For Nex-Tech, community is key.
The technology and broadband company began life as an off-shoot of Rural Telephone Service Co., a business which specialised in ensuring telecom services were accessible to the most remote parts of Kansas. Nex-Tech has kept those values close to its heart, using its advanced technological capabilities to ensure high-quality services and products are available for its consumers.
Nex-Tech has acted aggressively in ensuring that the evolution of technology has matched the needs of the consumer, and this approach is made possible in part due to skilled staff. Chief Executive Officer Jimmy Todd has more than 30 years of experience in technology – at least 20 of which have focused on telecoms – and knows better than most the challenges of working in an ever-changing industry.
“I’ve seen businesses move from stepping switches to electronic switches, and now IP-based switches which only take up a couple of rack units of space,” Todd explains. “Communications has transitioned so much, whether you started out as a phone company or a cable company. It’s all blending into an IP-based offering and continues to move at a very fast pace in that direction.”
Todd attributes the success of keeping up with that fast pace to his team: “We have some brilliant folks on staff that are truly experts in what we do. They are constantly involved in working with our vendors to look at what is going to be available in the near future, how that fits in with the services we currently offer, and how it would be utilised or implemented. It’s a constant effort, not something you can do once and feel good about it for a few years. Today, you don’t buy a switch that lasts 20 years – you forecast for five years hoping that you’ll get three-and-a-half.”
Todd also has a very strong executive management team, with whom he holds monthly meetings to ensure communication flows at all times: “I think it’s really important that whether you’re in charge of finance and accounting, regulatory, marketing, sales, or operations, everybody is on the same page.”
Retaining staff may be a challenge inherent in any technology business serving a rural area, but this is where Nex-Tech’s dedication to community pays dividends. While there isn’t as large a talent pool to choose from as there would be in metro areas, the business has been fortunate enough to attract high levels of talent, often due to its close relationship with Fort Hays State University.
“They have a good programme for computer sciences, and that’s been an opportunity for us to bring some of their students on in a part-time capacity,” Todd explains. “So they get an income throughout college, and at the same time they’re learning some real life skills. In some cases, that results in us being able to offer them a full-time position once they get their degree, so that’s worked out nicely.”
Nex-Tech also involves itself in other community development programmes to help local high schools with scholarships and internships, beyond the relationship with Fort Hays State University, by offering young people a stepping stone to get involved with a STEM industry – something that is sorely needed. New generations of talented staff are necessary, and young people want to work for the business because it is a deeply attractive prospect. Why? Because Nex-Tech prides itself on quality of service – and rightly so.
“We’ve got a lab and any time there’s new equipment or a new service, we test it on our network long before it goes out to the customers,” Todd states. “We have to know it’s going to work, otherwise you end up with a bad customer experience, which leads to a bad internal experience and negativity with our suppliers.”
Suppliers are considered partners for Nex-Tech, and the business likes to maintain close relationships. The suppliers know that Nex-Tech takes the time to evaluate equipment thoroughly in its lab, and open communication is encouraged to ensure those suppliers are part of the team.
“Really that’s paid off hugely and gives us early insight into equipment that might be coming up for general availability,” says Todd. “It also allows us to make suggestions about what we think is going to be most beneficial to our customers. So, I think again, it’s about having good communication and strong relationships, and when new vendors come on board, we put them through the same wringer. If their equipment meets the specifications we’re looking for, we put it in the lab – just like with our current vendors – and see if it makes the grade.”
Ahead of the curve
The powerhouse that Nex-Tech is constantly evolving into is consolidating its top-quality staff, partners, and dedication to the best technology to surge forward with increased capacity and breadth of service. Nex-Tech was an early adopter of fiber optic infrastructure, and has an active fiber network which is scalable based on the electronics at either end.
“It costs a little more to build that way, but in the long run you’re not having to go back with the engineer and add fiber further into the network, not to mention additional labor costs down the road,” says Todd. “We’ve moved to an active strategy which in the long run sets us up for much greater success.”
This success means Nex-Tech is able to further its reach, and it is always looking to advance into underserved areas. “That has been our biggest focus and will probably continue to be, because a fiber optic network is the infrastructure that is going to be in play for the next 50 years,” says Todd. “Large communities will see more wireless go into play, but that’s still going to have to be connected to a fiber backbone. In rural areas like we predominantly serve, wireless is limited due to population and distance, so you find that the fixed connection is that much more important. We want to be able to facilitate both the wired and wireless utilising our fiber optic infrastructure.”
It is Nex-Tech’s business technology services which will truly differentiate it for customers, as many of the SMEs it serves don’t have the staff expertise to handle a modern IT infrastructure. This enables Nex-Tech to act as an outsourced state-of-the-art IT department which allows those smaller organisations to operate at maximum efficiency.
“Then we’re the ones in the background making sure the equipment is up-to-date, always making the processing better and improving the service,” says Todd. “It’s difficult for a small business that doesn’t necessarily focus on technology to be up-to-speed on these changes, so we’re able to leverage that knowledge and experience to help our customers.”
This focus also extends to digital ad services provided by Nex-Tech. Since the need for phone directories has begun to die out, Nex-Tech helps businesses find ways to advertise via the Internet and social media. This creates even more partnership value.
The combination of these rich offerings undoubtedly cements Nex-Tech’s status as a multi-faceted technology business which genuinely cares about its community and its people.