for a list of recent channel-program changes you should know.**
Change is afoot at Integra, the Pacific Northwest competitive service provider that steadily has been moving up-market.
Gone from the company are Tom Weaver, the former channel chief, and Ken Smith, appointed as executive vice president of sales in 2012. Weaver was hired in early 2013 and hailed by Integra as the face of the company’s “renewed focus” on the channel.
Integra is not seeking to replace Smith, a spokesman said; however, Weaver does have a replacement: Tom Gorey, a longtime XO Communications channel executive. Gorey, vice president of the indirect channel, has been on board at Integra for about a month, and spoke late last week with Channel Partners about Integra’s personnel shuffle, his plans for partners, and rumors about rules of engagement and about the company itself.
First, Gorey said, “Ken hired me, so I have to thank him for that. And the insight he gave me into where the company is going is one of the things that attracted me here,” he added. “As far as Tom Weaver, he laid a foundation for a good program. It’s up to me to build on that foundation and take it to the next level.”
That next level means continuing to gravitate toward serving midmarket organizations and enterprises through a variety of partners, making the most of their individual strengths. For that to happen on a large scale, Gorey is starting by meeting with existing and prospective agents and VARs.
“Where do they see a relationship like this going? What attributes do they want in the program?” he said. “It’s ultimately a matter of me listening … to really move this thing forward.”
The partners he has spoken with thus far are giving him “overwhelmingly positive” feedback, Gorey said.
“They’re excited to see me here and continue to do business with me,” he said. “Many of these people I have known for well over a decade.”
Indeed, Gorey is capitalizing on his solid reputation among partners as he joins a company that reportedly has revamped its rules of engagement and lost a number of long-time channel managers. For starters, anonymous sources have told Channel Partners that, under Smith, direct reps were allowed to pursue indirect reps’ accounts. Gorey discounted the assertions.
“That’s not an accurate assessment,” Gorey said. “What has happened is in a small segment of the largest billing accounts, we’ve made the decision to allow direct and indirect to collaborate.”
Integra still is formalizing the rules of engagement on that, “but you can generally assume that’s going to be a collaborative effort,” said Gorey. “What that’s going to do is give our channel partners more resources in support of the client.”
Since few, if any, large organizations buy from just one source, this tactic lets Integra pool its resources, Gorey explained. In other words, Integra overall gets a larger piece of the customer’s technology spend by combining direct and indirect efforts. There’s no undercutting or undermining of the partner, Gorey added.
“Both sides will be fully compensated,” he said. “This shouldn’t cause any conflict.”
In terms of how everything plays out, both sides meet to talk about an account or prospect. They figure out who is best equipped to do what, what role each side will play, how to communicate with the customer, who will develop which piece of the proposal and so on. Channel managers drive the collaboration, Gorey said, but “if partners have a question, they can call me directly.”
The collaborative approach is a direct result of Integra’s move to target bigger clients with technology needs that go beyond basic network services. And that strategy does mean processes and philosophies are in flux. To that point, several of Integra’s longest serving channel managers have left the company but Gorey noted that a number of old-timers remain.
“Everybody makes a decision based on what they see in their environment,” he said. “Integra is moving up-market and if some people are uncomfortable with that and have decided to go in a different direction, fine. …It’s not a wholesale change. There’s still a group of people who have been here for quite some time. I think the longest has been here for 20 years.”
Finally, Gorey addressed another circulating rumor, that Integra is prepping itself for a sale by having incorporated itself in Delaware, a state known for giving legal and financial leeway to businesses. Integra did incorporate in the Diamond State last August as Integra Telecom Parent Inc., and “Integra Telecom Inc.” has been incorporated in Delaware since April 2006. In the past several months, Integra Telecom Parent Inc. has started to bring under one name its various subsidiaries. That activity does include the words “merger” and “warrants,” but, according to Integra, nothing secretive or nefarious is taking place.
“A lot of companies incorporate in Delaware, there are certain business and tax advantages to that,” Gorey said. “It’s just a normal corporate environment. …There’s nothing there that’s of substantial interest that should be of concern to anybody.”
Now, as head of Integra’s channel, Gorey is most interested in moving forward. He aims to keep pursuing VARs, for example, and retaining strong internal staff.
“What I plan to do with this channel is increasing planning with our partners to ensure they have training, resources and channel readiness,” he said.
Part of that will require investment in tools, which are not meant to replace people but to enhance capabilities and productivity, Gorey said.
“We’re going to be increasing staffing as we build this program,” he said.
And, coming from Gorey, that means something.
“The retention I’ve had with the last 20 years is turnover of 10-15 percent per year, which is far better than the industry standard,” he said. “And I typically lose people because they get promoted to director in a different company. … It’s the kind of defection where you feel good for the people involved.”
That all leads to a key message, Gorey said.
“Integra is going to continue to invest in our partner channel and do everything we can to make sure [partners] have everything they need to be successful.”