Zane Conkle’s grandfather helped him understand that at the end of the day, what matters most is fulfilling customers’ needs and seeing them succeed.
The co-founder and CEO of Cytracom, Zane started his first IT business when he was just 15 years old after convincing his grandfather to let him set up a computer shop in a vacant building in the town where Zane grew up. His grandfather, who owned the building, knew nothing about computers but was a savvy businessman.
“My grandfather ran businesses throughout his whole life,” Zane said. “I’d been tinkering with computers for years, so I taught him technology and he taught me business. It was amazing to watch my 72-year-old grandfather go from barely being able to turn a computer on to tearing laptops apart and helping customers with their early Windows servers. It’s a great memory for me and something I cherish.”
Early on, Zane did break-fix, serving both residential and commercial customers in his local community. While growing his IT business, Zane recalled getting frustrated and not understanding the customer’s viewpoint. But his grandfather made him see things differently.
“My grandfather created this burning passion in me to help customers succeed, which has survived and lived on to this day.”
Quickly, the commercial side of the business grew, and in 2007, after morphing into an MSP, he noticed the overwhelming demand for VoIP solutions. At first, Zane felt confident in recommending solutions, but he began running into problems as he implemented and rolled out solutions from big-name vendors. Soon his grandfather’s words were burning in his ears.
“We had customers that wanted to move from old phone systems to voice-based solutions, but reliability was a nightmare,” Zane said. “Sometimes customers would receive their calls, and other times they wouldn’t. It was a huge distraction and challenge for their businesses.”
The new features and advantages of VoIP also brought new complexities, as the solutions weren’t created primarily for the SMB market. “It got to a point where we no longer wanted to recommend VoIP because there were no good options in the market,” Zane said.
VoIP vendors were also failing to help MSPs be successful. “None of the vendors understood the way MSPs went to market,” Zane said. “There was always this disconnect or misalignment with the vendors about how I interacted with my customers … from pre-sales to ongoing support.”
This led Zane and his team to create their own hosted VoIP solution to serve his SMB clients. “We realized that if we didn’t own our own technology and our own IP and if engineering wasn’t in-house, we would never be able to really service the SMB market the way that it needed to be serviced,” Zane said.
As he started moving his clients over to his internal solution, he saw his customers’ frustrations and phone challenges disappear. “When I saw that our solution truly addressed their problems and how much happier our customers were, it became clear to us that there were more MSPs with the same challenge.”
In 2008, Zane sold his MSP business to aggressively focus on building out Cytracom’s own IP from top to bottom, with the idea to serve the MSP community exclusively. After bootstrapping the business for 12 months, he and his partner took Cytracom to market.
Today, Cytracom’s posture is a result of the early principles that Zane’s grandfather instilled in him while growing his first IT business. Cytracom is focused on serving MSPs a truly comprehensive VoIP and UC offering for their business and their SMB clients. To ensure its partners are successful, Cytracom goes deeper than just selling a product to the MSP community. “Every question we have and every decision we make — from product and engineering to customer success—revolve around how to create the best experience for our MSP partners and their customers,” Zane said.
Cytracom’s engineering team works out of its Dallas office, allowing them to talk directly with support and product teams on an ongoing basis. This has allowed Cytracom to serve the nuances of the MSP community better and innovate more quickly. As a result of Cytracom’s laser focus, in-depth understanding of what MSPs need to be successful, and their willingness to act, they’ve brought products to market that no other vendor is providing, such as Voice Continuity and Shared Inboxes. “We listen to our partners and develop solutions to meet their requests,” Zane said. “Our partners can manage their customer life cycle journey from end to end at a very deep level, more so than they can with any other vendor.”
In 2011, Cytracom got involved with Technology Marketing Toolkit (TMT). “TMT’s Bootcamp was the first event we attended,” Zane recalled. “We’ve found the TMT community to be highly engaged and interested in learning how to grow their business. That aligns extremely well with us, so we’ve heavily engaged with them ever since. TMT has brought us better visibility and created a platform to share what makes Cytracom unique with the broader MSP community.”
Over the years, Cytracom has primarily partnered with TMT at Producers Club events and their annual bootcamp. Zane has launched new products at TMT events and worked with Robin Robins on strategic opportunities. “The booth at Robin’s events is key,” Zane said. “We actively engage with our partners and potential partners on a one-on-one basis and leverage speaking opportunities to talk about new products. We’ve also sponsored happy hours and different events to gain access to new partners and new leads.”
In 2020, COVID-19 accelerated their mission to connect the modern workforce and help users stay in touch and connected on any device, from any location. To help MSPs position themselves better and sell VoIP solutions to their customers, Zane teamed up with Robin to create a series of marketing campaigns for MSPs to use. “We wanted to help our partners be more effective,” Zane said. “The early results of this campaign have been extremely successful. We appreciate Robin’s dedication. She is heavily engaged in ensuring that this campaign drives the results we’re looking for.”
Through partnering with TMT, Cytracom has experienced a good uptick throughout the years, but the most important thing to Zane is seeing his MSP partners succeed. “The most rewarding thing for me personally is to think back to our early MSP partners that attended Robin’s seminars,” Zane said. “They were learning how to grow their business and partnered with Cytracom. To look at where they are now as compared to where they were and see how they’ve grown and the level of success they’ve achieved is super rewarding.”
He adds, “The methodical focus we have on our partners’ success with their customers comes from my grandfather and ensuring we always do the right thing. Even when we don’t understand or see it the way the customer sees it. At the end of the day, our customers’ needs are always met and most important.”