Digital Planet Franchises Telecom Agency

Master agency Digital Planet Telecom, St. Paul, Minn., announced Tuesday an initiative to expand its coverage nationwide through franchise partners that will replicate the agencys proven model for providing telecom services through communications equipment VARs and interconnects.

Digital Planet President Shawn Schmidt told PHONE+ the goal is to have national coverage with 40-50 franchisees by the end of 2011.

A franchise partner serves as an extension of Digital Planet in the local or regional market. Digital Planet provides the blueprint, training and expertise while the franchisee provides the local presence and business knowledge.

Franchises are exclusive and cost $30,000 plus a 2.5 percent override on the monthly carrier billing. Franchisees receive 100 percent of Digital Planets commissions from the carriers.

Digital Planet is the only national master agent that works exclusively with VARs and interconnects to distribute telecommunications services from more than 50 carriers. The company operates its own VAR, Digital Planet Communications, a company it acquired in 2005 in part to understand how to successfully serve VARs and interconnects, said Schmidt. That investment, he said, has resulted in a process-based approach to distributing carrier services through the VAR channel.

That success led to a partnership, announced in mid-February, with Technology Assurance Group (TAG), a national buying consortium for communications equipment dealers. Schmidt said similar agreements with two other organizations are pending.

Donna Arsenault, owner of Toshiba dealer Republic Voice & Data, Tampa, Fla., said she has grown to trust Digital Planet to bring the best price and solution to the table. The great working relationship Digital Planet has with telecom carriers and knowledge of their specific products, and how those products integrate into our equipment offerings, has proved valuable at the proposal stage, and crucial during the installation and followup phases, she said.

Since Digital Planets VAR onboarding process is in-depth and requires multiple site visits over three to five months for setup and rollout of the sales program, Digital Planet needs more feet on the street, trained in its processes, Schmidt said. Rather than try to open offices nationwide, the company seeks to create a franchise network to serve VARs that are located across the country, he explained.

Because someone from New York is vastly different from someone from Texas, as an example, Digital Planet is looking for local talent with ties to the business community. Thats hard to hire and find, he said.

Schmidt said that early inquiries are coming from entrepreneurs, but the company will entertain applications from existing agencies. In that case, it may make sense for Digital Planet to buy out the base and assume the carrier contracts. Applications are subject to a 60-day evaluation.

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