Cbeyond, a voice and broadband Internet provider for small businesses, uses VoIP and a 100 percent Cisco (News - Alert) network to deliver affordable, integrated packages so even small businesses can have the communication tools big businesses enjoy.
Earlier this year, the company announced it made the 2008 Technology Fast 500, Deloitte’s ranking of the 500 fastest growing technology, media, telecommunications and life sciences companies in North America.
The Atlanta-based provider also posted third-quarter revenues of $90.2 million - a 25 percent increase over the previous quarter.
I took the time recently to speak with Brad Linden, Vice President and General Manager of the Indirect Channel at Cbeyond about the company and his thoughts on the market.
Are you generally optimistic, pessimistic or realistic?
I’m a combination of a realist and an optimist. I’m definitely optimistic about Cbeyond (News - Alert) and its ability to continue to have positive results due to the company’s financial stability and operations capability, even in this uncertain economic climate.
How surprised are you at the global financial situation?
I’m surprised by the severity of the situation. When the Dow Jones hit 14,000 I figured it would pull back some, but I had no idea of the extent of the problems in the credit markets and did not expect it to be as bad as it is.
How is your company changing the way it does business as a result?
Cbeyond has increased its focus on watching costs and managing expenses across the board. That being said, the company is in a great position with no debt and with money in the bank.
How have customers reacted to the slowing global markets?
The majority of our partners are equipment providers. With a cutback in purchasing equipment our partners are now increasingly focusing on selling services to make up for the lost equipment revenues. A few of our larger partners have actually had record quarters because they are focused on consolidation in distressed companies and how they can help with their infrastructure and reduce costs.
Do you see this time as an opportunity or a rough spot to get through quickly?
It’s a rough spot for sure, but also an opportunity in some areas. We have to be creative and proactive with our partners to help their small businesses get through the rough spot and keep their business whole. It’s going to be a difficult few months for sure. I’m hopeful that the second-half of 2009 will have fewer conversations about the troubled economy.
What will companies need to do to survive this downturn?|
First off companies need to really focus on managing their costs. I would also look at other potential revenue streams. And that’s where Cbeyond comes in by providing managed services and other applications. If I were running a small business predicated on equipment, I would be seeking out a lot of alternative revenue streams to off-set that decline. Some companies should also examine outsourcing certain functions.
How do your company’s products help customers in a slow market?
As a true managed services provider, Cbeyond can cut costs on the infrastructure side as well as manpower costs. By delivering services across our network, Cbeyond allows companies to realize significant savings. Additionally, our services help small businesses increase their efficiencies and better compete with their larger competitors.
What do you feel is the strongest segment of the communications space? Technology?
The managed services segment, especially when you compare it to the traditional T1, local and long distance segments. There are additional economies of scale when you build-in other applications and services for the benefit of small businesses.
Which would you rather be president of and why? Google, Yahoo, Microsoft (News - Alert), Cisco, the United States.
I don’t think I’d want to be the President of the United States of America right now. From a company perspective, I think Cisco is in a good place and that would be an interesting opportunity. The thirst for bandwidth is only going to increase with more online content and video so I think their upside and dominance is strong. That would be a fun job for the next five years.
What does an Obama administration need to do to help communications and technology become more pervasive?
There are a lot of discussions surrounding bandwidth neutrality, and it’s a topic I think is very important. I would like to see the Obama administration help ensure bandwidth remains neutral.
Will this slowdown present an opportunity to reinvest in your company/market? If so, where will you invest?
It’s an opportunity to look at different ways to grow our business. We’re very strategically looking at market rollouts and how we want to invest in them. We’re also looking at ways to cost-effectively open new markets to gain significant penetration. Also, advancing our managed services to improve our footing is an important component.
If Nokia (News - Alert), RIM, Google and Apple devices are stranded together on an island, who survives and why?
Google and Apple are such financially strong entities they would find a way to survive. As a user and a fan of BlackBerry (News - Alert) I would certainly want it to survive as well.
I understand you are exhibiting at ITEXPO which takes place Feb 2-4 2009 in Miami. What will you be showing there?
This year, Cbeyond will be exhibiting at booth 827, which features an interactive "Test your technology IQ" quiz, collateral on all of our products and services, and plenty of information on our award-winning channel partner program. Several Cbeyond representatives will also be on-hand to discuss everything from our partner program to the most technical questions of our booth guests. Cbeyond will also be participating in the ITEXPO Roundtable discussion, and speaking at several of Ingate's focused seminars as a gold sponsor and guest.
What sorts of companies/people should come to your exhibit?
Anyone selling to the small business space - be that equipment, services or moving to managed services. I’m also interested in speaking with anyone who is looking to expand their business through the use of communications services.
Why should customers choose your company’s solutions – and how do they justify the expense to management?
If I were buying services and wanted a long-term relationship with my provider I would first want to know the full range of services they can offer my company. Second, I would want to know about their operational capability. And third, I would want to see their balance sheet, historically telecom companies struggle operationally as they struggle financially and a lot of companies are making significant cutbacks right now. Cbeyond is very strong in all three areas.
I am a purchasing decision-maker, why do I need to speak with you before I buy?
Cbeyond offers all the services your small business will need – we pride ourselves on being the last communications provider a small business will ever need. We are in a good financial position and unlike other providers we’re not cutting our operational costs which could ultimately impact their service.
What is your favorite part of your job?
I enjoy helping and coaching my channel management team to improve and seeing the impact they have. I enjoy seeing people grow, expand and succeed in their careers. I also get great satisfaction seeing small business owners grow their companies and find success.
What do you look forward to in the future and why?
On a personal level, I’m looking forward to and hoping our new president will be very successful early on and shorten the economic downturn – and that will certainly translate into positives for Cbeyond as well. I’m looking forward to when there will be more optimism around the economy from both the individual consumer and the business world.
Rich Tehrani is President and Group Editor-in-Chief of TMC. In addition, he is the Chairman of the world�s best-attended communications conference, INTERNET TELEPHONY Conference & EXPO (ITEXPO). He is also the author of his own communications and technology blog.
Edited by Stefania Viscusi