Keith Walter is the COO of Gigstreem and he is on a mission to bring a better wireless internet infrastructure to America. He has 20+ years designing & building Wireless, Fiber, and Cellular Networks that drive innovation beyond conventional technology. Finding solutions to complex problems is what Keith was put on the planet to do.
- Never sacrifice the customer experience
- Success in sales comes from building rapport and product knowledge
- Stay true to your values
[Podcast Transcript Using Artificial Intelligence]
Umar Hameed 0:06
Are you ready to become awesomer? Hello, everyone, this is Umar Hameed, your host and welcome to the no limit selling Podcast, where industry leaders share their tips, strategies and advice on how to make you better, stronger, faster, get ready for another episode.
Umar Hameed 0:36
Today, I'm privileged to have Keith Walter, the CEO of gig stream joining me, welcome to the program,
Keith Walter 0:41
next to mark, glad to be here.
Umar Hameed 0:42
So Keith, in 90 seconds, tell us who you are and what you do.
Keith Walter 0:46
Seo gig stream, we are an internet provider for homes and businesses. And we provide superfast gigabit internet better than anybody else out there. And I run the day to day operations in our five markets we serve. Were you one of the founders?
Umar Hameed 1:01
Yes, I was what made you decide to go into this business? Because you know, there's lots of people providing Wi Fi and internet. Why need another one?
Keith Walter 1:11
Well, there's really two main reasons, the big one was that I've built networks for a lot of the cellular carriers, cable companies, fiber providers in the US over the last 20 years. And I know that they could be doing a better job. And so to me, it's it's more that, you know, they're too fat, rich and happy. And they'd rather just rest on those laurels then really give our consumers a good service, and bring us out of that lower 10 to 20 of top download speeds in the world. And then the second thing was that we had built networks for large amusement parks and large casino operators, and then watch their marketing teams come in, and really degradative that service by slowing them down just in an effort to offer an upgrade to those faster service.
Umar Hameed 1:57
So it comes down to that philosophy. Like, before we started recording, you were telling me about one of these instances where a marketing team said okay, you can give 100 megabits per second speed to our guests, but we want you to throttle it down to five. So we can charge more money sacrificing quality of service and customer experience for the hopes that they're going to swipe their credit card to move forward kind of your thoughts on that?
Keith Walter 2:21
Yeah, really, to me, it's you're missing the real opportunity there. One is when you do throttle the people down, you actually tax the network greater, the network runs more efficiently if you just let them in and out as fast as they can get right. So one, you you hurt the network and you put more burden on the network to most people, if they don't have an amazing service right away with the free service. And a five megabit service is not amazing, then they're not going to pull out their credit card, you know, 80% of them or more is actually going to turn Wi Fi off, save battery power, and just use their cellular data and deal with that. And what you're missing is all the analytics, all the business intelligence, the location based services, what they're doing while they're idle in your casino or your amusement park. And it's not specific behavior. It's not Oh, Kumar is doing this, it's more like, Hey, your device, MAC address, you know.dot.is here and it's dwelling here. And then it went over here. And so it's not anything that's an invasion of privacy or any big brother like that. It's just really tangible business intelligence that they could be using in giving amazing amenity to their patrons, aren't they making them enough money already?
Umar Hameed 3:39
Yeah, it's kind of losing sight of what's important. One of the things that you know, within companies within teams, sometimes you have these conflicts in office politics. But one of my favorite stories is the I 95 corridor that basically starts in Canada, the highways call it something else. But all those different states all the way down to Florida, they all are in an ad hoc relationship with trying to figure out how to move traffic faster. And one of the things they do is they look at the Bluetooth facility on your phone, and they clock you as you're going down the freeway not to spy on you. But to check on speeds throughout the network. If we open up the possibilities and measure what's going on, we actually get a better experience for everybody. And that's how you win not by putting in rules and throttling our people and our customers. Exactly. To get a better sense of who you are. Who is your favorite superhero and what attributes really speaks to you?
