Today we’re joined by Chris Keojampa from our partner FCS in Texas. Chris has a phenomenal background and not only discusses how they scrapped and started FCS, but dives into their strengths in retail, collaboration and we go through some key struggles he’s been able to solve with retail & Microsoft.
Josh Lupresto: Welcome to the podcast. That is designed to fuel your success in selling technology solutions. I’m your host, Josh Lupresto, SVP of sales Engineering, Telarus, and this is next level Biz Tech.
Hey everybody. Welcome back. We are wrapping up a track today an important track. We’re talking about wifi, we’re talking about Microsoft Teams operator connect all kinds of cool stuff about penetrating the retail market. And today we’ve got on with us, Chris Keojampa from FCS. Chris, welcome on.
Chris Keojampa: Hey, thanks for having us, Josh. Hi.
Josh Lupresto: So, so Chris, before we get this thing started and we start talking nerdy about teams and operator connect and wifi and all that fun stuff I just wanna hear your story. I, I would love to know and love to, to have the listeners here, how did you start out in this space?
Did you, did you start out, you know, waiting tables and then wanting to get into technology? Was this your destiny from day one? Fill us in, man.
Chris Keojampa: No. Funny story. I [00:01:00] mean, I, I, I’d bartended and waited tables throughout college, right? I graduated with a bachelor’s degree in in biology and also a bachelor in business management.
Still didn’t know where I wanted to go from there, right? I just knew that I was a, a person that got along with all walks of life and just loved talking to people. And oddly enough, you know, everybody jokes around about, you know, Craigslist, right? But oddly enough, I found my first telecom job on Craigslist on a no platform.
Yeah. Yeah. It was it was pretty funny. And I had interviewed with both C Von and Cogent cogent was the better option and the actually the one that gave me an opportunity to start an industry. I think I was born at a, a very good time, or, you know, in the eighties. Just cuz I got to see the paradigm shift from, you know, what technology looked like before it is today.
You know, going from, you know, nobody really having, you know, mobile phones, you know, everybody thought pages were cool, right. To seeing how everything has evolved from. The old trends to how it’s come [00:02:00] into the digital transformation age, and as it continues evolve and evolve. And I just took it from there, right?
I, I knew I had to put my name on, you know, on the billboard and telecom and say, Hey, Chris Gil, job is here. But you know, things good things kept on coming along. Met my business partner Robert, probably about 13, 14 years ago. We the company’s been in business for 10 and a half years now. And it was a time where it’s very different from how most traditional, I’d say, trusted advisory firms start.
They start their business today because it was a little harder back then. There weren’t spiffs, there weren’t anything of that sort to help you propel your company from a financial standpoint into. Yeah. You know, to, to stability in essence.
Josh Lupresto: Yeah, you just had to grind it out in deals, right? Like, I mean, there’s no escaping
Chris Keojampa: that.
Oh yeah. No, I mean, Robert and I have a great story. I mean, when we started, I went back to waiting tables, you know, moving back in with my parents. I mean, who wants to be that guy, 32 years old, you know, where you living based in my parents, I guess. Right? So I had to forego a lot of things for two [00:03:00] years, working 60 hours a day.
Robert came from Oklahoma, had, you know, 60, $62 to his name in a black pack backpack, you know, knew that he wanted to do something different besides just, you know, working for. You know, a company so we can put our heads together. 10 10 and a half years later, here we are, and we’re still, we’re still kicking strong.
Josh Lupresto: Love it. Tell us about, tell us about your approach for anybody that’s not familiar with who FCS is. What are you, what do you do? What’s your focus? What’s your go-to market? All that good stuff.
Chris Keojampa: Yeah, so I mean our market go to market strategy has obviously evolved and changed throughout, you know, us owning FCS.
At, at first it was more about, Hey, how do we go to market and bring all the different providers to our customer and provide that better, you know, a way to better the customer experience between them and the the providers. We focus primarily just on voice and data because that’s where our core knowledge came from.
I manage all of the the relationships with the pro [00:04:00] providers today. So I have to understand at a more granular level on what the providers are offering to our customers because I have to talk knowledgeably enough to gauge the interests, get the information, and then, you know, work with the different TSDs that we work with especially Telarus.
So it’s been. You know, it is been a unique experience for our customers that never experienced someone that becomes an extension of their IT for sourcing. Now,
Josh Lupresto: I I wanna jump in a little bit here into retail. I know that’s a focus for you. I know you’ve got some, some strengths there. So I’m, I’m, I’m curious from what you see, right?
