Building the Next Generation Communications Company
By: Jim Geiger, Cbeyond Communications
How do you build a business that is a part of reshaping an industry? Many CEO’s have been challenged by this question. But lately those in the technology sector have been facing this question to an even greater extent. I believe that the answer requires a laser focus on your market, true belief in your mission and technology innovation.
When we founded Cbeyond in late 1999, we knew our target market.
They employ more than 50 percent of the American workforce and are the growth engine of our economy. They are incredibly hardworking, passionate about what they do, and desperate for communications tools that can help them level the playing field between themselves and their Goliath counterparts. They are a large and underserved market that is generally ignored by traditional telecom service providers. They are America ‘s small businesses, an entrepreneurial class of customer with typically 4 to 100 employees.
The arrival of new technologies and the lack of simple choices brought confusion and frustration to this market segment. This opportunity propelled Cbeyond Communications, in partnership with Cisco Systems, to develop the next generation telephone network, our innovative technology. In early 2001, Cbeyond and Cisco launched the world’s first 100% VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) local phone network designed specifically for serving small business customers. Based on this next generation network, we created a simple, integrated package of high quality local and long distance telephone services, high-speed, T-1 Internet access and Internet-based applications. We currently provide service to more than 11,000 customers in Atlanta , Dallas-Fort Worth, Denver and Houston .
We knew what problem we were trying to solve.
To deliver “big business” communications services to small businesses at prices they can afford and that we can deliver profitably. To reach our mission, we designed our entire organization with the small business customer (and the entrepreneurs that run them) in mind. From our people and processes to our network and systems, every component of Cbeyond is laser focused on the small business community. I believe that these “building blocks” can be leveraged by any CEO to form the foundation of a strong and growing business.
Playing a role in the communities that you serve is an excellent way to drive brand awareness, market share and, most importantly, customer and employee loyalty. Partnering with community leaders like Techbridge, an Atlanta-based nonprofit organization that puts technology know-how in the hands of non-profits, has provided a great opportunity for our employees to pass their experiences and energy to others in the community. A commitment to the communities you serve will also require a dedication to customer service that differentiates you in your industry.
When developing your products you have to keep one goal in mind. Keep it simple. We provide our customers with an integrated package of local, long distance and high-speed, T-1 Internet access for typically what they were paying for voice services alone. All from one provider and on one bill. By “broadband-enabling” these businesses, they will, for the first time, have the technology in place to access a wide variety of applications that can dramatically improve their productivity and facilitate their growth.
People Selling to People:
Purchasing technology products and services can be a daunting task for any organization but especially for a small business. Help your customers make sense of their options as part of your value proposition. You will find that it is highly appreciated. For Cbeyond, selling face-to-face and using a highly consultative sales process has created loyal customers and an abundance of referrals. In fact, nearly one third of our new sales come from referrals.
Avoid developing technology for technology’s sake. I believe that successful companies leverage technology innovation to solve the business needs of their customers and to increase the efficiency of their own infrastructure. The efficiencies provided by IP technology, have made it possible for Cbeyond to provide small business customers affordable packages of services that legacy telecom providers traditionally offered to big business at higher prices.
Process and Automation
Being metric-focused, process-driven and having highly scalable back-office systems can make the difference between good companies and great companies. You will see dramatic increases in customer loyalty and operational efficiencies by having processes and systems that allow you to “do what you said you would do.” At Cbeyond, flow-through provisioning has greatly reduced manual operations and overhead requirements. With one network for voice and data and one point of contact, we have made the installation process as smooth and fast as possible – we have customers up and running in usually less than 30 calendar days from contract signing. Once installed, we put the control in our customers’ hands with online control of service features. We give customers access to the same information we have. We empower them with greater control and faster access to their accounts so that they can make changes to their service when they want and how they want.
The CEO Council is populated with many Cbeyond customers and partners. We thank you for your patronage and look forward to growing all of our businesses. For Cbeyond, the small business market started out as a large, untapped opportunity. Now, it has become our cause. Our focus, processes, automation and most importantly our people are completely entrenched in the small business community. I would encourage anyone that serves small businesses to keep talking to your customers and keep working to bring them products and services that will help level the playing field between them and their larger competitors. They will reward you with fierce loyalty and improved productivity that will beneift all of us in the long run.