When I began my career in the telecommunications field, it was a sexy industry. I worked for WorldCom, who owned UUNET, one of the original big boys of Internet Service Providers.
We rode scooters, had egos, and were the future of technology. We were the internet.
Oh, and about WorldCom…you probably remember them. “One of the largest corporate scandals, ever.” heralded the cable news hawkers, and various publications. They made Enron look like choir boys (Enron caused around a $74 Billion loss/impact to the shareholders….WorldCom was $180 Billion in loss/impact. Tyco often gets mixed in when discussing corporate scandals of the late ’90s/early ’00s. Tyco’s impact was around $150 Million…lightweights).
The scandal created a crater within the telecom industry that we, to date, are still trying to climb out of. The telecom industry lost its luster, pivoted often to a “low-cost/zero-sum-game” approach, and spent the next 20 years losing relevance in the overall technology discussion.
We became plumbers. The carriers limped along, in-fighting and showing very minimal evolution. Those of us in carrier sales strove to be relevant, but seldom had a seat at C-level discussions.
Fast forward a decade or so. My company has spent the past two years developing a Telecom Process Outsourcing service, focused not on becoming our clients “telecom carrier” but becoming their “telecom department”. Full outsourcing of a very difficult to consume service, managed by experts, saving time our clients have little of in the first place, and often able to offset our fees (and they are healthy fees) in the savings we find for our clients.
It’s a unique offering, and certain clients struggle with understanding the model. It’s pretty simple, take your Org Chart, draw a line to the CIO or VP of IT, and put my logo in a box labeled “Telecom Department”. All of the workload that comes with our difficult industry is now mine (and my team).While our industry focuses on the sales process, oriented towards whatever their widget is, we eliminate the sales process (it’s now just procurement, centralized and following an assembly-line approach), and take the process and labor associated with telecom off of our clients.
I’m a page or so in to this, and still bet there are many that (if anyone reads this silly blog at all) are reading and still just don’t understand the new offering. They have been so inundated with limited offerings, sales agendas, and half-solutions that a new approach is hard to bite off on.
We’ve found the best way to handle that is with colorful analogies. I think in analogies anyway, and have found one to be the most impacting. Whether at a networking event, meeting new people and offering up my ‘elevator pitch’; meeting a new prospect for the first time; or explaining to partners that we work with, a well place analogy is often my best tool.
And the best one so far? Telecom Janitorial Services. Everyone seems to get that one, and its biggest strength is that it takes the apathy and scorn that folks have for the telecom industry, and agrees with it. “Yes, our industry is messy and difficult, it’s non-strategic, it’s not something that clients get enthusiastic about so clients aren’t generally good at it. The industry doesn’t crank out a large amount of talent (my team being the exception, we are the best in town). We are the experts, outsource it to us, we will come in and clean up the mess.”
The irony is, my entire career I have struggled to be truly relevant. My industry just didn’t lend itself to relevance, it just filled a need. But, as a provider of Telecom Janitorial Services, I can now impact how an IT Department works, I can take time and focus and give it back to them. I can re-purpose time and money towards the more strategic initiatives they have. I can create process and procedure, implement efficiencys, and optimize the carrier services they have. I can take a workload, often seen as “death by a thousand cuts”, off of my client.
I am, at long last, actually relevant. We don’t have any scooters,we have rounded out the egos, and are armed with brooms and mops. We found our niche, and we are damn good at it.