I mean, we, we, we talk to a lot of partners and, and we see retail customers. I mean, they struggle with a lot of things, most customers do, but sometimes it’s about, ah, I need help with my wifi, or I need help with this, or I need help with my collaboration. What are you seeing out there from a retail perspective?
Are you seeing the same things, different things, or any kind of trends?
Chris Keojampa: I definitely would see the trend more is [00:05:00] into how do I, you know, how do I use technology to help us market our our, our company in a better way? How do I, how do I reach my customers so I can get continued business from the.
Their existing customer base or any just, you know, transit customers that are just passing by. Right. So a lot of that, you know, comes into play with what they’re doing with, you know, SD WAN and how they do all the different platforms from sms messaging. So when we come, when we enter into to an account, we really look at it as how do we remedy some of the pain points that you’re feeling today?
And then start landing and expanding, right? Getting to understand where, what does your roadmap look like for your company in the next five years? From a marketing, from a sales, from a technology perspective, right? And then we slowly start, you know, beginning that journey with them little by little.
Josh Lupresto: And, and what do you see if you look at the retail vertical versus all the other verticals, healthcare, financial, [00:06:00] manufacturing, whatever.
Is there anything that, that retail care cares more about? Less about is, are they more cost conscious? Are they, are they less it savvy? More? What do you see in there?
Chris Keojampa: I think you hit the, I mean, I think you pretty much listed everything that they’re they’re, they’re going up against, right. The, you know, retail or, you know, hospitality industry in itself is a very volatile business.
The margins aren’t as high, so they definitely have to be very, very cost conscious. So far partner like us that’s gonna come in and, you know, ensure that they get the best price and cost Right. Is definitely a, you know, a load off off their mind and also gives them peace of mind that, you know, they’re getting the best solution out there.
I would definitely say Non-tech savvy is something that’s that they’re definitely having to deal with. Unless you’re a large organization instead of a franchisee, right? You’re gonna have corporate IT that’s gonna help mandate and help you navigate through some of the issues that they’re they’re experiencing today from a technology standpoint.
But if they don’t, then obviously we bring in some type of MSP to help facilitate those it [00:07:00] needs. But also some of the professional service though need being having to It be deployed at all those remote locations. But definitely those two non-tech savvy definitely would say that cost cost savings is probably one of the biggest things they’re looking for.
But one of the pain points that we remedy for them as well is that they need to have some type of centralized solution. Whether it be us as being the main point of contact to help them, you know, communicate with the service providers, help them project manage all the different locations that we have.
And this is obviously a side note, but and that’s where Robert and I, five years ago started thinking about how could we separate ourselves from. Every other trusted advisory firm, brokers, whatever you want to call us today is how do we separate ourselves when we go into an opportunity that will give value added tools back to our customers to help them manage their day-to-day more?
And that’s where we came up with the idea of the client enabling portal. The great thing about what we do is that we don’t charge for any of our services in over 10 and a half years. We’ve never sent an invoice or a bill to our customer, or we’ve [00:08:00] ever collected any money from our customers. So it’s really a, you know, a win-win situation.
It’s all about, Hey, will you give us the Pepsi challenge? So, Yeah,
Josh Lupresto: the Pepsi Challenge. I just watched that show. Pepsi, where’s my jet? That’s an awesome one on Netflix. Oh,
Chris Keojampa: I definitely gotta watch it now. Oh yeah. Yeah.
Josh Lupresto: It’s somebody gamifying the buy these Pepsi things, get these points and you can, you can get all these things.
And there was some in there. Yes. What, what
Chris Keojampa: was the big thing? Was it, was it a plane? Was it a jet?
Josh Lupresto: It was a legitimate jet. And it was a, it was a, I won’t spoil it, but it was worth watching. It was a riot. Cause I remember that growing up.
Chris Keojampa: Maybe one day I’ll try I’ll get the, get a chance to try the Pepsi Clear again.
Josh Lupresto: Yeah. Pepsi Clear. I love Pepsi. Clear. That died too quickly. Okay, so, so let’s talk about, you know, you, you brought up a good point, I think in the beginning that I wanna get back to, and it is kind of the central topic of this, of, of collaboration and direct routing and operator connect.
And I think you said something key that, that was, you know, we’re, we’re helping them with pain points, but. We’re [00:09:00] also helping them use some of these centralized tools. Some of these collaboration, we’re helping them think about things that they weren’t asking for. And I think that’s where, you know, sometimes this teams and, and the, the collaboration conversation comes in.
It’s the probably you leading the conversation of, have you thought of this? Other people are doing it like this. Do you find that, does retail need that same guidance?
Chris Keojampa: They absolutely do. You know, retail in itself is a different animal. When you talk about, instead of talking about healthcare or, you know, you talk about, you know, the financial vertical, right?
