I was born and raised in California and have spent the last 25 years working in the Bay Area with some well-known technology companies. Until I joined Bridgepointe seven years ago, I’d never heard of BCM One. I have to tell you I’ve been thoroughly impressed with the company and the team ever since. For those watching, who’ve never heard of BCM One, how would you describe the company and its focus in the technology space?
I’ve been in the business for about eight years, but this company has a history that goes back to the early 90s. BCM One is about 30 years old and I was in the same position you were eight years ago — I’d never heard about the firm. For a long period of time, we were one of the best-kept little secrets in the technology space and we were highly focused regionally in the Northeast.
The best way for me to describe us is as a technology focused-business. We’re really focused on delivering managed network services to our clients.
Fundamentally, the way we work our business is much more on the human factor side. Our business was built successfully knowing that it is the relationship that we have with our clients and the relationship that we have with our partners that is a key aspect and foundation of our success – trust that we’ve built up over the course of those 30 years.
The second part of it is that even though we’re focused on delivering technology solutions, we understand that it’s the people that work for us that make the difference at the end of the day and that our clients and our partners have the capability to procure carrier services, network services, managed services from a variety of different other providers. Many times the technology solutions are pretty comparable across that footprint, but what makes us different as a business is the quality of the people and how they try and strive to meet and exceed our partner’s expectations and our end client’s expectations.
When I think about who we are and the kind of clients that we serve and where we’re a good fit, there are usually three different characteristics of a successful engagement with a client, that’s usually a home run for BCM One. First, there are the clients that are experiencing some dynamics of change within their organization, so there may be some technology transformation and some significant growth going on. There may be some downsizing, but something outside the normal status quo, and there’s a need for working with a provider or a partner who’s capable of working along with them, in lockstep during the course of the dynamics and implementation of those changes. That’s usually one aspect and dynamic where we work very successfully.
Second, when you’ve got a client who is multi-location they’ve got some geographic diversity, and usually, that geographic diversity implies that they’re dealing with a multitude of different providers. They’re looking for somebody that’s capable of coming in and providing a single solution across a wider geographic footprint than what they may be able to get on their own.
The third, which really harkens back to why we focus on the people aspect of our business, are usually clients, and sometimes even partners themselves, who’ve got carrier or service provider fatigue. They’re tired of dealing with the same old solutions from the big guys. They’re interested in seeing what else is out there. They’re interested in having a partner or service provider that’s a little bit more aggressive and is willing to work with them on some of the unique requirements or characteristics of their environment, and put together a solution that’s more tailored for them.
Our nation just made one of the largest shifts, at least in my lifetime, due to COVID-19. The vast majority of our workforce is now working from home and I don’t think they’re going back to work anytime soon. Even when they do, it’s not going to be what it was before. We’re learning to be productive in this environment. We’re going to come out of it stronger and more efficient.
What are the biggest challenges that your team is seeing out there with some of your customers due to this change, and how are you helping people solve those problems?
It’s happening in a couple of different aspects right now. First, if you’re triaging it, so there’s the “stop the bleeding” that’s going on in some client organizations today. It’s clear, particularly in the SMB and mid-market space, that there are a lot of clients that are just not in business right now, but eventually, the majority of those businesses are going to recover and be back in a position where their operations are up and running again.
I think the work that we do in that dimension is less technical and it’s more about trying to figure out a way that we can partner with that client during this period. Is there a way that we can provide some favorable financing terms for them? Is there a way that we can support them through some downturns in service and suspension in service? It goes back to the point that you were saying earlier about being the “uncarrier”. As much as you see nice ads from the big guys on TV, at the end of the day they’re not cutting a lot of breaks to that segment of space. I think we take the relationship far more seriously and are doing everything that we can to make sure that we keep our clients financially viable during this period. We do the best that we can to try and match their expenses and mitigate the impact that the expenses for our services are having on their business so that they’re able to recover and get through it.
When we saw the transition initially happen in the mid-to-late March timeframe, we worked in partnership with clients to try and figure out how we get their workforce from being fully onsite office-bound workers to now being fully remote.
It’s really about the rapid expansion of capacity — that suddenly when you have all these workers connecting through VPNs, you have to get them connecting remotely. You’ve got them accessing services that were formerly co-located with them. Now they’re accessing them on a remote basis, which means there’s significant network re-architecture that needs to happen to make sure that they’re capable of supporting their organizations in that fully remote environment.
