Jim Murphy – CEO & Co-Founder, Broadvoice

Jim Murphy serves as CEO and co-founder for Broadvoice, where he is responsible for all operational functions, including customer relationship management and information systems. He has over twenty years of experience in the telecommunications industry.

His previous business experience includes serving as executive vice president at Ikano Communications, and co-founder of DSL Extreme and Rampage Cellular. He has a degree in communications from California State University Northridge.

Tell me about your early career.
While I was in college, I started a small cell phone company and my roommate started a pager company. The Northridge earthquake hit in 2004, and even though we were each running our small businesses out of our bachelor pad, we lost some of our inventory. Luckily, FEMA cut us a check for damages and we merged our operations. From cell phones and pagers, we moved on to a dial-up ISP. That morphed into a broadband ISP. Along the way, we learned how to start and grow a business, hire employees, etc.

How did the concept for Broadvoice come about?
We had just exited a broadband ISP business and were eager to get into the next recurring revenue business. Voice and unified communications seemed like the next logical step. I could see broadband becoming commoditized, while UCaaS was still fresh and new. And unlike broadband, we could own the network and there was no limitation on who we could sell to.

How was the first year in business?
Anticlimactic would be the best way to describe year one. Most of the first year, we were developing a website, a go-to-market strategy, and waiting for the developers to finish building out the platform. All money going out, and none coming in. A little scary.

What was your marketing strategy?
We took the direct marketing strategies we learned in our previous businesses and applied them to the new business with great success. But ultimately we ditched the direct model in favor of the channel. Every plan requires flexibility, and we realized that we needed to shift to a new marketing model to scale at the pace we wanted.

How fast did the company grow during the first few years?
We were the proverbial hockey stick. Once we got our product out to market, the company grew faster and burned way more cash than our projections. I thought I might go broke in funding it. But by the end of year two, revenues had caught up with expenses. Then, we tacked on a few acquisitions that increased subscribers and accelerated revenue.

How do you define success?
As a company, we define success if we deliver an amazing experience to our customers. As a CEO, I define success if we hit our one, three and ten year revenue and EBIDTA goals.

What is the key to success?
Steve Jobs said, “I don’t hire smart people to tell them what to do. I hire them to tell me what to do.” I believe building a high performance team and allowing them the freedom and flexibility to execute your vision is the path to success.

What is the greatest lesson you’ve ever learned?
Don’t get emotionally-attached to a product, an idea, or a person if you know in your heart it’s not the right fit.

What are some quotes that you live by? 
One of my favorite quotes is by Biz Stone, co-founder of Twitter: “Timing, perseverance, and ten years of trying will eventually make you look like an overnight success.”

Tell me about one of the toughest days you’ve had as an entrepreneur.
January 10, 2013: the loss of my co-founder and best friend to cancer. It shook me and our whole company to the core. But from it we’ve been forced to re-evaluate our priorities and values, as individuals and as a company, and our culture is stronger for it.

When faced with adversity, what pushes you to keep moving forward?
In business, setbacks are a regular occurrence, but they cannot deter you from your goals. I always think, “If success was easy, everyone would be doing it.” We have our defined company goals, and everything else is a bump in the road.

What advice would you give to young entrepreneurs?
A little secret of entrepreneurs: everyone is winging it. There’s no class or book or podcast that will prepare you for everything you’ll need to deal with. You will wear every hat in the company at some point. Most of the time, a little research and common sense can get you through something new. Don’t be afraid to “fake it until you make it.” And reach out to those around you that have been there, and have more experience. It can accelerate the learning curve to hear from someone who’s been there before. Very few of us learned to ride a bike solely on our own. Someone was there to help guide us.