Thank you to the nearly 300 CEOs, GMs, and COOs who joined us at Calix ConneXions 2023 this year. Many who took part for the first time told me it was the most valuable leadership event of the year, providing the opportunity to collaborate with ~3,000 attendees and engage with world-renowned authors Stephen Covey on trust, Daniel Pink on change and Michael Watkins on execution.
At ConneXions we focused on how a broadband service provider (BSP) can move beyond speed with a “Grow Your Community” playbook.
Almost every market will have two fast broadband providers—and if speed and price are the go-to-market strategy, commoditization and price wars are the only outcome—as we have seen in mobile. To compete and win, BSPs need a community strategy that empowers all aspects of the community: residential, business, education, multi-dwelling units (MDUs), and government. This community strategy will successfully add subscribers, margins, and cash flow (as every speaker on the ConneXions main stage demonstrated) as legacy network operators race to the bottom and fail. The market is ripe for the change that the Calix broadband platform is enabling.
Disrupting and Beating Legacy Network Operators: The Time Has Come
While legacy operators speak to investors about homes passed, the five customers who presented their stories on the ConneXions main stage shared how they are transforming their business and measuring success in a very different way. Those customers focused on connected subscribers, cash flow, subscriber satisfaction, and winning the community end to end. They shared how they focused on:
Expecting to get more than 60 percent of passings connected across residential, small and medium business, MDU, education, and government.
Reaching cash-flow positivity in two years and seven-figure profitability in just three years (achieved by the CEO of Tombigbee Fiber).
Exciting customers to achieve a Net Promoter Score℠ (NPS®) of 70+, thereby enabling significantly higher profitability and the opportunity to expand services.
Winning the community’s hearts and minds by being the brand that bridges the digital divide—providing educational opportunities for students (via Calix SmartTown™), boosting the local economy by enabling small businesses (via Calix SmartBiz™), and ensuring physical wellbeing and mental health for families and kids (via Bark social media monitoring, which Calix customers are launching in just 7–21 days, with only Calix Service Cloud required).
All of this is possible based on the simplifying power of the Calix platform, which yields the highest margins and the fastest time to market—as evidenced by the ConneXions speakers and hundreds of stories that customers shared with each other at the conference.
The “Grow Your Community” Playbook: Death of the Legacy Player
At the conference, we talked at length about how a BSP can now serve the entire community—residential, government, business, and MDU—by leveraging the Calix broadband platform. The platform model has incredible power. Using an analogy to illustrate this power, I borrowed from a question posed originally by David Goodspeed, president of OEC Fiber: “Is a pickup truck a consumer vehicle or business vehicle?”
The answer is both. GM, Ford, or Dodge pickup trucks are all built as a platform. The platform has common components that allow it to scale and be easily customized for business or consumer use. (In fact, in American Icon: Alan Mulally and the Fight to Save Ford, this move to a platform model was the most important shift that CEO Mulally made to save the company.)
This analogy applies directly to the power of the Calix platform and Calix GigaSpire® BLAST systems. Are they consumer or business? The answer is both. The platform enables them to be both consumer and business; it just depends on what software is running—SmartHome™, SmartBiz, SmartTown, SmartMDU™, or ManagedBiz™.
The days of a single Wi-Fi appliance serving everyone are gone. In the residential example, there are small houses and big houses—covering everything from the pool, to farms, home workshops, concrete-walled or drywalled rooms, apartments, duplexes, and on and on. A platform enables mixing and matching of Wi-Fi appliances—small, medium, large, indoor, outdoor—to meet all use cases while keeping it simple, because every GigaSpire works with every GigaSpire in a nearly infinite number of permutations.
This capability enables the community playbook: Expand your business across the entire community by mixing and matching Wi-Fi appliances, and then running the right software:
Customer-Led Innovation Is the Way Forward
As I said on the main stage at ConneXions, all this innovation comes from our partnership with BSPs. Your ideas inspire us to expand our SmartLife™ solutions to meet new capabilities as you mix and match the systems to meet the needs of the entire community.
In this issue of the Leadership Beacon, we share video presentations from the leaders who spoke onstage at ConneXions. This year, Tombigbee, United Fiber, Hunter Communications, ALLO, and Lumos shared what is possible with the “Grow Your Community” playbook.
If you joined us at ConneXions 2023, thank you. The feedback was so positive that we are going to open registration for the 2024 October 12–15 ConneXions Leadership Track (CEO/CFO/COO/GM) in December. Click here to save the date in your calendar now.
I do hope that I can host you at the next Leadership Track within ConneXions.
Wishing you continued success,
Just a few years ago, I set a bold goal for our company: to show the world that rural Mississippi could lead the way in bridging the digital divide and transforming lives for the better. Our partnership with Calix has allowed us to bring that vision to life. From the start of our journey, we understood that offering just internet services wouldn’t cut it. Differentiated services like Calix SmartTown™ made us stand out. We even got amazing local news coverage for using SmartTown to get our high school football stadiums connected. Our communities—students, local leaders, families, and more—have had wildly positive feedback on the managed services we provide.
