Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?
Hi, Everyone! My name is Yaniv Masjedi and I’m the CMO of Nextiva, a leading business communications company based in Scottsdale, Arizona. I’ve been with the company since the very beginning (spring 2008) when we signed our first customer.
Our co-founder and CEO, Tomas Gorny, came up with the idea for Nextiva after experiencing a ton of inefficiencies in the business phone service and business communication market. He wanted to solve for those and create a company that was focused on continually innovating and delivering the best customer experience the industry had ever seen.
It’s been a really fun ride. We’ve actually evolved within the last year from a business providing primarily business phone services to one that solves all communication challenges for companies. Now we combine CRM tools, team collaboration tools and business communication tools all on one platform called NextOS.
We’ve also grown exponentially since those early days in 2008. While we started with a few people in a windowless conference room, we now have more than 1,000 team members spread out across offices across the world.
What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
The idea for Nextiva came from Tomas. He is an amazing entrepreneur, and after founding several phenomenal companies over the years, in 2008, he decided to take a crack at reforming the inefficient and antiquated business communications industry. He and I had worked together previously; I actually started in sales roles at another one of his companies. When he told me of his idea for Nextiva, I jumped at the opportunity to join him and the team.
The team was so small at the time -just a few of us- and there was a need for marketing right away. Even though I’d never worked in the business communication industry, I dove right in. Now, more than a decade later, I’ve loved what I do every day. Marketing is such a dynamic field; it’s been fun to come up with ideas to help Nextiva grow and work with some of the brightest minds in the business.
Nextiva itself launched as basically the tiniest player in the VoIP industry. We were surrounded by giants, and those giants were highly skeptical of our ability to stand on our own and compete with them. We welcomed this challenge and decided to do things differently. We never accepted outside funding; Nextiva is entirely self-funded. We focused on listening to our customers, developing solutions customized to their needs and moving forward. We developed authentic relationships with customers and designed a customer experience model we were so excited about that we even trademarked the term Amazing Service.
It was a confluence of all of those things that have helped us grow as fast as we have. Amazing Service has been the backbone of everything we’ve done -every product decision, every interaction, even how we treat one another on the Nextiva team. Instead of only focusing on delivering excellent service externally, we’ve made it our mission to also deliver service internally by treating our team members as well as possible. This has helped us earn many awards for company culture, and keep our retention rates high. Some of Nextiva’s early employees are still with us today.
Beyond our Amazing Service and the delivery of great business VoIP products, as time went on we started to notice our customers struggle with their business communications as a whole, beyond phone service. Customers were sharing stories of struggle around customer relationship management, of not being able to afford the same tools available to massive corporations, of missed opportunities in team collaboration, of their inability to track various forms of communication, and their constant struggle to keep up with dozens of communication applications that would monitor everything from phone to email to text to social media to chat.
We’ve learned a lot as it relates to company culture. We provided free snacks and a game room, but as we grew we realized that company culture isn’t built on snacks.
Tomas saw this as an opportunity to deliver better service than ever, and over the course of several years, our engineering team worked to create a never-before-seen software tool that would be both affordable and take away the need for so much communication confusion. We named that tool NextOS and launched it in spring 2018, right around our 10th anniversary in business.
The announcement has changed the game for Nextiva. With it, we’ve transformed from a business offering VoIP services to a business communications company that, while still offering VoIP, is now helping businesses more holistically. The reception from the industry has been overwhelmingly positive, and it has changed our company in profound ways.
I think Tomas speaks to this transformation best, saying, “VoIP is to Nextiva as books are to Amazon.” That quote captures it all. It also illustrates that even 11 years in, we are still just getting started.
Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing your first product.
Our process of design to prototype to market was pretty simple. We knew of many VoIP services out there and knew the types of phones required to deliver that kind of service. The founding team, as part of other companies, had been VoIP customers previously, so we were aware of what worked and what desperately needed to be improved. This helped a lot when designing our first product.
Really early, we partnered with a company that made technology for cloud phone systems. Our engineers worked closely with them to create the design we had in mind, and then we were off to market.
I believe that happy team members attract happy customers.
Describe the process of launching the business.
Launching Nextiva was incredibly exciting, especially since our small team knew what kind of potential the idea had and how much the market needed what we would offer.
The issue, though, was that no one knew we existed.
I remember our team-building nextiva.com (we did it by ourselves) and then brainstorming as to how to get the word out to potential customers. Facebook was tiny back then; digital advertising had hardly taken off in 2008. But Google was big, so we created a few ads on Google.
