About 30 EarthLink Corp. employees – including some channel managers – this month lost their jobs, but the cuts stemmed from strategy changes, rather than efforts to save money, the company said.
The layoffs came because EarthLink aligned staff working with both channel and direct salespeople.
Take the company's sales engineering department as a prime example.
"We had a completely separate sales engineer organization supporting partners and customers," said Mike Toplisek, executive vice president of sales and marketing for EarthLink. "Maybe you had a channel partner with a great opportunity in Boston, and the nearest channel partner sales engineer was in Philadelphia."
That Philadelphia-based engineer would then have to travel to Boston. The issue was, "the sales engineers on the direct side and the indirect side are doing the exact same thing," Toplisek said. So, EarthLink decided to give its Boston channel partners, for instance, access to a sales engineer already in Boston.
EarthLink also aligned channel managers with local branches, which resulted in layoffs among some channel and branch managers. Two people didn't need to be doing the same job, said Toplisek.
"And, candidly, when you build the organization around the very best people, it makes the entire organization stronger," he said.
The move to eliminate redundant roles impacted the following positions across the country:
- Channel managers
- Sales engineers
- Branch managers
- A vice president (not within the channel)
Despite those cuts, there are 11 open positions within the EarthLink channel, and 170 total jobs open throughout the company, said Toplisek.
And before the layoffs took place, Toplisek said he called EarthLink's national master agents to explain the plan, and "take their temperature and see if they understood the thought process."
"Everybody thought this was executed well," Toplisek said.
Of course, bringing together people who support both channel and direct salespeople raises the specter of channel conflict.
"I really put a lot of thought into that [possibility]," said Toplisek.
The reality is, he said, channel conflict crops up more often when organizations and processes remain disparate.
"What I've done is put market owners across the country, and they're responsible for production and compensated well," he said. "When done right, this should reduce channel conflict. The risk is always the first month or two when things are in transition; we want to err on the side of making sure we take care of everybody."
With that in mind, should channel conflict occur, EarthLink is "prepared to respond," Toplisek said.