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Excel Names Stewart Agent Sales Director

Excel Telecommunications Inc. in January named channel veteran Bob Stewart as its new director of agent sales.

Stewart is most recognized as senior director of alternate channels for Allegiance Telecom before it was purchased by XO Communications in 2004. He held that post for four years before jumping over to Birch Telecom, where held the same title. The gig at Birch was short-lived because the CLEC filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy in August 2005, and laid off one-third of its workers. Stewart then decided to take a break from the telecom industry and for 18 months, he spent time on his boat and with his 6-year-old son. He also has done a little business consulting, which nearly lead him down a new career path home medical devices. After a period of time, I realized I missed the game, says Stewart, who concedes he considered retirement at one point.

He was ready to join the medical startup as a partner when he got the call about the opportunity at Excel. I wasnt looking, he says of the offer.

Stewart says his interest in Excel was philosophical in large measure. Having dealt with channel conflict on a daily basis over the years, there is no easy resolution to that. No matter what you do and how you do it, there is pain involved, he says. One thing I liked about the Excel configuration was firm and total commitment to one go-to-market strategy that being the agents.

Excels exclusive channel focus was announced when the company was formed in June 2006 after Comtel Telcom Assets LP completed its asset acquisition of VarTec Telecom Inc., including its VarTec Solutions subsidiary formerly known as eMeritus Communications Inc. eMeritus as well as the domestic operations of Excelcom Inc. and its wholly owned subsidiaries, Excel and Telco, were purchased from Teleglobe in the spring of 2002. By late 2004, VarTec filed bankruptcy and severed ties with a network of 130,000 independent sales representatives working for Excel selling residential services. However, VarTec continued to pay its business-to-business agents through the reorganization.

Stewart also says the companys approach to product development is refreshing. Rather than create products in a vacuum and then push them out to the market, fingers crossed and hoping for success, their approach is, Here is our network. Tell us what you would like, he says. They are communicating that to the agents and using that feedback as a template to design the products.

Stewart says a few large master agents have taken the company up on the offer to provide feedback on products that are expected to come to market this spring and announced along with some major agency agreements. No details were available at press time.

Excel operates a Feature Group D (FGD) network and switching facilities in Atlanta; Chicago; Dallas; Denver; Houston; Los Angeles; New York; Orlando, Fla.; Pittsburgh; Sacramento, Calif.; and Seattle. The company has completed installation of an IPbased infrastructure, including softswitches from Veraz Networks Inc. and cutover of its FGD circuits. Based on the new infrastructure, the company expects to launch new products, such as integrated T1, MPLS, private line/VPN and IP video, as well as applications, such as Web and audio conferencing.

Stewart initially was hired to work alongside John Davis, who had been Excels director of channel sales, in running the channel on a regional basis, but Davis has since left Excel, leaving Stewart to run the program nationwide.

In his new role, Stewart says he has a few key priorities. My objective is to get inside of every single one of those [existing agent] contractual relationships and find out where it is today and where it was and where it might go, he says.

Stewart is reviewing all the current agreements to identify relationships that are growing and those that are declining. He says there are about 75 agents on the books, but probably 40 that are actively selling for the company. Some of the agents, he says, likely are not active in the business any longer.

He also is reviewing the agent agreement paragraph by paragraph with the legal team to make sure its partner-friendly.

To support his efforts, Stewart expects to morethan- double the number of channel managers during 2007. Presently there are six, and Stewart plans to have 15 deployed throughout the country by years end. Existing managers reside in New York, Florida, California, Texas, Illinois and Washington, D.C.

Channel managers will be charged with recruitment and pre-sale support for agents. One of the things that I want to do is have a channel manager be in a position to facilitate new business. I dont want them burdened down trying to get a customers billing straightened out and doing administrative type work. I want that done by people with that focus, Stewart says.

For post-sale and other administrative support, agents and channel managers will turn to a channel support organization. Presently, that includes three people but will grow to six. Stewart says he expects this staff also will be regionally dispersed. One of the things I want to do is make sure we have coast-to-coast business day coverage, he explains.

Links
Excel Telecommunications www.excel.com

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