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Carrier Access’ Shane Stark and the Art of Cloud ‘Farming’

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James Anderson**Editor’s Note: This is one of a series of profiles featuring Channel Partners advisory board members. Meet Stark and the rest of the board by attending the 2017 Channel Partners Conference & Expo. Register here.**

Shane Stark and Carrier Access are looking to take their clients deeper into digital transformation.

Stark, who directs vendor and channel relations for the Iowa-based company, says Carrier Access has been focusing on cloud migration, especially with its top 100 customers.

“One of our biggest initiatives right now is to be working with our top clients to make sure they are prepared to make that move,” Stark told Channel Partners.

Stark says his company would like to encourage its connectivity clients to start the conversation about cloud and managed services. Carrier Access has hired a cloud expert to support the initiative.

“A lot of people know they need to go to cloud-based stuff. They’re just not sure how to get there, and they’re also not sure how to start.”

Stark likened the process – in Iowa-fashion – to farming.

“We feel like it’s easier to sell current clients more stuff, more products, than it is to go out and acquire new. We still work on getting new clients, but we really work on managing our current base and selling them solutions that they need to help their business,” he said.

Stark will share some of his digital transformation lessons at the upcoming Channel Partners Conference and Expo, where he will participate in a panel with WTG’s Vince Bradley, Liquid Networx’s Don Douglas and Acliviti’s Ryan Young.{ad}

Stark says both the cloud and channel landscape will be affected by M&A. Carrier Access historically has been selective with cloud providers because of the volatility.

“[Cloud] was kind of the new shiny toy that everybody wanted,” he said. “And the next thing you know, they’re out of business or something happened, and we’ve got clients at risk.”

But Stark notes that the vigorous M&A activity of the last year is unlikely to continue at its current pace.

“I think the M&A will always be there, from what I would call large enterprise to picking-up-some-assets-from-smaller-companies standpoint, but I think from the ‘Big 3′ per se – AT&T, Verizon and CenturyLink – I think they’ll continue to …

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… pick up some smaller stuff here and there to help round out their products and things, but there’s not really a whole lot of consolidation left,” he said.

Stark began his career with McLeod USA in 1996. He worked in provisioning, moved into executive escalations and eventually rose to director of consumer sales.

He switched to Carrier Access in 2004. He said the company had eight employees at the time, compared to the 80-some it has now. There he has served as a director of operations and director of IT. He says he experienced a major life lesson when he chose to step down from running the company’s managed IT service practice. A guy who describes himself as having a “customer service mindset,” he told his CEO that the company needed someone with more technological breadth in the role.{ad}

“Early in your career you want to do everything. You want to make everyone happy. You want to do those things. But later I realized sometimes it’s OK to say, ‘You know what, I’m not the best person for this.’”

Stark says he fits better doing vendor relations, a job that teaches the importance of maintaining relationships in the channel.

“If I could give someone in the channel advice, it is: Talk to people, learn from people, be nice to everyone,” he said. “Because the channel – although it’s a large community, it’s a very small community – and you don’t know when you might burn a bridge with Carrier A, the leader of that channel program may be at Carrier B, who might be your biggest person later. I’ve seen it happen.”


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