CEO attributes growth to innovation, service and culture
Editor's note: This is another in a series of Colorado company success stories as told by CEOs and business owners. This article was originally posted in Colorado Biz magazine on April 12, 2011
ReadyTalk, provides audio conferencing, web conferencing and webinar services for companies. ReadyTalk emerged from the ashes of a dot-com-era bust, when its co-founders transitioned to a strategy to provide wholesale web conferencing services to infrastructure-based audio conferencing providers.
The new strategy was so uninteresting to the venture capitalists that they pulled the plug on the company and allowed the founders to retain the rights to the technology. While the business may not have met those initial VC expectations, ReadyTalk, by most measures, has become a very successful business. During the period 2005-2009 the company grew 483 percent and then added another 20 percent growth in 2010.
The company will deliver over 600 million minutes of audio and web conferencing in 2011 and anticipates growing to 150 employees by the end of the year. Dan King and I recently reviewed the company's record of progress and growth. He'll be a speaker at the Rocky Mountain Corporate Growth Conference on April 27-28 at the Inverness Hotel.
What is your differentiation?
We compete with some of the largest technology companies in the world, including carriers and technology-based service providers such as Citrix (GoTo Meeting and GoTo Webinar), Cisco (WebEx) Microsoft and Adobe. They all deliver essentially a "self-serve model," providing a very specific tool set and then leaving it to the user to navigate their own way.
We deliver a better, and more complete, overall experience, which includes both technology and service. Unlike our competitors, we incorporate all of our web conferencing features into a single product. This allows our customer to use ReadyTalk for an impromptu, collaborative meeting today and then use it for a large-scale webinar tomorrow. Our teams provide hands-on support during live events and 24x7 customer care. Customer feedback is solicited in a variety of ways and incorporated into our product development process. Between the technology and the attention to customer service, our customers are extremely engaged and feel connected to our company.
Who uses your products and services?
ReadyTalk's audio and web conferencing services are used by thousands of national and international customers. American Marketing Association (AMA), Gallup, Newsgator, ITT Visual Information Solutions, and others use ReadyTalk's webinar services for lead generation, employee training and customer education. Rally Software, Frost and Sullivan, the US Small Business Administration and others use ReadyTalk's audio and web conferencing for product demos and collaborative meetings.
How has the recession impacted your business?
It's been both good and bad for our business. We lost some customers who either sold to larger companies or went out of business. We've also felt a lot of price pressure resulting from our customers' efforts to reduce operating expenses. On the other hand, we've benefited from the fact that in a down economy companies look for cost-effective alternatives to travel, and we provide a great solution for that. Our remote meeting and webinar services provide a huge return on investment for our customers.
What are the keys to continued growth over the next 5-10 years?
The audio and web conferencing industry is highly competitive. We need to continue to innovate new product functionality that meets the needs of our customers while continuing to maintain our high standards for customer service, product reliability and ease of use. We also feel it's critical to maintain our company culture as we grow our business. We've built a really strong culture around execution and customer service that has allowed us to significantly outpace the overall growth of our market. We expect to double in size over the next 3 to 5 years and it's critical that we maintain our workforce quality and a consistent culture.
Tell us about your culture.
Our culture starts with us being clear about our sense of purpose and values. We strive to hire great people - highly competent and aligned with our orientation to product quality and customer service. We work hard to ensure that the people remain highly engaged. We've created a very open work environment which encourages communication, collaboration and transparency. We feel it is in our interest to be employee-centered, with generous employee benefits including an ESOP that we recently implemented in order to allow employees to share in the value we create as we grow the company.
How do you maintain the culture?
It starts with a consistent hiring process - we hire for fit, values, attitude and natural talents. We utilize a peer-interviewing process, which reinforces these traits. We also invest in manager training (communication and understanding), teambuilding and goal setting to help maintain this.
Is it difficult finding good people and good leaders?
Yes. Hiring top software R&D talent has always been a challenge, and more so of late. We tend not to compromise on our hiring standards, and that can slow down our progress. We have an ongoing recruiting process and are always looking for new employees.
What do you think of the business climate in Colorado? Would you build your business here again? In general Colorado has a very healthy business climate for building a software-based services company. Long term, we'd love to see the state do more to promote software technology business and continue to invest in education, both K-12 and post-secondary.