August 16, 2018
Fusion Connect‘s new channel chief has a big task ahead of him.
Fusion Connect’s Michael Fair
Michael Fair, the company’s recently hired senior vice president of channel sales, says he’ll work to combine the channel assets of Fusion with those of its two latest acquisitions: Birch Communications and MegaPath.
Fair tells Channel Partners that this “melding” doesn’t only involve the product sets of the three companies, but their personnel and their support. Fair says he’ll explore “best-of-breed” partner program practices, including contracts and rules of engagements.
Fair, who led partner programs at Charter, EarthLink and Qwest, spoke at length with us about why he joined Fusion and how he plans to lead its channel.
We have edited the transcript for length and clarity.
Channel Partners: You’ve led numerous partner organizations. How do you think this job will be different?
Michael Fair: My prior channel experiences have been primarily taking over very small programs and then growing them very rapidly. In this case you have three relatively well-known and developed programs that all need to come together into a cohesive new channel. That’s one unique difference compared to the channels I’ve managed most recently.
— Channel Partners (@Channel_Online) August 8, 2018
CP: Tell us more about the consolidation process.
MF: It’s really a matter of taking what is best-of-breed between the different programs and then melding that with what are industry best practices out there. That’s one of the major benefits that I bring to the table. I’ve been involved in M&A activity a lot and have done a lot of consulting for or managed programs that have been part of acquisitions. Often everyone keeps focusing on hitting the sales numbers and not really worrying a lot about the integration elements, which are really important to build a really cohesive program and to scale. Part of the real goal here is to take the best-of-breed of these existing programs and then to meld them together to grow it more rapidly than the sum of each of those three put together. It’s really to create synergies and to accelerate the growth.
CP: What are some of the best-of-breed offerings that each company offers?
MF: Fusion is really known for cloud services — mostly SIP trunking and UCaaS services. Birch is most known for more traditional services today. That’s the majority of the sales, so it’s really more of a legacy voice world that’s migrating into the cloud. Also with the MegaPath services, which are a principally a combination of UCaaS, security, and multilocation bandwidth management to provide that single source to the cloud.
CP: What should we expect to see going forward from the combined partner program?
MF: We really want to accelerate that industry growth — the company’s focus on the cloud services universe, which is growing in excess of 20 percent per year. Our goal is to grow beyond that and faster than the industry average.
CP: What’s the traditional partner profile of the three combined companies?
MF: To be honest with you, it’s kind of all over the map. A number of partners are common to all three companies. Even when that’s the case, you can see patterns where they tend to focus on one solution set versus another. So one of the areas we really look to on the growth side is to understand what may have been sold by a channel partner down to a customer — to have you cross-pollinate and…… sell additional services to that end user and get the mind share of the partner that’s typically used to looking at a siloed solution. Maybe in the case of Birch it’s a traditional service, which is often just small percentage of what the customer spend is. We’re interested in the 90 percent that we don’t have. We may have 100 percent of the 10 percent, but we’re interested in getting the rest of that business, which are the services that Birch traditionally did not focus on. That’s where you start bringing in the cloud services and the connectivity services and security. We can bring into that a one-stop focus to deliver a single invoice and a single technology platform. A single “back to pat.” We want to bring a solution across a unified platform to an end user, versus selling a product set.
CP: What would you like to say to Fusion partners?
MF: I enjoy doing this because of working with the different entrepreneurs that are out there. There are so many different variants of the same business model. The thing that’s brought me to Fusion is the opportunity to pull this all together. I really like the portfolio of services in the cloud. It’s focused on the highest growth areas of the business. And the opportunity is to put three good programs together and make one great program.
It’s an extremely channel-focused enterprise. Seventy-five to 80 percent of the services sold will be coming through the channel — that’s the goal of the company. And when services are not coming through the channel, there’s teaming and channel integration capabilities. So it’s an extremely channel-friendly organization. Whatever you could say about me, you could also say about Dan Foster [MegaPath president and chief operating officer turned Fusion chief revenue officer], who is well known within the channel. It’s an extremely channel-biased company.
CP: Is there anything else you’d like to add?
MF: My additional responsibilities are not just to manage the traditional agent channel. We’re going to be establishing a very robust reseller program as well as expanding our program into our Canadian assets, which is called Primus – appealing therefore to both channel partners that are in the U.S. that sell up into Canada as well as Canadian native channel partners.
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