They typically have everything put together from a corporate standpoint when it comes to hospitality and retail, it’s, it’s. Majority of the ones that I’ve talked to, like their, their whole entire back office and from a technology standpoint is in disarray. So when we come in, we ask about, you know, how are you inventorying everything?
Who manages all of your IT assets throughout your organization? Does tech does it? Coordinate with accounts payable. [00:10:00] Right. Because they do have to align. But you know, going back to what you’re saying about the, you know, about the suggestions, we absolutely do that all day, every day. Because I mean, when we get to know them, we roadmap, right?
Those are the things that we differentiate ourselves from our from our competitors. Cuz it’s not about, Hey, I’m just gonna sell you what? You need, you need today. Yeah. I need to plant the seed of where technology is going today, where it’s gonna be at tomorrow, and where you need to be. So you’re not left in the medieval times.
Right. So going to teams in itself, you know, as much as a lot of people hate Microsoft one way or another, right? It’s a necessary evil. At the end of the day. Everybody’s using it, whether you like it or not. Teams has been such a, I’d say, It is a tool that we hate to use, but we all have to use. Yeah.
You know, sadly enough to say it that way. But company isn’t you know, Bucky’s being one of our customers. They, you know, really gravitated towards how do we communicate, how do we build teams [00:11:00] within our organization? How do we collaborate better? You know, one of the big things for them was how do we do that without, you know, a Microsoft guru or a Microsoft, you know, expert within our team.
And that’s essentially what you bring in at C S P, but also look at, you know, more of operator connect, then doing something with, you know direct routing. Right? Though with, with Microsoft operator connect. There’s a lot of value to that for retail customers because it’s easier for them to manage as a user profile as opposed to direct direct routing because it requires more it technical savvy people within the organization to manage the day-to-day.
So from a retail standpoint, operator connect definitely is the better option. It just lacks a lot of the more intricate. I guess functionalities and applications that direct routing would offer, but it also, you also get the cost savings with that as well.
Josh Lupresto: And do you see though, I mean, if we look at kind of the cost [00:12:00] modeling maybe, or the, the, so, so, so we know in one hand, right, direct routing, lots of features.
It has its cost associated operator connect. A little more simplified, but maybe more limited features. If you start looking at, okay, moving past the features and some of, kind of the costing models about doing one of these, or trying to do it yourself, trying to figure that out. The support responsibilities.
Do you feel like customers understand any of these differences inherently, or are you having to educate, this is what this one does, this is what this one does, here’s the things to avoid. What’s that conversation like? Yeah, I mean, we,
Chris Keojampa: we typically try to understand, you know, more of the, the day-to-day functions of the, the voice.
How do, how does everyone within the organization interact with each other? Right? And what type of applications are they trying to integrate or collaborate with on the team side? If it’s not a whole lot right then, I mean, it’s pretty simple to say, you know, operator correct is definitely the best way you do it.
You kind of just, you know, set it and forget it right. Kind of deal. But if it’s something where you have [00:13:00] multiple layers and layers of applications that need to, you know, you need to collaborate with or integrate with, then that’s something that’s gonna be a more, I guess, a more drawn out conversation.
There’s, I mean, having layers and layers, there might be third party applications that you have to integrate with. You know, more tech savvy folks within the organization that have to be there, that runs it on a day-to-day, as opposed to, Hey, I have someone that’s, you know, a managed service provider that, you know, I have a block of, you know, 15 hours, you know a week to allocate to this.
It’s, it’s a full-time job. So, I mean, that’s essentially how we start pushing ’em one way or the other.
Josh Lupresto: So, all right, so let’s let’s go down the journey of a deal here for a second. So walk us through maybe an example and, and, and here’s what I always like to talk about here. I think the greatest thing that, that shows all of our value here is that deals don’t generally finish the way that they start.
They start and it was maybe like, Hey, I need this just one thing. I’m, I, I know what I need. I just need that. And, and it tends to go all [00:14:00] kinds of different places once we start to ask the questions like you mentioned. So, so walk us through one that you went through. You know, what, what, what did it start out as and then what did it end as?
Chris Keojampa: You know, honestly, majority of our opportunities always start with some type of voice and data. You know, I understand that people talk about it’s a race of zero. It’s, you know, it’s a commoditized service. Nobody wants to sell it, but at the end of the day, Everybody needs voicing data. Not everybody needs security.
Not everybody needs, you know, a hybrid cloud. Not everybody needs a physical dr. So that’s essentially how we get into just about every account. But, you know, that’s where it starts. Definitely does not determine where it ends. You know, one of our customers prime one of our first big customers they, you know, they gave us a shot, which was awesome because now they’re one of our largest customers still today.
