Interview - Bradford Bono, PAETEC Communications
Written for the 2003 Annual Report for PAETEC Communications
“It’s about the company you keep.”
Bradford Bono has an irresistible twinkle in his eye, and levity in his countenance. One does not sense that this is practiced, but it must be - it clearly serves him admirably as Co-chief operating officer of PAETEC. Bono is effervescent – almost giddy – about the success of the sales force in 2003. But he is steadfast about the key factor that underscores every interaction, every success, and every new possibility in the market – relationships. Brad Bono builds them. And then he builds on them.
It is this latter capacity that best characterizes PAETEC’s financial success in 2003. Marketing types call it wallet share, but Bono uses more practical terms; salesmanship, account management -- depth. Some of PAETEC’s greatest successes in 2003 can be succinctly described in this way – depth of account access, depth of vertical market penetration, and depth of professionalism in sales, in service, in partnerships. Bono understands that these factors each influence and enhance one-another; sustainable competitive advantage results only from continuous improvement in each area.
Consider the first – account depth. In the banking sector, J.P Morgan Chase has been one of PAETEC’s most elusive and challenging accounts to manage; this year PAETEC revenues from Chase increased by nearly ??% Consider Princeton University – a marquis account that every telecommunications provider in North America would love to claim. PAETEC signed Princeton 3 years ago, and re-signed them in 2003 – a testament to PAETEC’s excellence in serving higher education. Prudential, one of the largest insurance companies in North America, substantially increased it’s telecommunications spend with PAETEC in 2003, upgrading from voice only service to VPN. And important accounts such as SONY and LinkSys (a division of CISCO) also accelerated purchasing from PAETEC. It’s about the company you keep. Increasingly, world-class firms are choosing to keep company with PAETEC.
Word Gets Out
Bono understands that a delighted customer is his best, most effective ally. The second factor – vertical market depth – flows from the understanding that even large industries behave as tightly knit communities that are predicated on – you guessed it - relationships; problems get solved, favors get done, word gets out, everybody benefits. PAETEC’s vertical market strategy is optimized to encourage this behavior. And it works.
“We have been extremely effective in leveraging account wins in regional vertical markets,” says Bono. “Take a look at health care in the Philadelphia area. In 2003, PAETEC was engaged to provide communications services for the entire network of health care providers under Jefferson Health Care. This was a massive, complex undertaking, and PAETEC pulled it off without a hitch. It’s not just a hospital here and there – it’s the entire system.” Excellence like this doesn’t remain secret for long; word spreads, similar accounts become interested, and professional success and expertise advance in tandem.
In the final analysis, it is this advancing third factor – depth of professionalism - that best illustrates PAETEC’s competitive edge and financial success in 2003. For Bono, professionalism begins with the sales process, and PAETEC expanded its direct sales force by over 40 professionals in 2003 to support the opening of new regional offices in Orlando, Boston, and Chicago. “We are extremely careful about who we hire,” says Bono. “We look for experience, of course, but beyond that, our sales force must demonstrate intelligence and an extraordinary commitment to customer service.” Bono pauses here for effect. This is important. “The trump card is integrity. It’s not just how much the business grows, it’s how it grows. It all depends on people, on great relationships.” There it is again; it’s about the company you keep.
The Back Office
Ultimately, successful relationships are built on trust. Trust is built on experience. And in telecommunications, experience is predicated upon sound expertise. In 2003, PAETEC invested heavily in expanding and improving back office skills, processes, and technologies. These investments are already bearing fruit on the front lines. To wit: order processing is no longer regional. Nationwide capabilities now permit orders to be handled centrally; customers are no longer required to wait in queue if the district is exceptionally busy. The bottom line: better, faster service. “It’s an excellent example of how we’ve improved our overall sales management and tracking processes,” says Bono. “It eases the burden on our sales force, and our customer see the difference.”
Customer service, of course, is the lifeblood of PAETEC’s success. Bono knows it, and he extols it. “PAETEC’s customer service and provisioning capabilities, quite simply, are second to none. Our sales force knows that we back up what we sell. We deliver what we promise, every time. Our partners know this as well as our customers – it’s one reason why our ISO certification is so important and valuable.”
Bono’s segue into ISO is no accident. Completed company-wide in 2003, PAETEC’s comprehensive ISO certification is unique in the industry. It’s one reason why PAETEC became one of only 3 new national AVAYA dealers in 2003 – a role earned through rigorous quality management processes and commitment to follow-through that ISO certification requires, and that world-class partners recognize.
Indeed, partner relationships advanced to new levels in 2003. The J.P. Morgan Chase account is a perfect example; in close, daily conversations with IBM Global Services, a multi-million dollar deal was crafted to ensure that the Chase Service Level Agreement (SLA) would always be met. Here, Bono’s enthusiasm is unrestrained. “It’s an outstanding example of what PAETEC is capable of, and how our partnerships are working to produce success for all parties.” Once again, it all boils down to relationships. It’s about the company you keep.
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