ShoreTel CEO Sees 'Pipeline Of Prospective Partners We've Never Had Before'

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When ShoreTel CEO Peter Blackmore took the stage at ShoreTel's recent Champion Partner Conference in Chicago, it was the first opportunity many ShoreTel VARs had to see him in action. How would he motivate the company's partner base?

Blackmore's message, as succinct and determined, couldn't have been more clear.

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

It was a clarion call for ShoreTel partners to get aggressive as major UC competitors like Cisco, Avaya and Microsoft work through restructuring, acquisitions and internal channel issues.

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

Blackmore has good reason to be excited about the company he took over last December. ShoreTel returned to profitability in its fiscal third quarter, ended in March, and has grown revenues not only quarter-over-quarter, but by 30 percent or higher on a year-over-year basis every quarter for the past year.

Earlier this week, ShoreTel reported revenues of $56.5 million for its fourth quarter, a 34 percent increase over the previous year's fourth quarter and a number that extends that 30-percent-or-higher growth streak to five quarters. Overall revenue for ShoreTel's fiscal 2011 was $200.1 million, a company record and an increase of 35 percent over ShoreTel's 2010 number.

Blackmore, a veteran of UTStarcom, Unisys, HP and Compaq, was named ShoreTel's new CEO in December. At the partner conference, he told partners that ShoreTel will focus on building its presence in the U.S. as well as abroad, bringing ShoreTel into the cloud era as it evolves its products, pushing upmarket into mid-sized and enterprise-level accounts, and, perhaps most crucially for partners, building on a mobility strategy ShoreTel kicked off with its game-changing acquisition of Agito Networks last fall.

ShoreTel VARs are excited about the company's priorities and have been universal in their acclaim for ShoreTel's channel gains, and according to Blackmore, there's no reason to change course when so many things are going right.

Blackmore joined CRN Senior Editor Chad Berndtson in Chicago for a discussion of his vision for ShoreTel and how the company will sustain that momentum in its fiscal 2012. Excerpts of the conversation follow.

Talk about your strategy for keeping ShoreTel growing.

The first part is in the U.S., because that's our home base. The company has clearly has a winning formula, so my philosophy there is don't change too much and if anything, increase it. That winning formula, as I'm sure you understand, is aggressive partner engagement. Adding two-tier [distribution] was a big change in the U.S., and that's going very well and has been very well-received by partners. And then adding more resources to enable us to work well, manage and support and continue to have leadership in R&D.

It's a simple premise: If your win rate when you're properly considered is above 50 percent -- and ours is -- you've got to get your consideration rate up, because then the arithmetic woks in your favor. It's hard for people to challenge our win rate because of the 50 percent cost of ownership advantage we have against all of the competition. Add to that the fact we've got a very evangelical user base who really like the simplicity and the fact that you can roll these systems out very fast. So you'll see more of the same in the U.S.

You then take what we do internationally, and we've got even more to do. Because we're here, if you add one more person in the U.S. and one more person in the U.K., it's still going to be more productive in the U.S. But every other dollar we have will help us grow internationally. We're getting a lot of traction in Canada, and a lot of traction in the U.K., and a lot of traction in Asia. We will be expanding into other countries and doing it in a very disciplined way, because my philosophy of growing internationally is that you've got to go in there with credible, critical mass. You can't do it everywhere at once.

NEXT: ShoreTel's Blackmore On Mobility, Cloud And Competitors

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