In 1995 Rick Sheldon, co-owner of master agency Intelisys, experienced a light bulb moment — a way to streamline the chaotic and costly process of running telecom commissions. His big idea finally was made real when RPM Telco was born in March 2003.
This year marks the 10th anniversary for RPM Telco, which is now the premier commission-tracking system for the telecom agent community. Intelisys and RPM Software celebrated the milestone at Channel Connect 2013, Intelisys’ annual partner summit held Oct. 9-11 in San Francisco.
Here’s their story as told to Angela Leavitt of Mojo Marketing for Channel Partners:
As any master agency can tell you, commissions are essential to their business. Unfortunately, complicated contracts and unique situations are the reality of the industry. However, companies that get commissions right are able to shift their focus to more strategic needs like growing their own business.
Until you get commission payments right, nothing else matters,” said Sheldon. For your business to be successful, you have to do a lot of things right, and you have to do commissions exceptionally right. If you do, you build good will and trust with the people upon whom your business is built. And then more people want to do business with you.”
Back in 1995, the commission payment function in the industry was mostly manual; there was very little automation at all.
At first, Sheldon ran Intelisys commissioning function using Microsoft Excel, but in 1996, he moved the function moved to Microsoft Access, where he built in as many automated functions as possible over the next several years. Still, to process the business of just 10-15 carriers, he would run endless calculations before manually preparing as many as 150 checks — a process that would take up to five full days. This clearly was not scalable.
Sheldon recognized the severity of the problem. By 2001, the issue came to a head. Intelisys was growing rapidly due in part to telecom financial meltdown which had carriers downsizing their sales forces and in need of feet on the street; as a result, Intelisys recruiting grew tenfold annually.
As Sheldon experienced the painful inefficiency of processing commissions on millions of dollars of monthly revenue, he envisioned a custom-built software program that could run commissions in a more streamlined manner than he could manage with Microsoft Access.
As fate would have it, he soon met the dynamic team of Dana Dwyer, Bill Boyd and Jade Ohlhauser, whose combined skills included software development and web marketing, among others. They were searching for an opportunity to apply their technical knowledge and business skills — telecom seemed like a natural fit.
The trio initially became agents of Intelisys to learn the telecom business and explore the inner-workings of the channel. Ohlhauser, based in Calgary, began monthly trips to Intelisys headquarters in Petaluma, Calif., to learn the ins and outs of the business and to oversee commission runs at Intelisys headquarters. These trips always evolved into hours-long question-and-answer sessions.
In May 2002, Ohlhauser, Dwyer and Boyd formed Relationship and Process Management (RPM) Software to tackle the huge challenge of telecom commission processing. Thanks to the years of trial and error Sheldon had put into Intelisys Access database, they had an excellent blueprint to follow.
The reason there was no automation software was because telecom commissions are so complicated,” RPMs Ohlhauser said. Its an industry built on special deals. When you develop software, its an ‘all or nothing’ thing. A platform is useless if it cant handle every special scenario.”
In March 2003, RPM’s software platform RPM Telco ran Intelisys commissions for the first time. A process that previously required an investment of more than 50 hours per month was slashed to about five hours.
Even more important than the time savings was the resulting improvement in financial transparency. Agent relationships improved as commission accuracy increased, even when the payment required complicated splits between agents and partners. Meanwhile, revenue from carriers improved as Intelisys was able to spot missing payments that many times could have slipped between the cracks.
Today, Intelisys utilizes RPM for tracking critical internal processes, including the quotes, orders, commission inquiries and lifecycles of both its sales partners and suppliers. Using RPM has had a significant impact on efficiency and productivity, and created business-critical reporting.
Our staff lives and breathes in RPM,” said Carol Beering, senior vice president of operations for Intelisys. We have the flexibility to build and track processes for all aspects of our business, which has made a huge impact on our operations and overall decision making as a company.”
Ten years later, RPM Telco is the industry standard for processing commissions. In addition to serving the majority of the nations largest master agents, RPM Telco is licensed to more than 140 agencies, plus a growing number of carriers, IT solution providers and VARs.
The platform has grown beyond its roots in commissioning to fulfill a variety of functions including project management, CRM and it can be customized for unique business needs and scales to grow with emerging businesses.
We are so grateful to Intelisys for their business and their ongoing support of RPM,” RPMs Bill Boyd said. Here we are 10 years later our business and Intelisys business are better than ever. There are other frontiers to conquer, but, with our channel success, one of the most important is in great shape.”