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Pioneering Video Conferencing: Polycom CEO Bob Hagerty (Part 4)

Posted on Saturday, Nov 24th 2007

SM: What were some of the major milestones in building the company from $37 Million to $682 Million a year?

BH: Founding the company, what Brian and Jeff did was important. They had a great creative design. That is not the exact design we introduced, but close. You would know if you saw the original one and the current one.

We have also built a very strong brand. Early on, back in 1998, we said we need to look like a company 20 times bigger than we are.

SM: Can you talk more about the process of building the brand?

BH: First you have to agree that you want to do it. What are the tools available? The beginnings of the web were there. We looked at various things. People used a lot of advertising back then, and we did that in unique ways with cool ads. I look back at the ads now and I think they are dumb looking. During the time, they resonated with people. Print was big before the beginnings of web.

We were able to go “retailish”, picking up on things Logitech would have done. If you ask someone “What is Poycom?”, unaided they have a hard time answering. If you ask them if Polycom is either a video phone or speaker phone, they quickly remember who we are. We have a good brand built around customer satisfaction with excellent, excellent products. In the early days that was critical because we added that to go to market strategies, and that let us add other product lines as well.

Key to our early success was the fact that we were primarily a channels play. We dabbled with direct selling, but it was nothing but heartache. If you want to use channels, you really need to make sure channels are willing to invest with you. It was tough with sales people. If the sales force takes the deal out of the hands of the channel, or even perceive to take it away from the channel, the channel is going to pull back and you have channel conflict. We made a purist move, and we took at hit because we had a direct selling group, and we forced them to hand it all to the channel.

SM: What is the profile of your channel partners? System Integrators?

BH: Today we use a variety. For the distribution side of the market we use Tech Data, Ingram Micro, Westcon, ScanSource. For go to market, depending on where you are, we have a pyramid in place. At the top are strategic partners. We sell OEM together with Avaya, Nortel, Cisco, IBM and Microsoft. Those are the five big ones, and also Alcatel Lucent in Europe. That allows us to serve our larger customers, and we show them how our solutions integrate. We touch those customers and also have solution providers come in.

With our equipment, if it involves video, you need an AV integrator to help. Most people are not skilled at placing monitors, and the equipment is a networking product. It is a different skill base.

This segment is part 4 in the series : Pioneering Video Conferencing: Polycom CEO Bob Hagerty
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