ShoreTel CEO: Time Is Right For VARs To Get Aggressive

"You've got the Sun, the Moon and the stars lining up," said Blackmore, extolling ShoreTel partner opportunity in a keynote speech at ShoreTel's Champion Partner Conference in Chicago.

Addressing representatives of about 600 ShoreTel partners, Blackmore said he intends to triple ShoreTel's investment in mobility, including research and development, this year -- part of a multipronged strategy designed to preserve ShoreTel's growth momentum and position it as a nimble challenger to Cisco, Avaya and other UC heavyweights.

ShoreTel, Blackmore said, has grown revenue by 30 percent or more in each of the last four quarters. The company now has about a nine percent market share of IP Telephony market in the U.S., according to several analyst estimates.

"We're gaining every quarter and I do not see anything to stop that momentum," Blackmore told an enthusiastic crowd.

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Blackmore, a veteran of UTStarcom, Unisys, HP and Compaq, became ShoreTel's CEO in December. He highlighted many of the key moves ShoreTel has made in the past year to catalyze its growth, including the acquisition of mobility specialist Agito Networks, and the move toward two-tier distribution in the U.S. and Canada, with Westcon Group and ScanSource.

The mobility play behind Agito will be the game-changer for ShoreTel, Blackmore said. Agito's focus was UC products that integrate with an enterprise's existing PBX infrastructure to enable voice calls over VoIP connections, essentially extending an organization's enterprise UC system to the mobile edge.

Crucially, ShoreTel preserved one of the Agito platform's most important features: vendor agnostic PBX and UC support. ShoreTel, in other words, can be brought in to deals where Cisco, Avaya and other UC systems are installed, and it an also be an appealing play for enterprises, beyond its traditional SMB customer base.

That's real opportunity, Blackmore repeatedly emphasized.

"We're building momentum, we can sustain that and improve it, and with mobility, we can exceed even our wildest dreams," Blackmore said Wednesday. "It's a really exciting time."

The industry needs a player like ShoreTel, he contended, because a lot of the UC incumbents are distracted, from Cisco, with its restructuring, to Avaya, which is integrating the Nortel channel and customer base and planning for an IPO.

With its Lync platform, Microsoft is the "best organized" of the major UC competitors, Blackmore said, and its acquisition of Skype wasn't that big of a surprise.

"For a company as wealthy as Microsoft, it's not the money, it's the urgent need to get relevant in parts of the market they've never been relevant in because their core business is under attack," Blackmore said.

What's happening, he said, is a window of opportunity for aggressive, insistent ShoreTel sales and a diehard commitment to ShoreTel's "brilliantly simple" mantra for UC products.

"The whole industry is distracted," he said. "Eventually competitors will get their act together. Let's not miss out on this opportunity."

ShoreTel will focus on growing its U.S. base but also in international geographies, he added. The company is currently in 48 countries, and Canada and the U.K. are growing most rapidly. ShoreTel will also push into India and other Asia territories where IP telephony and mobility are growing rapidly.

ShoreTel's growth will be on the back of partners, Blackmore insisted -- the company is 100 percent channel and that won't change. Partner growth will propel ShoreTel to very realistic targets of $1 billion a year in revenue and 20 percent market share, he said.

"You're doing great," he said. "I ask you to raise the bar. It's what I said internally to my team, to all the employees. We have to not be frightened to get really aggressive and take share from our major competitors."