What’s amazing is that the first day we posted an ad to Google was the same day we signed our first customer. That fast of response was an early sign of things to come; that the market needed what we were providing and that customers were ready to jump ship from some of our larger competitors and take a chance on us.
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
There are so many factors that have gone into us attracting and retaining customers. First and foremost it has been our commitment to listening to our clients and responding to their needs; to really caring about their challenges. Our innovative products and Amazing Service promise had also gone hand-in-hand with this.
I believe that happy team members attract happy customers. Our commitment to serving our team members and making Nextiva a really fun, inclusive, supportive and positive place to work has also been integral to retaining customers. This also goes back to hiring. We are very strategic when it comes to bringing on new team members to make sure they are both cultural fit in our offices and have the drive to move Nextiva forward. This has been a huge focus for us, and it has paid off.
On the marketing side, we’ve done some fun things to bring in new customers, too. I remember a few years back when we were invited to exhibit at a major industry conference. All of our biggest competitors were there, and tons of potential customers were going to be walking the expo hall. To stand out, we hired former basketball star Dennis Rodman to shoot hoops for a few hours in front of our booth. It was a spectacle (check out the video here). I mean, he’s a character as it is, which added a ton of flair to the experience, but people also love him and wanted pics and selfies with him. It was a huge hit; I don’t think the other booths got a single visitor for the time he was there.
A few years into our business, we wanted to thank our customers personally for their business, so we created short (5-10 second) videos and posted them to social media (here’s a fun clip from 2018). A team member would call out a customer by name in the video. Customers ended up sharing these videos widely with their networks, thereby spreading goodwill about Nextiva and attracting even more great customers.
Speaking of goodwill, I think our customers also appreciate that Nextiva is civically minded. We have an entire philanthropic arm to our company called Nextiva Cares. This arm is dedicated to empowering our team members to volunteer at non-profits that serve our communities. We also give money to worthy causes on a regular basis. During our yearly NextCon conference (this year scheduled for Nov. 3-5, 2019 in Scottsdale), we’ve initiated hashtag/social media challenges in exchange for donations to amazing charities. During our NextCon conferences alone, we’ve donated more than $50,000.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
Things are going great right now. We’ve grown so much since our early days and have a ton of growing still to do. We started with just a few people in a small room and today we have more than 1,000 team members across the world (most of them based in our Scottsdale office).
I think we’ve built an amazing foundation, and we have an incredible group of people on board with us. We also have a ton of opportunities to expand and really change the world of business communications. It’s an exciting time.
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
We’ve learned so many things! I’ll focus on some internal topics, here, though. We’ve learned a lot as it relates to company culture. Starting out, we did like many tech companies do and provided free snacks and a game room in the office. Our team members loved these perks, but as we grew we realized that company culture isn’t built on snacks (I wrote about this learning for Entrepreneur a few years back).
While people appreciated the free food, what they really wanted was a career path and a listening ear from their supervisors. People wanted to have the freedom to give the company feedback, talk about their motivations for coming to work and develop authentic relationships with their colleagues.
We took this to heart and have shifted our culture accordingly. Now, team members will regularly meet on-on-one with managers to discuss their career trajectories, how things are going for them and provide ideas and honest feedback. It’s been a profound shift that our team members have appreciated.
Hiring has also been a big learning. I’ll say that from day one we knew we wanted to mindfully build our team, but like many other companies in high-growth mode, we of course made some missteps along the way. We’ve learned from them, and now hire people who are doers, who have amazing attitudes and who are fun to be around. Our hiring process is very in-depth, and we’ve found that that increased attention has resulted in tons of fabulous new team members on board.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
It might be a plug, but it’s true: internally we use NextOS on a daily basis. Just like our customers, we’ve found it to dramatically help our team track, manage, collaborate and analyze all communications. It’s significantly helped our internal processes become more streamlined, and has helped in our customer relationship management.
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
I’m a fan of the Marketing School with Neil Patel & Eric Siu podcast. I’ve actually become friends with those guys; I’m continually amazed at their depth of knowledge in the marketing field. The episodes are great and super informative.
Two books I’m loving right now are The Power of Noticing: What The Best Leaders See, by Max Bazerman; and Sidetracked: Why Our Decisions Get Derailed and How We Can Stick To The Plan, by Francesca Gino. Both authors are professors at Harvard Business School. I’ve found the takeaways in each book so powerful that I come back to them over and over.
Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?
Nextiva has been experiencing double and triple-digit growth over the past several years, and with that growth has come tons of open positions.
Where can we go to learn more?
If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!
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