New Edge Networks, a business communications unit of EarthLink Inc. (ELNK), announced Wednesday that channel veteran J.R. Cook has joined the company as managing director for the agent channel, a new position created to lead the formation of a dedicated agent channel.
Cook joins New Edge Networks from TelePacific Communications where most recently he was vice president of premier accounts. Previously, he was a director in the Telepartner Channel. Before TelePacific, Cook built the agent channel for Mpower Communications, which was acquired by TelePacific in 2006.
Cook joins fellow TelePacific alum Cardi Prinzi, who was tapped as president of New Edge Networks in mid-June. The past-life connections don’t end there; Cook worked for Earthlink Chairman and CEO Rolla Huff, when he was the CEO of Mpower prior to its sale.
Brett Theiss, who was named director of channel programs in March 2008 while also keeping his post as director of product management and training, will return to his original job. Theiss had filled the post vacated by Bruce Barnes in December 2007.
The return to a single-focused channel chief was a strategic decision on the part of Huff and Earthlink COO Joe Wetzel, who had been acting president of New Edge prior to Prinzi taking the helm. Cook said the pair decided that New Edge had growth potential and that much of that would be derived from the channel.
“When you are selling a nationwide product across a footprint like ours, it lends itself to the agent channel. You aren’t going to cold call a 50-location opportunity; those are sold on relationships,” Cook said. “They anticipated a majority of growth was going to come from the agent channel, and they decided to dedicate resources to make that happen.”
In addition, the agent channel will be separated from other channels, such as strategic partners.
Cook said 33 percent of the company’s revenue comes from agent leads. His plan is to grow it to half. “My first goal is that the channel represent a minimum of 50 percent of production, so we are carrying at least half the load,” he said.
To that end, Cook plans to work first with the company’s existing 100 agents to increase production. “I am going to spend a lot of time with existing partners to make sure they understand what we do,” he said. “At the same time I am going to sit down and listen to them – what are we doing right, where do we need to improve and what do we need to do to position ourselves as a premier provider of services in the market we are in?”
Cook said he expects to hit the ground running, primarily because he is a known commodity to the leadership at New Edge through is prior relationships. “I can walk in and not have to worry about proving myself all over again,” he said. “They know who I am and what I am capable of, which allows me to do what I do best, which is managing the channel and managing agent relationships.”
“J.R. is well known by the agent community and is a trusted and respected channel leader. He is the ideal person to lead New Edge’s renewed focus on this strategic partner channel,” said Prinzi. “The addition of J.R. as the leader of New Edge’s channel demonstrates a commitment to expanding on current relationships and building new ones in the agent community.”