Keith Walter 4:33
Probably Superman and the fact that he can fly. You know, I'm a wireless engineer by trade. So I'd love to be able to fly myself and to, you know, just that, you know, he's made of steel, nothing can hurt him,
Umar Hameed 4:45
who's somebody that inspires you to keep on going when, even when things get tough. My father,
Keith Walter 4:50
you know, he's always been a big technical influence in my life. He's always worked extremely hard. And even today in retirement, you know, he Hobie is writing Android apps.
Umar Hameed 5:02
Right? And he used to build supercomputers.
Keith Walter 5:04
Yeah, at two points. He managed the fastest supercomputer center in the world, albeit both times it was only for about three months until the next fastest one came online.
Umar Hameed 5:15
Yeah, it's a moving target. Yeah, so almost like gunfighters is always a fast one out there.
Keith Walter 5:20
Yep. shortlived glory.
Umar Hameed 5:22
If you could have lunch with anybody in history or living, who's that person that you'd like to have lunch with? And what's the question, you really want to have them answer?
Keith Walter 5:30
The Elan musk. And I would ask him why he's not focusing more on getting Hyperloop deployed here in the US, rather than missions to Mars,
Umar Hameed 5:39
what's the first sales job you had? And what was the lesson you learned in that job that allowed you to build this company,
Keith Walter 5:44
it was beller sporting goods, I was back when I was 16. And I went there in the afternoons after school, and I, you know, sold a variety of athletic goods. And I think that the biggest thing was that I got to know the entire inventory really well. And then with good people skills, I was able to ask a series of questions, find out what they want, and then really match the customer with what they needed. And I transcend that today. Because really, the whole idea of gig stream is understanding what our different customers want and need, and really reverse engineering a solution for them that really fits that.
Unknown Speaker 6:21
Umar Hameed 6:22
what turns you on? Is it the the need to solve problems? Is it to provide better service, what drives you?
Keith Walter 6:29
It's a bit of both, I mean, really, we want the best internet service out there, you know, we want to be considered the best. And part of that, you know, and the other thing as far as other than the technology issues that are out there today, that most people play, it's really the customer service. You know, I mean, most cable providers send in contractors to the people's home, right in businesses, and it's always a different contractor. It's never the same person, you find yourself if you have a reoccurring problem. It's like you're have to explain it every single time, not only the person that comes but also the person in a call center, who just is trying to get you off and answer the next one.
Umar Hameed 7:07
So that's four gig stream. But how about you as a human being? What's the driving thing that keeps you learning, growing, passionate about what you do?
Keith Walter 7:17
Well, I think the learning aspect of it, you know, you can never learn it all. I'm also really a people person. I think each person you meet or interact with kind of gives you something a little bit more about yourself, makes you a bigger person. So literally, and so I really love that aspect of it getting out there solving problems is the driving force. You know, it's anytime someone mentions a problem in earshot of me, it's, I have to keep my head up from, you know, like, Oh, well have you, you know, and try this or try that. And so I gotta choose my engineering battles these days. Are you married?
Umar Hameed 7:52
I am not. I've been married for 27 years don't solve their problems. This listen. Have you seen this video? If you haven't, I'm gonna send it to you. It's all about the nail. No, I don't think so. I'll put it in the show notes. It's a brilliant little video. It's a woman and a man sitting and she's talking about a headache that she's got. And it turns out, she's got a nail embedded in the forehead. And the guy's trying to solve the problem. It's like totally brilliant, and sums up men and women precisely, what's the best deal you've ever done?
Keith Walter 8:21
Probably probably the second round of the gig stream funding. You know, it allowed us to acquire a company called rainbow broadband up in New York City that's been around for 12 years. It has a lot of revenue took us to income positive as an organization took us up to a headcount of over 20 employees and then brought to the table, lots of premier clients to use as references.
Umar Hameed 8:47
Brilliant. And how much funding Did you raise a
Keith Walter 8:50
little over 10 million? Can't get into the specifics of that. But it was a little decisively
Umar Hameed 8:55
nice. Have you ever had a manager or a sales manager that you report to that you really respected?
