Disrupting the Telecom Industry for Over a Decade

~ By Emily Innes

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Canada’s telecom company Fibernetics Corporation started with three men working in a basement in Cambridge, Ontario but has grown substantially over the past decade, reaching more than 250 employees. The company’s president attributes the recent growth — including last year’s 50-percent spike — in part to Fibernetics’ new focus on continually improving their company culture.

“We have come together as a group like never before,” said John Stix, company co-founder and President, who started the business 11 years ago with his long-time business partner Jody Schnarr, Chairman and Executive Officer, and Michael Brown, the VP of Sales. “We share the same vision . . . and we created our own new company purpose that we live by every day. The purpose of our phone and internet company is to deliver happiness and connections every day by being awesome.”

The happiness portion of the purpose statement refers to their own happiness, to that of their workmates, of their employees, of their vendors, and, of course, their customers. Fibernetics wants to facilitate connections through the Internet and phone service they provide, but also with their customers and their teammates.

“Being awesome means we are trying to walk in the door and put everything behind us even if we have not had a good day so far,” said Stix. “It means realizing that we are going to try to be awesome, but we are not always going to be awesome. But maybe our teammate is awesome that day and they can lift us up.”

Along with the purpose statement, Fibernetics has a new mantra — “I’m in.” Every Fibernetics employee signs a declaration card saying that they are all in and they are in favour of the company’s core values. These values are outlined as innovation, accountability, just do it and find a solution, trust, teamwork and happiness.

As a federally regulated Competitive Local Exchange Carrier (CLEC) and Internet Service Provider (ISP), Fibernetics offers a range of both residential and business products. Their residential services, through Worldline, include traditional home phone or voice-over-Internet protocol (VoIP), high speed over digital subscribe line (DSL) or cable Internet, phone and Internet bundles, long-distance calling plans, and more. Worldline was ranked number five on last year’s Gonevoip.ca list of Top 10 Residential VoIP Providers.

Another very popular Fibernetics product that has been spun out as its own company — number two on the Gonevoip.ca 2014 list — is Fongo, a free application for Android and IOS. Subscribers receive a phone number and they can use WIFI or 3G/4G to place or receive calls. Fongo also comes with features such as voicemail, text messaging and alerts.

The business phone and Internet system division, NEWT, offers Fibernetics’ own hybrid Managed PBX Business Phone System, which provides a fully managed digital voice solution for businesses of all sizes. Their private branch exchange offers businesses more than 80 features, hardware that includes full-colour touchscreen desktop units, a managed service, and a privately owned telecommunications network. The system runs off a dedicated IP connection run by Fibernetics at the Carrier Hotel in Toronto.

“We manage the entire environment,” Stix said. “We are your phone company, your Internet company, and your phone system manufacturer. It is a completely managed system with an incredible return on investment. We are not a hosted solution . . . but those have become very popular. The problem with a hosted solution is that you are getting all the benefits of VoIP type of solution from a service perspective, but . . . all the calling is going over the Internet that everyone uses every day and you cannot manage that. Inevitably you will have calls that will fail (or get broken up).”

Having access to Canada’s fiber optic infrastructure and access to the rates regulated by the CRTC rather than the incumbents is what Stix believes allows them to stand out from their competitors. “What that does is it gives us autonomy to be as disruptive as we want,” he said. “We differentiate ourselves in many regards, but one is we are determined to not make enormous margins on a per-customer basis, deliver strong value at a healthy margin for the business, at the same time undercutting or coming to a true price for the consumer, and we also put a strong emphasis on customer service.”

As customer service is a priority for Fibernetics, they always aim to have short phone queues to reach sales representatives or technical support. In the company’s most recent quarterly report, the residential hold time on average was only one minute and 40 seconds per customer, which is much shorter than other companies’ hold times, Stix explained.

Always seeking new ways to deliver innovation, Fibernetics started a new subsidiary about a year ago called Fibernetics Ventures Inc., which houses various start-up and early stage companies under their own unique brands.

“The ‘seedling project’ is essentially going to every person that works with us and saying, If you ever dreamed of being an entrepreneur, if you ever dreamed of owning your own business — but many people find they cannot make that transition because you have an income and you have a family to support — do not leave us or do not hold that dream down anymore. Come to us,” Stix said.

If the team believes in the individual’s idea, then they will provide the financial backing and the human resources needed to turn it into an enterprise. The innovator will be the owner of a large portion of the business.

“We call it interpreneurship as opposed to entrepreneurship. It is allowing ideas to flourish within our existing ecosystem and building businesses around those innovations,” said Stix, adding that they now have eight projects and are creating a Silicon Valley-type environment.

As part of the community environment and corporate culture, Fibernetics offices have a gym, showers, lockers, personal training orientation, yoga, craft clubs, boxing clubs, opportunities to start new clubs, meditation, and more.

“We believe, Jody and I both, that there are much more important things than money on earth,” said Stix. “We believe in living passionately and we believe in investing in people to be passionate because we have a simple philosophy: if you are your true work self and you are doing what you are supposed to do, that leads to happiness and happiness leads to productivity, and productivity inevitably leads to results. One of those results is money. It is a cycle.”

The next step for the company, according to Stix, involves continuing to invest heavily in the seedling projects and Fibernetics Ventures, to build and celebrate the corporate culture, to develop long-term plans, and to go international.

“Investors like to ask, ‘What is your exit strategy?’ Well we have no exit strategy because we love what we are doing so why would we give it up?” Stix said. “We are a phone and Internet company that is changing the perception of phone and Internet companies in Canada and we are going to continue to layer on what we believe to be very value-rich services for Canadians across the country and globally, while trying to ensure our own health, well-being and our customers’ happiness.”

To discover what it means to be “I’m in”, visit www.fibernetics.ca. To learn more about John’s personal mission to inspire other leaders, visit www.johnstix.ca.