Nextiva: The Importance of People and Culture in Company Success
Jun 18, 2015
While I was at Thunderbird School of Global Management in Glendale, Arizona, I took a class titled Competing Through People. This class was about the importance of people and company culture in accomplishing key business goals. When you are in a rush to complete your studies so you can begin your “real life”, you (may) tend to think that such subjects are a waste of time. Over the past 15 years, I have had numerous occasions to appreciate the value of this class, especially when dealing with the innovative and entrepreneurial companies in the hosted IP telephony and UCC services market. More specifically, it has become obvious to me that companies which foster team spirit and creativity are best positioned to succeed in an increasingly competitive world. Fortuitously, I was once again reminded of the lessons learned in this class during a recent visit to Glendale’s neighboring town Scottsdale in Arizona.
Earlier this month, I had the pleasure of attending the Nextiva Partner Summit and was really impressed by the company’s strong performance and vision for the future. In 2014, Nextiva was one of the top 10 North American hosted IP telephony providers in terms of installed users and revenues. It is also one of the fastest growing providers in the market today. At the Partner Summit, it became obvious that one of the key factors for the company’s success is its entrepreneurial culture. Led by the example of “serial entrepreneurs” Tomas Gorny and Tracy Conrad, the Nextiva team is driven to constantly innovate and continually improve the customer experience. Nextiva has been building its partner channel for only a little over a year, but it has already attracted close to 500 partners. Several of the attending partners shared that the reason they enjoyed working with Nextiva was the company’s excellent customer service, which they thought was second to none.
I invited Tomas Gorny, the company’s CEO, to share some of his personal experiences and vision for the future of Nextiva and the entire communications marketplace.
Mr. Gorny has had an exceptional career, which has, no doubt, contributed to Nextiva’s rapid climb to the top of the market share ladder in the still nascent cloud communications space.
Elka: Tomas, thank you for inviting me to the Partner Summit. I was excited to hear about Nextiva’s successes and roadmap for the future. I believe your personal experience and leadership are among the key factors for the company’s success. Can you tell our readers how you became the CEO of one of the leading hosted IP telephony providers in North America?
Tomas: We’re glad you were able to be there and thank you for taking the time to meet personally as well. The journey to start, build and lead Nextiva began when I was running our previous company, iPOWER, now part of EIG (Nasdaq: EIGI) and we needed to replace our business phone system. The experience was painful and expensive. Long story short, we started Nextiva to solve the problem with cloud-based unified communication to address our needs and those of other businesses who faced the same challenges. We started with our platform having a presence in 1 datacenter, acquired the core VoIP technology, and continued to develop our first release of Nextiva Office, which launched in May, 2008. That was more than 7 years ago. We now have 6 geographically redundant datacenters across the United States and serve more than 120,000 business customers using one or more of our hosted VoIP, SIP Trunking, call center or other unified communication solutions. So, in my opinion, being the CEO of Nextiva isn’t the story, it’s the dedication of our team to do whatever it takes to build the business and support our customers.
Elka: What makes you most proud of Nextiva today and what do you think are some of the factors that led to Nextiva’s success? I heard a lot of accolades about Nextiva’s exceptional customer service. How do you ensure that Nextiva is always responsive to customer needs?
Tomas: Our commitment to customer service is one of the pillars of Amazing Service®, the others being reliability and ease of use. However, we focus on the customer first and believe that, if we take care of their needs, communication or otherwise, they will trust us with the growth of their business. We measure the impact of our customer support as part of this focus at very granular levels of detail. Yet, that’s not what makes or breaks the department’s success. It’s their ability to literally create a career in technical support, that leads to advanced technical training and certification, which often leads to opportunities in our development and engineering groups. So, with this structure, the reps have the motivation to learn as much as possible about our products, the customer environment, network and business integration needs. This inspires responses like next issue resolution and related recommendations for customers based on their needs.
Elka: During the event, I noticed that at Nextiva you foster a culture of hard work and dedication, but that you also encourage employees to have fun and enjoy their work environment. I saw some of the videos that your video crew developed and I understand there is a Friday video tradition. Can you tell us what this is all about?
Tomas: Yes, I love the Friday videos. We call it NexTV and I wasn’t surprised to see that I made the blooper reel at the award celebration during the summit. As I mentioned there, we do like to have fun! As our company grew, we saw the need to improve internal communication and education about new employees, departments, products and services as well as company announcements or community volunteer program updates. I used to be able to stand up and just tell everybody, and that doesn’t work anymore. So, to make it fun, educational and entertaining, we have our internal video team capture messages from many different people and teams around the company to deliver a weekly recap. In addition to the internal communication improvement, NexTV has brought a lot of people together to get to know each other, which fosters a sense of community. From that, of course, come many of the scenes that are featured in the bloopers, which we show after the company awards. It’s always a hit!
Elka: I also heard there is a Culture team? What is their role in the organization?
Tomas: The role of the Culture team was also born from the need for more consistent internal collaboration. The members of the team are the person who serves as our brand mascot, XBert (maybe you’ve seen him at some of the industry tradeshows and other events we participate in) and the person responsible for our company Intranet. They both share the responsibility of working with our management team, sales coaches and video team to prioritize the content for NexTV and other company programs. XBert often tours the cities we attend events in, so he’s seen Las Vegas, New Orleans, Miami and lots of other entertaining areas. Of course, his journeys are also covered in NexTV. Everyone tunes in, often as teams, on Fridays, when we also provide a catered lunch to all employees, to catch the latest news and entertainment.
Elka: What is your vision for the future of Nextiva and where do you see the business communications market 10 years from now?
Tomas: I believe the market will continue to consolidate over the next few years. At the same time, the market leaders need to differentiate through new products and services and significant innovation to avoid being simply a commodity player. Innovation and Amazing Service are part of our DNA; we continually strive to be first to market with new products and services. We focus on products that not only improve our customers’ businesses but also enhance how they deliver products and services to their customers. You cannot expect to be a great company based solely on providing great customer service. It is probably one of the most misunderstood concepts about Nextiva. We believe that Amazing Service is more than providing great customer service and it involves every area in the company – from infrastructure to innovation.
Elka: Thank you, Tomas. I appreciate you sharing your vision with us.
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