Mark Essayian, founder and chief executive of KME Systems, has been a top reseller of Voice over IP (VoIP) business phone systems, unified communications (UC), networking, and end-to-end IT solutions for 15 years. Based in Orange County, California, Mark is a visionary for emerging technology-based IT solutions. In this interview, he shares trends his company is experiencing in the trenches day to day.
KME has differentiated its business through successful VoIP deployments since 1999, having established a strong, repeatable business process to ensure success for its clients. Mark has seen a huge shift in mobility across an incredible array of apps and devices that allow people to communicate how they want to, when they want to, and from wherever they are. A user may want to text a response to a voice call or have a video chat with someone from his or her mobile phone after receiving an e-mail. It’s amazing to see the choices available.
Mark has witnessed many new resellers and manufacturers entering the VoIP and UC space. Many folks have failed with the “if I build it, they will come” philosophy. Mark says, “I stress the need to verify your market and know your client!”
The Fastest Growing Part of KME’s Business for 2014
“We are experiencing accelerating change: our clients want—and deserve—more. We will be integrating new partners and technology plus making sure it all stays operational. The old adage, “just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should,” applies. You must carefully weigh customer demands with risk assessment to make sure you deploy solutions that are aggressive yet reliably operable. Many resellers jump on the ‘bright shiny object’ only to find out it wasn’t what they thought.”
So, what is the biggest change? By far, Microsoft UC coupled with a good on-premises private branch exchange (PBX). KME has been demonstrating the ability of Microsoft Lync UC; that solution coupled with a good PBX “knocks it out of the park,” says Mark. Microsoft has many competitors beaten on the learning curve, too, because Lync has the Microsoft Office look and feel. When paired with Microsoft Office for iPad, Mark says that KME can truly create a work-anywhere solution for clients.
Mark believes that people have been chasing the holy grail of a single device for years, but we don’t yet know how that will shake out. “For the first time ever,” he says, “when I hear experts say that the end of the desktop phone will happen in the next five years, I’m finally beginning to agree.” Consumer technology is truly driving business needs. Clients want to communicate however they want, whenever they want and demand options from their solutions.
Biggest Obstacles to Growing KME’s Business in 2014
Mark believes that keeping up with clients’ demands and making sure KME brings current and reliable solutions to the marketplace is the company’s biggest challenge. People demand solutions, but they want them to work immediately and flawlessly—always. This is true of all trusted advisors who have strong relationships.
“Change is constant for us in the reseller community,” says Mark. He sees new apps, new tools, and technology not even heard of yet arriving on the scene. He’s also seeing more and more international clients. Even firms with 20 employees can have a few sales agents all over the world. Technologies based on video and group communication, like Yammer and Microsoft SharePoint, are becoming critical. Most important is the ability to document and control business processes that involve people who are working in different areas and time zones.
To that end, properly training new staff to understand that times have changed can be challenging. Mark says, “I don’t think people just buy IBM and Cisco anymore with the mentality of ‘I won’t get fired for this decision.” Finding good people is always a struggle, but a strong hiring process coupled with a good mentoring program is key to success.
Cloud, Hosted VoIP, and UC
KME offers hosted and cloud solutions. In hosted environments, KME deploys technology and works with the client on the care and feeding of the infrastructure while delivering services to their customers and employees over the Internet. For cloud solutions, the client is really outsourcing all the plumbing to KME.
Cloud is becoming incredibly important, with Microsoft Azure, Amazon Web Services, Google, and a few others all striving to capture market share. It can be a double-edged sword for resellers, particularly if they don’t have a managed service business cloud, but someone still needs to make the technology work, and KME does just that. “The analogy I use is years ago, we only had a few features on a PBX or server; now, the options are incredible. Someone has to know how to properly integrate, protect, and deploy the technology the client wants. You better understand the security aspects, protection from something as simple as a cloud provider going bankrupt, etc., or the client will not only drop you, but you’ll end up in court, as well.”
The Classic Elevator Situation
I asked Mark about his elevator pitch for KME Systems: “Having five floors with a small business owner standing next to you, what do you say about your business value and value proposition?”
“First,” Mark said, “I say that we help business owners sleep at night, knowing that their critical data is protected, their communications processes are helping rather than hindering, and most importantly that we are not technical janitors maintaining a piece of equipment but a business consultant specializing in IT services. If they get that statement, we’ll prove it and have a customer for life.”
This article first appeared on Toolbox.com. We would also like to thank Bill Miller for writing this article!