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Q&A With GLOBALINX Channel Chief Ron Ireland

Now that reseller TMC Communications has joined forces with VoIP services provider GLOBALINX Enterprises LLC, agents may wonder whats in store. Ron Ireland, who served as president of TMC, now runs the GLOBALINX channel. Ireland joined TMC as controller in 1998, shortly after it was founded. He later became CFO and took on the presidency and oversight of the agent channel when TMC founder John Marsch passed away in 2006. Channel Partners interviewed Ireland about his new role, about the deals impact on partners and his plans for the program.

Channel Partners: How is the TMC channel changing now that GLOBALINX owns the company?GLOBALINX's Ron Ireland

Ron Ireland: The TMC channel isn’t going to change from a contractual standpoint. GLOBALINX is standing behind the terms of the existing agent agreements. What will change is the product set. In addition to TMC’s legacy voice and data products, GLOBALINX will be adding IP products to the channel, which will run on their existing Broadworks platform. Its all positive. The effect is GLOBALINX-TMC will have more resources at their fingertips to help our agent partners succeed. Contractually, agent agreements dont change, commissions are paid in the same timely manner theyve always been, the online tools and resources are still there and will continue to be developed. Theres very little impact, and certainly no negative impact.

CP: What about your experience at TMCs helm will influence the way you run the GLOBALINX channel?

RI: I think weve had a long history of stability and I think continuing to have the same names and faces is a tremendous plus. But Ive seen the need over the last five years to be out in the field more, be in front of our agent partners more. As president of TMC, I didnt have the luxury of time to be able to do that. And being able to dedicate my time to channel development, I fully expect to be out in the field more, learning how we can better help our agent partners succeed. Thats really my goal how can we be of better service to agent partners?

CP: What changes do you have planned for the program?

RI: I think youll see a little bit more excitement in terms of promotions and rewards for our agent partners. Thats probably the most immediate and most visible. GLOBALINX brings some personnel resources to the table that we havent had in the past in terms of a deeper engineering team. Theyre a little more technically advanced than weve been able to do in the past. And with more small businesses moving into the IP world, you have to have expertise in-house to help guide them through that SIP trunking, hosted PBX, any converged product that requires a pretty thorough understanding of a customers data network.

CP: How do you expect GLOBALINXs partner-generated revenue to change in the next year?

RI: I expect 2011 to be a breakout year. Given the resources GLOBALINX is able to put behind the channel, I fully expect to see double-digit growth this year.

CP: How many agents are in the combined program? How do you expect those numbers to change in the next year?

RI: TMC has more than 300 agent contracts out there, and that doesnt count the subagents of some of the larger master agencies. So our normal reach, if you will, is about 1,200. I dont necessarily predict large growth in the number of agents were doing business with. But what I do expect is being able to give tools and resources to our existing bases to help them sell more. So I expect modest growth in the agent base but what I really expect more is in greater production out of existing agents.

CP: What are your goals for the GLOBALINX channel program over the next 12 months?

RI: I do have some very specific growth goals, double-digit growth goals. More importantly, from a messaging standpoint, the immediate goal is to make sure all agent partners are comfortable with the [merger], although theres very little impact on them other than the positive impact of having some greater rewards to doing business with GLOBALINX.

CP: What are your key partner-incentive initiatives for the next 12 months?

RI: Ill be vague about one of them. For some master agent partners, were running a lucrative spiff program to encourage partners that have not done business with TMC/GLOBALINX in the past. We want them to give us a try. We have about a 99 percent retention rate because [agents] get something from a service quality standpoint they dont get elsewhere. Then theres a Presidents Club trip to Los Cabos that will be very achievable for a great number of our partners. The fact that GLOBALINX is willing to put some money behind this to recognize those partners that are selling for us is great.

CP: Which products do you think will be most successful for partners?   

RI: Thats always a tough question. As a reseller weve always survived by having a wide product mix everything from DS1 Internet access to OC192 Internet connectivity to switched VoIP, dedicated VoIP, so theres a wide variety but obviously IP products are taking a stronger hold. Our projections are aggressive that hosted PBX and SIP trunking products will continue to gain traction. Probably year-over-year, we expect the greatest growth in IP-based products.

CP: What will be the biggest challenge, in general, for partners over the next 12 months? What will be the biggest opportunity?

RI: The biggest challenge is to get comfortable with selling IP-based services. Customers are asking for them, and if agent partners are anything like me, personally, the more I learn, the more I realize Im not always prepared for every question a customer can ask. So we are striving to put ourselves in the middle of that conversation for the agent partner. They can rely on GLOBALINX to be that expert even as they continue to educate themselves about IP-based products.

I think the opportunity is there for the SMB market, for PRI replacement, for POTS replacement. As companies look to not only save costs but increase functionality, IP products bring fixed mobile convergence and remote worker connectivity.

CP: Is there anything youd like to add?

RI: A lot of people in the industry knew after the passing of our founder in 2006 that an acquisition of TMC was possible. We could not be more thrilled with where we ended up; the marriage between GLOBALINX and TMC is really a good one, its the best we could have wished for. Theres definitely a shared culture between the two companies and a commitment to the agent channel.

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