Another aspect of that is also looking at what tools they have, what collaborative tools they have in place, and where they’re well positioned to be able to take their communications infrastructure, their collaboration infrastructure, their shared documents, SharePoint — whatever the case is. Are those tools really present, ready, and able to be portable and support them in a remote workforce setting? At the earliest part of the quarantine, it was a significant amount of activity assisting our clients to be able to support a fully remote workforce.
The last aspect is that now you have to start looking at recovery. What’s next? What does the road to recovery look like? I think what we’re seeing is two different factors at play. Obviously, there’s going to need to be some cost rationalization over the coming months. You can’t take US consumers out of an economy for 13 weeks and expect that there’s not going to be a bottom line impact for a lot of businesses.
We’re already seeing the decision makers, our partners on the client side, having pressure put on them organizationally to rationalize their spending and sometimes give back, pare down, and sometimes figure out how they’re going to be able to save X percent of their remaining budget for the year, so that they can meet what’s an anticipated shortfall on the revenue side. We have to continue looking at how we work with our client base to ensure appropriateness of spending, the rationalization of spending, and some cost optimization services in the short term that may provide some giveback and financial relief to them.
It’s very obvious with a lot of clients that though they’re keeping their businesses running right now, they’re probably doing it with rubber bands and paper clips and shoe strings. While it’s working today, I think that there are likely more seamless ways that they’d be able to support a remote workforce. There’s going to be a significant amount of pressure put on that IT decision maker to ensure that their organizations are better prepared for a crisis like this one if it happens again in the future.
Everybody talks about these being “100-year events” that are never going to happen again, but in the short time I’ve worked at BCM, we’ve had superstorm Sandy hit the Northeast and take out the telecommunications infrastructure of New York City and beyond. We’ve had this crisis. We’ve had numerous winter storms that have shut down operations. It seems like every two years, there’s some 100-year event that’s causing this kind of significant impact on businesses. So we’ve got to be prepared for it.
One of the things I’ve always thought BCM was pretty prepared for is supporting corporate IT. When I look at what I’ve seen, I think that’s the direction that the world’s been moving anyway, towards SaaS-based and cloud-based solutions. As I look at the last few years I’ve worked with BCM One, you’ve slowly but surely kept adding complementary services to your portfolio. You’ve built a Microsoft practice through acquisition and growth, both Azure, Office 365 and then other recent acquisitions.
So what’s next? What else do you see coming into the portfolio in the future?
It’s tough to say because we probably would have had some different plans and thoughts prior to the pandemic. The impact on financial markets from the pandemic, particularly on the debt market, changes the philosophy of how we look at acquisitions at this point. We definitely have a lot of interest in what I would call the managed wireless 5G space. I think an adjunct to that is also the IoT space. So there’s a lot of very interesting things that we’re seeing out there in terms of managing and delivering conductivity to. You see it in restaurants — the kiosks that sit in restaurants, that sit on tabletops, things like that. You see it in malls, you see the digital advertising footprint. There are a lot of really fascinating things that we think are very closely related to our space today, where clients would be able to take advantage of the preexisting relationships that we have on the carrier side.
It’s about going beyond just the connectivity itself, the managed network component itself, and offering some management of devices that are delivering intelligence back to the other aspects that we can offer to a client.
I’ve always thought of BCM One as a domestic US solution, but managed services are one of those things where even if you have the people and the talent and the systems and those things to expand, going global is another thing that comes with a really unique set of challenges.
What are your thoughts on BCM as a global partner? Where do you feel you’re going to bring value to that global market?
I think it goes back to where we started our conversation. Our trust is built on being honest with our partners and our clients about where we’re a fit and where we’re not a fit. I would be deceiving you, or attempting to deceive you, if I went out there and said that we’re going to be a global international business. I mean, we’re a US-based business. That’s where the vast majority of our revenues are derived from. It’s where our team is really based out of.
At the end of 2019 and starting in 2020, we’ve gone into partnership with a few different providers and aggregators that provide carrier services on an international footprint basis. We think that we’ve got a pretty strong team that’s capable of partnering with those clients to provide remote support and then local hands who are on site in those international markets. Where I think our value proposition would be appealing is for clients that are really highly focused still in the US, but have a significant presence outside the international area. That’s when it’s a US-based corporation that’s largely driving the decision-making process, and a significant portion of their spending is US-based, but there is some international footprint that needs some support.
We’ve been fortunate to deal with a few opportunities that are largely US-based companies that do have some significant investment overseas. We were able to step into a market with them, rather than them having to establish independent relationships in each one of those smaller international pops. We’re able to absorb those international pops under the broader footprint of an overall US relationship and a US-based company.
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