Interview

Building a rocket ship

3 min read Unified Comms
Steve Rafferty, country manager for the UK and Ireland, RingCentral, talks to Comms Business about building the company’s business across Europe using the strengths of its dominance in the United States.

We caught up with Steve Rafferty, RingCentral’s country manager for UK and Ireland a couple of weeks before his four year work anniversary. He reflected on his initial ambitions coming into the role. “I came in 2017 to build the European business out from an up-market sales perspective, so customers with over 100 seats. We had very few customers here from a people perspective, we had a relationship with BT, but we weren’t really known. We were more of an SMB business [here in the UK], but in the [United] States it was a rocket ship.”

Rafferty explained that the first question for the RingCentral Europe team was: how can we take what was happening in the US, localise it and then do the same in the UK, France and Germany? The team quickly won some large-scale customers, one of which was a well-known British supermarket which is still a customer today. These huge deployments, Rafferty explained, built a bit of confidence in the team to look at the talent around them and continue on their mission.

These strong foundations meant the team could thrive despite the difficulties presented by the pandemic. “One of the clever things we did was [figuring out how to get] to know everybody in the business because we hired 150 people in the UK last year. I’m only just starting to meet people face-to-face who I class as friends now. It’s been fascinating.”

Rafferty said it took a little while to figure out the best way to bring the team together despite lockdowns. After a little experimentation, spotlighting a different team each week on the company’s staff meeting emerged as the best way to give everyone a voice whilst avoiding information overload.

The RingCentral UK team share anonymous feedback each year to ensure the management team understands how the team is feeling. Rafferty said, “We have a great setup here. Our engagement rates are really good because everybody knows what’s expected of them, and we try to make sure from a leadership perspective that the guys [can] run their own businesses and [the management team] just support them. That has worked really well for us.”

The role of the Channel

The Channel contributes hugely to RingCentral’s success. When Rafferty came onboard, the Channel contributed between 30 and 40 per cent of RingCentral’s business. In the last quarter this year, every single opportunity that the RingCentral UK team closed came from the channel.

The contact centre is one area where channel partners are finding opportunities. Rafferty said, “One of the things we’ve seen out of the back of the pandemic is people are having to fix how they engage with customers on a long-term basis. Businesses are fixing how they deal with their customers and prospects, so lots of organisations are looking at transforming their contact center. We have seen our channel really step up for that because we’ve invested enablement training and also invested marketing dollars with them as well.”

The company has brought its marketing, sales and channel teams together to ensure activities are visible across teams. This ensures the Channel can benefit from marketing initiatives that might otherwise have remained under the radar, as well as helping create synergies where relevant.

New offerings

The company recently unveiled a new platform designed exclusively for service providers. RingCentral Rise allows service providers to offer co-branded unified cloud communications solutions including team messaging, video meetings, cloud phone system, and contact centre solutions. Rafferty said, “We have worked really hard to get this right, and it should enable service providers to offer an end-to-end managed service around UCaaS.”

Rafferty has had a long career across the Channel, with stints at BT, Avaya and Daisy after starting his career at a reseller. When asked what those experiences have taught him, he joked, “I’m lucky because I’ve come from the reseller. I’ve seen the good, the bad, the ugly and the terrible. All of it.”

Rafferty added that he knows “how not to treat a channel partner” as he knows that “you can very quickly lose relationships if you disrespect them”. This is especially apparent when it comes to reseller and MSP relationships with their own customers, which can stretch back decades. Given those strong relationships, partners will know if vendors approach their customers directly.

Rafferty explained that RingCentral has developed a channel proposition that ensures the ecosystem can thrive. “We’ve worked really hard not to have any channel conflict. We always protect the opportunity that’s given to us by a partner. We never disrespect them by talking to the customer without them. And we run key deal reviews, so everybody knows their place in the opportunity.”

This feature appeared in our December 2021 print issue. You can read the magazine in full here.