (new) - we all trained backwards and forwards. Our IT team also put in the midnight oil to create the first (and still - only) Comcast automatic paperwork generator to help alleviate some of the support burden. It was full-steam ahead in preparation for the grand launch of the Comcast Business Class Solution Provider Program, which happened in March in Las Vegas, during the 2011 Channel Partner Show. Press releases flowed, and we created our page to "catch" the influx of partners that Comcast sent our way. By the end of the year, in just 3 quarters, Comcast went from last to first on our carrier stack - an impressive, never-before-achieved feat in our company's history.

At the beginning of the year we also brought on a new channel manager, Phil Chandler. We had known Phil a very long time during his service as an XO local channel manager for Salt Lake City. His professionalism, tact, and whit endeared him to us since the first time we met him in 2008. Oh, did I mention he knows just about every agent in the state of Utah?

Why was that important? Because, in January 2011, we ripped apart our sales organization and put it back together in a neat, organized team. We split up the country into four areas, and attached each of our four channel managers to each zone: Phil Chandler - Northwest, James Knight - Southwest, Mike Gottwalt - Northeast, Aaron Cavin - Southeast. Robert Butler received a
promotion to VP of Sales - West, over Phil and James. Lance was reassigned to focus on the east, supervising both Mike and Aaron. This effort has since help us place new agents as close as possible to their Telarus channel manager, allowing us to travel a LOT more. Spending quality face-time with our agents is one of our core objectives for 2011 and the future, and this year we made a record number of visits.

So, just when we got our footing with the weight of Comcast on our shoulders, and a complete re-vamp of our Sales organization, we discovered that our 2,000 sq foot office was woefu
lly inadequate. Through a friendly referral we discovered a great office space in Centennial Plaza Tower in Sandy, Utah. The space could be build-to-order, the location was terrific, and the landlords were in a negotiating mood. The lease was signed and in June we moved in to the new space. One of the features we had the architects design into the new floorplan was our revolutionary Sales Operations Center (SOC), patterned after a carrier NOC. Since moving in we've written software to automatically pull the status of ALL of our orders every 12 hours from every carrier. When something changes, agents are notified via email. More importantly, when something doesn't change when it's supposed to, our operations team is greeted with a massive warning signal on the overhead displays. Issues that used to slip right by us are now caught almost the hour they pop up.

The new office ushered in a wave of carrier and agent visits. Our brand new board room has been used extensively to negotiate carrier contracts, train new agents, hold company-wide conferences, and our kids have even enjoyed watching cartoons on the large LCD monitor that adorns the wall. Each room in the new
office is furnished with a magnificent photograph of beautiful Utah vistas. It's a place that we're proud to call home.

In 2011 we welcomed some brand new suppliers to our roster: Advantix (wireless mobility management) in Feb, Comcast (coax in March, Fiber in October), Integra (August), and cBeyond (December). We also saw the combination of many of our carrier partners, which kept our overall carrier count unchanged. New Edge Networks and One Communications combined into Earthlink Business. Windstream and PAETEC/Cavalier are turning in to Windstream.

With all of this flux in suppliers we realized the need to have someone on our staff who just worked with carriers on a full-time basis. Paula McKinnon, one of the all-stars of our support team, was promoted to the role of Supplier Manager. Now we always know who our local channel managers are, we know what promotions are running, we know what new product needs to be added to GeoQuote, and most importantly, we're now matching up carriers and agents in strategic relationships - taking destiny into our own hands.

In marketing, my director, Justin Chugg, has created a media empire. Ruppert Chugg is his new nickname in the office. Last year he started a little LinkedIn group called "Telecom Channel Updates" and built it up to 2,000 members. By the end of 2011 the group now boasts 13,500 members - more than PHONE+ (Channel Partners) and Telecom Association combined. In November 2011 Justin also became an associate administrator of VAR Talk, a group of over 11,000 VARs and system integrators.

In late summer we added three new employees, Teresa Tompson (office administrator), Seth Ferguson (sales support - Comcast), and Angie Hefner (sales support - Comcast). All three have been performing at an extremely high level and have greatly helped our company.

So, from the college dorm to a nice office full of new faces, Telarus has seen tons of change - all for the better. Next year you'll see more hires in operations, marketing, and sales. Jessica Martin has recently accepted a promotion to corporate trainer and will begin onboarding new agents who join our ranks in early 2012. The Telarus Partner Summit, to take place in Park City Utah, is all queued up and ready to go.

The exhibitors are committed, the venue is paid for (well, at least a HUGE deposit!), travel arrangements are being planned. It's going to be the biggest most tightly choreographed and well-planned event the Channel has ever seen. Throw in 4 different trade shows (Miami, Las Vegas, Orlando, and Austin), dozens of "road shows" in the field, and odds are you'll have a great chance to see us in person in 2012.

Lastly, something near and dear to my heart, we'll be revving up the SEO (search engine optimization) engine again. I've been quietly acquiring new domains for the past few years and will be hiring a full-time Telarus employee in Q2 to help me manage them all. This will give us ample ammunition to win business away from our competitors and to expand the channel in my new role as VP of Business Development.

Someone asked me the other day what "Telarus" means. I think the appropriate answer is "progress".

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