Our remarkable results include:
Keeping Kids Safe by Preventing Cyberbullying
Cyberbullying can have terrible consequences for kids, including depression, anxiety, and suicidal ideation. On this Connected Nations podcast episode recorded at Calix ConneXions, Matt Collins, chief commercial operations officer at Calix, and Scott Hendrix discuss how Tombigbee leveraged the Calix broadband platform to quickly launch Bark, the social media monitoring tool that helps parents detect and stop social media-based cyberbullying.
United Fiber has been attending ConneXions for over a decade. This year, I was proud to share our story of incredible growth on the main stage. Starting in 2010, we developed a vision to serve our members and improve their rural way of life—turning up our first subscriber in 2013. Supported by $60 million in funding, we’ve grown to 45 communities, investing locally and partnering closely with city representatives and residents. Today, we are dominating the residential subscriber experience for our Missouri communities. How? We provide differentiated value with managed services.
That’s how we’re achieving great results such as:
Getting 60–70 percent take rates in competitive communities where we’re up against copper cable providers.
Beating our projections. For the first 5,000 homes we served, we had projected a 12-year return on investment. With the services we’ve provided, however, we achieved that goal in just four years.
Giving $9 million back to our members in the past five years through rate discounts and advanced capital credits. Our last rate increase was in 2015. That’s unheard of for electric cooperatives and has really transformed our community—areas with some of the highest rates of poverty in the country.
Growing by 800–1,000 subscribers every month—and planning to be at 50,000 customers over the next 18 months.
Taking the Next Step With HomeOfficeIQ™
As United Fiber continues to deliver value for their community, they plan to make HomeOfficeIQ available to deliver an exceptional work-from-home experience for their residential subscribers. Watch Michael Weening’s announcement about HomeOfficeIQ, which offers a wireless failover in the event of storms or cable cuts—enabling home office workers to continue to seamlessly stay engaged in their workflows.
ALLO’s journey, which I’ve had the privilege of sharing at Calix ConneXions over the years, began in a small Nebraska town of 2,000 residents. Thanks to our steadfast partnership with Calix, we’ve evolved into a prominent service provider, extending our reach across Nebraska, Colorado, and Arizona. We are now dominating our markets by expanding rapidly to grow all aspects of our community by delivering offerings that serve the needs of everyone—businesses, government, and residential subscribers. Onstage, I called this approach of being everything for everyone our “moat.” That means the bigger competitors, even those who have vast resources, can’t come in and take anything, because it’s our town; they are just guests.
And our strategy is working, as we are seeing:
SmartTown Has Multiple Use Cases That Expand Value to the Community
SmartTown community Wi-Fi can help first responders answer emergency calls even when no cell service is available. Watch Michael Weening at Connexions extend the applications for SmartTown, including longer-range Wi-Fi.
It was an honor to join ConneXions this year and share the Hunter Communications journey on the main stage. Our “why” goes beyond serving investors and our board of directors. During the past 30 years, we’ve evolved from a construction company into an internet service provider, initially specializing in commercial accounts. However, we were acquired at the onset of the COVID pandemic. That spurred a profound pivot where we expanded into the residential market and aligned our mission around helping every customer create lasting and meaningful connections to each other, their communities, and the world.
Along the way, we’ve developed a deeply trusted partnership with Calix. In turn, that has enabled us to build and maintain trust with subscribers—including our highly lucrative and underserved SMB customers.
We continue to achieve significant success:
Achieving balanced revenue streams. We transitioned from a company with no residential customers to a 50/50 split between residential and commercial revenue—aligning with our mission of connecting communities.
Expanding into residential. With a multimillion-dollar, self-funded fiber-to-the-home project, we achieved remarkable revenue diversification.
Purpose-Built Offerings From Calix To Own SMB Markets
Small businesses have enough on their plates without needing to worry about broadband service, cybersecurity, and consistent connectivity. Watch Michael Weening discuss SmartBiz, the only Wi-Fi managed service custom-built for small businesses, along with the newly announced ManagedBiz™ for larger enterprises with IT teams.
It was a privilege to share the remarkable journey of Lumos at ConneXions this year. Created from the merger of Lumos Networks and NorthState, we set forth to build fiber networks across underserved regions. In 2022, we connected 68,000 homes with fiber, with ambitious plans to double subscriber growth in 2023, reaching more than 1 million homes in five years. Many things set Lumos apart, but I will highlight a few: our dedicated employees who go above and beyond for our customers and local communities, our ability to grow and innovate rapidly, and strong support from partners like Calix.
They have enabled us to:
Announcing New Innovations in Multi-Dwelling and Multi-Family Wi-Fi Solutions
As a managed service fully integrated for the Calix broadband platform, SmartMDU enables BSPs to expand their business by seamlessly serving the needs of MDUs. Watch Michael Weening introduce SmartMDU at ConneXions 2023.
*Net Promoter®, NPS®, NPS Prism®, and the NPS-related emoticons are registered trademarks of Bain & Company, Inc., Satmetrix Systems, Inc., and Fred Reichheld. Net Promoter Score℠ and Net Promoter System℠ are service marks of Bain & Company, Inc., Satmetrix Systems, Inc., and Fred Reichheld.
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