Millennials have been called it all: entitled, job hoppers, selfish, and the list goes on. Call them what you will, but they also happen to be remarkably gifted at shaking things up, which is exactly what Millennial Chris Checksfield is doing in the world of cloud and connectivity services.
As the co-founder of Net7 Solutions, a Massachusetts-based tech advisory company, Chris is on a mission to disrupt the business through a relentless commitment to customer satisfaction.
He’s off to a great start. In just four short years, he’s built his business into one of Intelisys’ fastest growing sales partners.
I sat down with Chris to learn more about the ins and outs of his early success.
Awakening to the Customer Support Gap
Before jumping to the tech advisory world, Chris had 15 years of sales experience in telecom and IT — most recently as a regional sales director at Windstream. He was so successful that he had been named Windstream’s #1 sales rep in the nation.
At home, he was a newlywed with a newborn baby and a lovely home. And he achieved it all by the time he was 30.
But despite all his success at work and home, Chris was restless.
“Everything was good,” he said. “But, it wasn’t great.”
Chris wanted to do more.
Following multiple conversations with his customers, Chris sensed a change was coming to the industry. He later met with his best friend Cary Stallings to get his take, and came to two conclusions. The first was that technology service providers were failing to deliver adequate levels of customer support. The second:
“We can either sink with the ship or build our own raft and go find the islands.”
Realizing they could do more for customers, Chris and Cary took the plunge and co-founded Net7 Solutions.
Formulating the Business. Finding a Niche.
Chris and Cary followed a two-prong plan for creating Net7 Solutions. This included:
- Focusing on a niche and identify an opportunity within a larger market: Become subject matter experts in that niche and develop a complete understanding of the vendor community.
- Focusing on VARs and building relationships with integrators and established IT consultants: Talk to executives, owners, and their customers and help them understand how to make sense of the advancing technologies available in the vendor community.
Their start-up phase also involved research on multiple industries — including retail. Here they discovered retail was largely transitioning from private networks to internet apps (like hosted voice, contact center, and unified communications).
They also discovered that the VARs who were working in retail didn’t have a core competency in networking. Correspondingly, it were these very VARs whose customer bases was being eroded by networking offers from big telecoms.
Through in-depth conversations with the VARs and their customers, they learned the pain points of each inside and out. With this intel in hand, Chris and Cary created a portfolio of services that would bring the VARs more business while growing their own — all of it tailored to the customer experience.
Like any start-up, the early days were touch-and-go. Personal lifestyle frills had to be cut and their business budget required several readjustments.
During this time, they researched everything to death. They also created a list of retailers to target, found their headquarters and decision makers, and aligned their message and process to the market they knew needed support.
Those early days were all about being precise and deliberate. Or as Chris notes,
“Don’t hunt with a shotgun, hunt with a rifle.”
The hard work paid off. Some 18 months later Net7 Solutions was above water.
Chris and Cary learned early on that their business success was largely dependent on intangibles that Chris calls a “family-lifestyle matchup”. Meaning that their success can be attributed to their supportive spouses and partners.
Business activity is equally important — including efforts like networking, caring, working as hard as you can, sharing what you know, and paying it forward.
Those last two points have especially hit home since partnering with Intelisys. Since becoming a sales partner, Chris and Cary have seen that partners go out of their way to help each other knowing that there’s plenty of work to go around.
Their experience building Net7 Solutions has also taught Chris and Cary these lessons:
- Don’t just do it to make a buck, but do it to do some good.
- Empower employees to dig deeper and make a difference. Help them feel part of something bigger.
- Communication, whether about something great or not-so, only works in its most honest and true form.
- Failure and pain can be the best teacher.
- You need a yin and a yang. Chris is a high-energy Millennial who wants to change the world and is constantly on-the-go. Cary has his feet firmly on the ground and makes decisions based on logic.
- Start with something where the sales cycles are less lengthy. Looking back they would have started with unified communications and cloud for the quick install and setup times to bring revenue in more quickly.
Listen to Chris Checksfield in His Own Words
Chris Checksfield explained how to win sales; by putting in the hard work, selling a service that will really help clients, providing outstanding customer service, and admitting when you’re wrong. Catch his interview on the Intelisys Channel Outlaws Podcast.