Not a huge company in itself, but you know, the, the technology they purchased from us, it, you know, it’s, it’s [00:15:00] far beyond a company that’s of 5,000 employees and more, which is nice. But it started off just a voice. They just purchased about two years ago at that time. And Avaya phone system and chassis and then, you know, phones to hand every one of the locations.
That particular model, even though it was the, the highest at that time, lacked some of the futures they were needing from. Other you know, chassis and we were able to bring in a UCAS provider that could accommodate every one of those things that they, you know, they needed. Done. Oddly enough, it’s, you know, that this kind of goes into another story on another tangent, but that’s the reason why a lot of people are looking at more of a operational expend you know, type of strategy as opposed to CapEx, because when he went back to sell, That via phone system that was only two years old, it was still the newest in the market that we’re selling.
He was only able to get $15,000. And he paid and he paid how much for it? Two years ago? $200,000.
Josh Lupresto: Woo. That’s yeah. I’m not, I mean, I shouldn’t say this [00:16:00] as an engineer. I’m not, math wasn’t my strongest suite. But that sounds like he lost a lot of money.
Chris Keojampa: Yeah. Let, let’s just say that’s not a, that’s not a stock you wanna invest in.
Yeah. So yeah, so it started off that way and then slowly we started getting more into into, onto the connectivity side. The connectivity, you know, you know, went from, you know, layer three, then started going more into p l s, then we switched ’em over from MPLS into you know, SD WAN with a civil peak, right?
And then we started, you know, looking at more of what does your security look like today? I know you have network administrators, admin, security officer within your organization that helps you manage that, right? But how much hands-on do you wanna be or. How much hands-off do you want to be in? We were able to do, reduce them to a number of different security companies that helped accommodate that.
At that time, they were purely just a, on a physical DR type of organization. I believe it was Flex Central or Tier. Yes, flex Central. They had that and [00:17:00] Digital Realty, but we started helping them migrate and form more of a hybrid cloud model. And now at this time, they’re slowly shifting into a full cloud type of a disaster recovery plan now.
But I mean, it’s, it’s just one of those things that, you know, if you know your customers, if you know their needs, you know what to suggest them. You know where they’re trying to go in the technology space today. So it’s easy to recommend what, you know, what they need.
Josh Lupresto: I love it. Stay with it. It grows.
You learn the business and everything comes out of it, right? If you, sometimes, if you help these guys through the hardest thing, you know, and maybe what they think is the hardest thing is not what you think is the hardest thing, but if you can help them through that, you’re the go-to for, for everything, right?
I think that’s a great example. Yeah,
Chris Keojampa: and it’s, and like I said, I mean, if you know your customers, you’re gonna know the questions to ask. We have over 300 customers today with over 2000 accounts, you know, with those 300 customers. And at the end of the day, I know every [00:18:00] one of my customers, I, I’ve met with them physically.
I have broken bread with them. I’ve had happy hour with them. I’ve had events with them. So we, we, we tend to make sure that we get to know our customers, not on just a business level, but a personal level. Because we really get to understand how they think, how di they digest information, what they’re looking for, so we can recommend the the, the right technology for them to, to better their business.
Josh Lupresto: Love it. Final couple questions here. Let’s talk about coaching for other partners. So what we hear about a lot of partners that are listening to this podcast is this has been helpful for me to, to pivot from selling this technology to now getting a more of a comfort level in how to sell, you know, this technology.
Maybe I came from cloud to ucas or UCAS to security, or whatever it might be. If a partner’s listening to this and, and you know, they wanna jump more into what we’re talking about, What’s the advice that you give them to, to, to work with either their existing prospects or new prospects? Is there a certain subset of questions that you found are successful, or what’s your coaching there?
Chris Keojampa: I would definitely [00:19:00] say knowledge, knowledge is key in everything that we do every day. I utilize the resources that we have from the TSDs to our providers. You know you know, some of the biggest value I’ve gotten as I’ve evolved as, you know, not just an owner, but also a salesperson, is, you know, talking to the people that have sold it before.
Asking them there, like, I mean, I, I know that there’s no such, I mean, there, there are stupid questions out there, right? But if you don’t know something right, and it’s a one-on-one, I don’t think it’s a stupid question because you know what’s gonna happen if I don’t, the answer’s always gonna be no. Right?
So I’m gonna ask the questions. If I’m talking to someone that’s in security, and let’s say I’m. Let’s say I’m about 20% knowledge knowledge base of the security space. Well, I’m gonna, one, I’m gonna ask a lot of questions, but at the end of that meeting, I’m gonna ask that person, so I know from my own edification and how I need to relay this message back to my sales team, right?
