NationLink's Andy Bailey talks about running a tech company with 1950s values and why the iPhone is losing its appeal [From our print edition featured in Monday's City Paper
Andy Bailey is president of Franklin-based NationLink, which handles cellular phone and BlackBerry sales, training and management; wireless bill analysis and optimization; GPS fleet management; and an employee discount program for wireless service, phones and accessories.
Recently, Post Correspondent William Williams met with Bailey to break down issues involving the wireless telecommunications retail sector.
Between Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint and others, the wireless industry is extremely competitive and somewhat confusing. What are the actual carrier differences and the perceived differences?
“Confusing” is a good choice of words. The carriers today are very similar in offerings but they all have strengths and weaknesses. For my clients, I look for the right fit for a particular need when determining a carrier. Sometimes that need is coverage, while other times it is cost. In a lot of cases, the differences are not as huge as the carriers would like you to think. For example, the coverage card is being played heavily in the media right now. Our clients rely on us to wade through the nuances, and make recommendations based on [their] specific need.
NationLink continues to sell Sprint products when the buzz is all about the iPad and the BlackBerry. What’s your take on the brands?
My clients trust me to find the best value for their money and the best solutions to fit their needs. Carriers, for the most part, have similar product and service offerings. Our charge is to sort through massive amounts of information until we find the best “overall” solution. In most cases, it isn’t the flash that gets the job done; it’s the muscle. Sprint has a highly reliable network with muscle, and they provide the largest scope of solutions for business use.
Have you thought about expanding your service offering to include other carriers?
Sure. It’s a question we have to pay attention to, and we do have solutions that are carrier agnostic. We primarily refer to Sprint because, realistically, they do come out on top, in my opinion, for 95 percent of all users. No other carrier can do that. Managing wireless for a business encompasses much more than devices and services.
Our clients submit hundreds of change orders weekly, and Sprint offers NationLink access to systems to make those changes easy for us, which equates to better customer service for our clients. The other carriers haven’t been able to show us that they can play that same role.
Despite the economy, your business seemingly is doing well. How have you maintained growth and momentum?
In the fourth quarter 2009, we had an 18 percent increase in revenue and profit as compared to the previous year, and from there, a 25 percent increase in the same for Q1 2010. Q2 is off to a great start with April revenue being two times higher than [that of] any other month since 2007. So, yes we are continuing to grow.
Back in late 2008, I told an audience that the upcoming year was going to be a difficult one. My senses told me that people and businesses needed to know that their vendors are there for them personally, not just for their business dollar, and that the way business will be done in the future will mirror the way business was done in the 1950s — with relationships, with caring, with friends.
We focus on what we call our e3 core values: Make it EASY for clients to do business with us and easy for us to do that business, ensure that we have the knowledge, tools and solutions to be EXPERTS in our fields, and be ENTHUSIASTIC in everything we do and make it fun.
Is there truly a difference with 4G? How will that affect Nashville?
There’s a big difference. 4G (fourth generation) will change the way wireless capabilities are perceived and used. We won’t know the true extent for some time only because its use hasn’t been thought of yet. Think of it this way: Dial-up gave us access to the Internet. It was slow, but we didn’t know anything else. With high-speed service, that same Internet became more accessible and faster, inspiring all kinds of innovation from video to social networking to online collaboration just for starters.
4G wireless will have that same type of effect. It will do for wireless connectivity what cable Internet did for the home user. Nashville is very much an entrepreneurial and technology driven city. Based on the current blog chatter, my prediction is that by late summer, Nashville will have 4G.
What are some trends to watch?
In 1996, Bill Gates wrote a book called The Road Ahead. The entire concept of that book is what we now call “convergence”— putting more and more “stuff” into a single personal device that we each keep with us. With the introduction of faster data speeds, more and more of our daily lives will be added to “devices.” Think about all your currency being on your phone. This is already being done in Japan so it’s only a matter of time. M2M (machines talking to machines using wireless connectivity as a conduit) is another technology that is creating some buzz. Envision a coke machine telling a computer at the distributor what it needs to refill on the next run.
To date, iPhone users have been limited to AT&T service. What will we see happen to the industry when the options increase and when that will happen?
Only a select few anointed individuals know the answer to the “when” question. However, if it isn’t soon — and I mean very soon — it will not be that big of a deal. The power of Google’s Android operating system combined with the increasing momentum of the current 4G roll-out is diminishing the appeal and importance of the iPhone.
Android is the new game-changer. With its totally open operating system (a first in this industry), Android has the positioning to trigger this same proliferation but at an even greater pace. In addition to creating apps, the general public will now be able to make changes to the operating system itself. That’s what the buzz is about, and that’s why it’s a big deal.