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Telarus VP of UC, Shane Speakman, meets with Olen Scott, Nextiva Head of Channels.

Shane Speakman (00:03):

Hey everybody. Shane Speakman, vice President of UCaaS here at Telarus. And today we have virtually in studio a staple from the channel, a name who I’m sure you recognize, and a face who you recognize. Mr. Olen Scott, who’s newly employed as the head of channels for Nextiva Olen. Welcome back to the channel, my man.

Olen Scott (00:22):

Thanks Shane, man, I couldn’t be more excited to be back into the channel. Happy to be here. Thanks for having me on

Shane Speakman (00:27):

Today. Of course. Well, we’re really excited that you’re back in the channel and with one of our very top uc suppliers, and obviously you’ve got a very long tenured, very successful past here in the channel. And so the reason I wanted you to come and talk with us today is as you look at the progression of technology channel growth and opportunity, looking forward, why was it that you decided to come back into our channel and partner with Nextiva? And then what do you see as some of the trends moving forward?

Olen Scott (00:57):

It’s a great question. So it’s a great question cuz I think it’s a great testament to a, the uc and c cast space and, and the Nextiva in particular. Cuz I was probably in as happiest spot as I’ve been in right? In the career, which is, and I’ve, and of course I come from the channel, so I’ve been in a lot of happy places. But things were going really, really well. And I wasn’t looking right, and Mark stole the president of Nextiva reached out and and Mark was on the board of the records when I was at EarthLink and then at Windstream. So there was a professional relationship there and I was eager to hear what Mark had to say and tell, you know, he talked a bit about, look, I I stayed close to the business, so I, I knew about all the white space that was left in UCaaS, there’s still a lot of adoption to be done and there’s a lot of innovation and transformation still taking place in that, in that industry, which I love.

Olen Scott (01:48):

But Mark talked about specifically n diva’s roadmaps and the things that Nextiva was doing, and he talked about Nextiva’s, channel centricity. And and so it was, it was a, it was a really provocative story. And so I, you know, we, we ensued on a bunch of a bunch of conversations. They actually, I loved this, I loved it. Nextiva quite put me through the ringer. Actually spoke to 13 different people and had 19 different interviews, including the co-founders, including the, the cfo, and the heads of marketing, and really, you name it, the head of IT and service delivery. And, and in speaking with every single one of those individuals, 13 different people and the heads of every different functional area, the two resounding themes that came through in every single conversation were channel and customer experience. And I just thought that was fantastic. If you’re talking to somebody about a, a channel chief role and everybody up to, and including the cfo right, is talking about the importance and the relevance of the channel and that company’s go to market strategy, that’s what you want to hear, right? So that was a big part of the reason why I came back.

Shane Speakman (02:47):

I love it as, as you’ve seen over the past decade or so, our channel has become much more sophisticated. We have higher expectations, and we’re involved in much larger deals which require that extra level of sophistication, understanding of the process and technology. And so when I look at your past with OneStream and Aryaka and now delving into the uc space, it’s interesting to see what changes have occurred in voice in video collaboration tools, and then this uc and CC mix to create a CX world. So talk to me about what that particular vertical or practice really endeared you to wanting to become a leader in this space as well.

Olen Scott (03:32):

You, I, you know, you almost answered the question in the question, right? Which I love is that it’s seriously, seriously what’s, and you’re so ingrained to think that way, and that’s what I love about it. That’s what I love about the channel community because the channels, the channel is a community of, of trusted advisors that understand that our job is to help really your job, right? My job is to help you. Your job is to help your customers help their customers, right? To help your customers engage with their end users. And so it always about customer experience. It’s impossible these days if you’re gonna be wildly successful and you’re gonna be impactful, you can’t just have a conversation about telephony or communications or collaboration or about contact center. It really comes down to how do all of those things play together, right? How do all of those things play together and then integrate with customer platforms to deliver a truly meaningful and unique customer experience?

Olen Scott (04:25):

Those look, those, sometimes those just, you know, their, their words and their, you know, their, their punchlines or buzzwords, but that’ll truly be what separates the wheat from the champ in the next several years, right? Is how much are you innovating in a way that’ll let you help your customers engage better with their customers? Right? I know that’s a mouthful, but like you said, it, it’s all about customer experience, especially now, by the way, all opine, just for another second on that is as we stare down the barrel of what most prognosticators would say is an impending recession, right? You’re gonna have one or two ways to go engage with your customers. You’re either gonna be a victim of this recession and people are gonna step on you and say, I I gotta reduce my, my rate per minute or my cost per widget, right? Or you can be the one that comes to your customer and talk to ’em about how you’re gonna use things like ai, right? And bots so they can continue to take cost outta their organization, but it’s not gonna be your cost, right? They’re gonna spend more money with you to go take costs outta other parts of their organization while still engaging better with their own customer community. I dunno if that makes sense.

Shane Speakman (05:29):

Sure, absolutely. And since you brought it up, let’s talk about some of those macroeconomics in the, in the uc space. We, we’ve seen if you look back at the markets, the 52 week high for some of these uc suppliers we’ve dropped even as low as 85% market value. We’ve seen a lot of layoffs. Nextiva did some right sizing itself not too long ago. And so when you, when you look at maybe what’s causing that, or if you look at moving forward, how you see suppliers in general are forecasting or maybe using this opportunity to reinvest give me your perspective and what a partner should expect and how this impacts us.