What are the top five questions to gauge interest in the security space, in the [00:20:00] UCA space, in the CCA space, whatever technology you’re trying to sell, because if you can ask those five questions, right? To a customer. One, you’ll uncover something that can lead to something else or something that will be intertwined with another technology set that you may have a lot of knowledge of that you can bring it back full circle when you say, Hey, Mr.
Customer, I’d love to have a meeting with you about this, but I’d also like to invite a, b, C provider, the SE, that can talk more granular about, you know, your security. And where, what you need to do to fix it and what are their suggestions and how they can remedy that for you. So those are my approaches on, on how I need to sell more, educate my people and just be a better sales org organization from a knowledge standpoint.
Josh Lupresto: love it. Okay. Final thoughts here. Let’s look out to the future. Let’s think about, you know, [00:21:00] obviously we’ve seen a lot of, I know, right? I love these sound effects. They’re great. Throws people way off. Think about the evolution in these product sets. Think about where we’ve come from, geez, from from pots lines to T 1s and PRIs to full UCAS collab teams.
Microsoft, you know, who’d thought that we’d been working this close with Microsoft product that’s in our channel. So, so if you think about that and you think about how quickly this is modernizing, if I look out 12 plus months, in Chris’s opinion, what’s the next product set to watch out for? What, what else what else should we be thinking about out there?
Chris Keojampa: And I will tell you the one thing that I’ve gotten more and more, and it’s not just in the retail space you know, or hospitality, I mean, I would say the next hot thing that’s coming out or has been out, but people are paying more attention to is the the integration of a text messaging or s m s platform.
That is, it is so crucial in today’s world because at the end of the day, if I don’t have my laptop [00:22:00] right, it’s hard for me to work because I’m very, I’m, I’m organized chaos, but it makes sense to me. Right? But my laptop is like my golden is like my holy grail when it comes to working. I need it to work as effectively as possible.
Now, if I don’t have it, that’s fine. I just, I’ll just work through my cell phone, right? But my cell phone is not just a work media, right? It’s everything else. Media too, because I have all my apps and everything I need to function as a business which I can’t do on, you know, on my phone. But at the end of the day, everybody prefers, whether you’re a consumer, whether it’s in business, you’re looking to your phone for that text message to say, Hey, my your car is ready.
Hey, Mr. Keojampa, your your car is, you know, at the front from valet. Hey, Mr. Keojampa can, you can confirm your appointment and it’s not emails these days that people are focusing on. It’s really s m s messaging and it’s going through all the different instead of screen pops on your laptop. Now, that’s where it’s going on your mobile device.
Because we spend 80%, I [00:23:00] would save our life on our mobile devices, unfortunately.
Josh Lupresto: I love it. It’s such a great point too. And then it’ll all be all the measurements and all the realtime stuff on, you know, before where we didn’t have realtime QA qm. Then we get tonality and we get sentiment and it’s just gonna tell us what we need to do at some point.
And it’s gonna respond to the texts for us. Right. Maybe do this in a year and that’s the next thing we’re looking out to.
Chris Keojampa: Yeah, I mean, just think about when you go to a restaurant, you know, when you, when if you didn’t make a. You know was it a reservation on open table where you didn’t call in and you know, you go in, you leave your name, right?
They, they just ask for your cell phone number. They’ll say, Hey, we’ll text you whenever your table’s ready. And they’ll send you a message saying, Hey, we we have you down for a group of four at for, you know, at starting time at, you know, let’s say eight o’clock your anticipated time is proceeding is eight 30.
It’s all message based these days. And so that’s where I think. That’s gonna be the next big trend is integrating that type of SMS platform within their teams or UCASS or [00:24:00] c a s environment. Yeah, couldn’t agree more.
Josh Lupresto: We just survived a few days in Disney and with, with texting and mobile ordering we were significantly more effective with a busy schedule an expensive genie plus pass and two days to cram it all in with the three kids to keep them happy.
And yeah, I’m with you. We. So much more more beneficial with the, with, with the way they’ve done it now.
Chris Keojampa: Yeah, definitely
Josh Lupresto: love it. All right, my friend Chris, that brings us to the end. I really appreciate you coming on and doing this with me, man.
Chris Keojampa: Yeah, no, it’s been great. Now it’s Anything that can help anybody out.
But you know, I definitely don’t like to listen to myself. But you know, it was good listening to you.
Josh Lupresto: I love it. All right, man, that that wraps us up. Appreciate it, Chris.