Olen Scott (06:10):

Yeah. I mean, I addressed that without opining too much. So first of all, you look at some of the, the easily benchmarkable data from the public company standpoint. I think especially in a world of behavioral finance, sometimes the market has a, can have a tendency to over rotate on a, on a few things. But it doesn’t mean that the market outlook and that the, the a recession, you know, isn’t real. It doesn’t mean that that’s not coming. But I think it’s, it’s not so much that this space is gonna go backwards or this space is gonna stop growing. I think it means that it’s not gonna grow perhaps at the fever pitch that we anticipated, but it’s still a growth story. I mean, that should be, you know, I think that’s important to reiterate. In fact, I’ll, I’ll say about our own, cause we did have a, a small reduction and, and or let’s say a reduction in force, we’re still 500 heads bigger than we were this time last year, right?

Olen Scott (07:06):

So we’re, that’s more than 50% incremental resource, right? To help partners than we had just a year ago. So it’s still a growth story, but I think all companies have a responsibility to size for what will the rate of that growth be. And if you, and you know, if you, if you listen to what various, or if you read what various you know, think tanks or consultants or whatever will be let’s pick garden, right? Because they’re the one that’s the most well known. Even they say, Hey, despite the fact that this is coming, right? We don’t see it hitting it as much as it’s gonna hit other organizations because we see other organizations pivoting towards it as a way to weather this storm better, right? And so that’s why I use the example of, of whether it’s, whether it’s webchat or text or voice, all of those things can be made better can be made more predictable, more reliable, and at lower cost points. But things like artificial intelligence and bots, so, you know, i I slash we feel pretty strongly that we’re gonna see a lot of that in the upcoming year as companies try to position themselves to whether a, a bit of a recession.

Shane Speakman (08:11):

So when you talk about the customer experience or you talk about innovation, I have to think that this thwarts at least some of that with reduction. And, and look, what I love about the channel, what you love about the channel is the fact that our partners are invested in the long-term success with their customers, right? Having led direct organizations, I can tell you that on some level it’s churn and burn, not to all eNextivants, but what really stands out about the channel is the amount of care, attention and forward thinking a partner has, especially in regards to the technology stack for their customers. So how can, how can a partner trust when a supplier comes to them and says, we’ve had a layoff or we, we, we’ve decided to table this technology until another quarter. How, how does a partner reconcile that? And, and give us kind of your advice on, you know, what, what forward steps I think a partner needs to at, at least take.

Olen Scott (09:09):

Yeah. So I think, look, I think I’m gonna speak, I can always speak to the Nextiva lens, right? And it’s a couple week old lens at that, but I think I think you’ve gotta talk, I think, and this is what partners can do too. I think it’s reasonable to say, show me, right? Show me where you’re going. Show me your roadmap. Do demos for me, show me how this works. Let me talk to customers that are using this already. You know, when I, cuz I, when I speak for us in particular, I don’t, I don’t know that we’re necessarily tabling or slow rolling any of our innovation. What we are doing. In fact, we’ve, we’ve, we’ve spent 30 plus million in the last year completely overhauling all of our IT systems and our processes, which deliver a lot of really tangible benefits to our partner community in the forms of portals and deal registration, self-service tools.

Olen Scott (10:00):

So there’s still a lot of innovation taking place. I I, I think it’s reasonable to say, look, when it comes to our partner community, if we, if we roll something out or, and we spot a gap, right? We spot a feature gap or we spot something that we think isn’t, you know, 110% ready for prime time, we’ll pump the brakes, right? We’ll pump the brakes and we’ll go back to the drawing board and we’ll make sure we’ve got that right and hardened before we’ll ask our partner community to take it to their customers. Cuz that’s just the right thing to do, right? Our partners are, are, they’re selling on their personal brand day in and day out. And the last thing we’re ever gonna do is ask our, our partners to expose that. But I don’t necessarily know that I would characterize any of it as slow rolling the innovation, right? At this point, we had a couple of things where we had to turn back to the drawing board and go, let’s, let’s, let’s sand those edges right before we ask our partners to take us back to the street.

Shane Speakman (10:48):

I like that you’re being mindful with innovation and mindful with customer support, making sure you’re as efficient as possible. Well, I gotta tell you that’s right. If there’s one thing that I can tell you, Olan is our, our leadership, the founders of our company, when they heard that you were coming back and running Nextiva they could not have been more thrilled. Again, obviously we do a lot of business together and when you really break it down, the channel is built on trust and trusting suppliers and their support and the innovation and that the commitments that they’ve made are, are followed through. And so we’re, we’re, we’re happy to be working with another known entity. So I I sure appreciate your leadership

Olen Scott (11:27):

Man. I really appreciate it too. I gotta tell you, it’s well I’ve spent it’s, I’m gonna date myself. I’m one of like the OGs of telecom now. In fact, you can’t call it telecom unless you’re an OG of telecom. But, you know, I’ve got a 30 year industry anniversary coming up in May. And I spent actually the first 21 years of that on the, on the direct side, right? The dark side. And and when I came over to the channel in late 2014 one of my first three or four conversations was actually Adam Edwards. And even then Adam coached me up cause I asked him and I asked him a handful of the, sort of the godfathers of the space and I said, look, you know, how do I go be great at this? And one of the things he said was always be mindful of partner lifetime value.

Olen Scott (12:07):

He always talked about partner lifetime value. Encouraged me to, to work with my finance teams to understand that versus, you know, customer lifetime value. And, and I’ve probably had Adam I’ll bet I’ve had him speak to every CFO and, and speak on, you know, he spoke at a, at an SKO o the company has been a couple of years back. And every role that I’ve been in, cuz I’ve, I have valued so greatly those lessons and they’ve been a big part of the success that I’ve been able to enjoy in this space. So I’m super excited to be working with you guys again. I appreciate you having me here.

Shane Speakman (12:36):

Absolutely. Well, I think that’s it. I think that’s all the time we have. Olen, thank you. Appreciate you. I know you’re, I know you’re busy, especially ramping up the for the new year. So again, thanks for, thanks for joining us.

Olen Scott (12:49):

Pleasures mine. Thanks Shane.