Keith Walter 9:01
Yeah, actually, you know, I think the first one that I had was back in the property management days, and we were doing a lease up and she was the and basically that's a brand new 300 unit apartment community coming from the ground up. And you're there in a construction trailer trying to sell a nice those apartments, while it's an eyesore, and what does she teach you that
Umar Hameed 9:25
serves you? Well,
Keith Walter 9:26
well, it was really her organization. She always had a positive attitude. And despite any challenges that she had going on, whether personal professional, the minute, she walked through those doors, those in the zone not showing nice,
Umar Hameed 9:43
tell me about a come to Jesus moment, we had to do a pivot and re examine kind of what you guys were doing and what you need to do.
Keith Walter 9:51
Well, that's really probably when we came up the idea of gig stream. I had a company called RF works. And we were a boutique RF engineering company. Basically Wireless company. And that's where we did the Wi Fi for a lot of these amusement parks and these casinos. And you know, it was just after the the second time that a marketing team came in and in our opinion ruined our network. We're like, you know what, we're going to stop building networks for other people. And we're going to go out and build our own, where we control it.
Umar Hameed 10:20
We're is internet connectivity going like, Where do you think we're going to be five years from now I had a cousin that came to a telecommunications conference about 10 years ago. And when we met him for lunch, he said, so what's happening is that telephone calls are going to go to zero, and we need to redefine a model. And for me, as consumers, like, thousand never happened. So massive change what's happening in the connectivity space that we should be looking out for five years from now?
Keith Walter 10:47
Well, I think you're gonna see a lot of that content starting to move to the edge, almost what we are calling edge data centers. So you almost have small little micro data centers at the base of cell sites. You'll have them in the basement of commercial office buildings in a region that's not fed by a large data center. And what does that mean in English? Like, how would that impact me as a consumer? So right now when say you go to Google, your device is going to take a path, and that's going to hit in a major data center, right? And probably the closest one here would be in Ashburn, Virginia. Right. So what that would mean is instead of that traffic flowing all the way to Akron, Virginia, it would flow to a set of servers sitting at the closest cell site to you.
Umar Hameed 11:31
So would they replicate what Google has at that small site? That's absolutely right. Brilliant, the landscape has changed so massively over the last 1015 years. What do you think the biggest challenge is for sales right now?
Keith Walter 11:44
Well, for us, personally, it's the unknown. Who the heck's gig stream? I've never heard these guys. They're not Comcast, they're not, you know, a large, you know, well known name, and that's who we're going up against. So that, for us is the toughest thing in sales. I think in traditional internet sales. You know, the toughest thing that's going on right now, for a consumer base is lack of a choice. You know, they're either shotgun
Umar Hameed 12:08
into, you know, like, right now we're forced to go into cable because I can, I got pissed off at the cable company and switched over to the phone company. And they only had DSL, I only lasted like, a month. And it was like, Uncle, I give up. I'm going back.
Keith Walter 12:20
Yeah, yeah. And, unfortunately, and that's the case for a lot of Americans today. And it's really unfortunate, what are you doing to combat that are using PR, like, what are you using to really get known and make a name for yourself, we're really trying to embed each of our regional teams into the fabric of the community, joining locals associations, Chamber of Commerce, sponsoring local events for the public. And then we're doing a lot of traditional marketing, direct mails to our target areas. We're trying to get some articles written about our technology. But I think you know, the biggest thing that's having an impact right now is really targeted Facebook ads, and in geolocation, online advertising,
Umar Hameed 13:02
they used to have these things called books, I'm not sure if you remember them. But one of my favorite things to do was to go to the book bin at the bookstore, because there were books there that I never would have purchased at 30 bucks. But for two bucks, I'm going to give it a shot. And there was this one book, I think it was called Game Over is about Nintendo's entry into the US market, just as the gaming industry basically went bankrupt in the US. So nobody wanted to get a new game station, because the last guy that actually invested in games got fired from our company, there's no way I'm letting you in. And they basically said, Okay, we're going to take our $10 million dollars and make a beachhead in Manhattan, and invest everything here and get known. And of course, Nintendo took off like wildfire. These are three beachhead cities right now to try and get known. Is that the strategy? Or is it just revenue to allow you to grow?
Keith Walter 13:50
Well, for us, it's really getting to that minimum revenue point where each of the markets are profitable. You know, with New York, we did an acquisition, so that accelerated with it. In the Greenfield markets that we're in right now, which is Baltimore Tyson's corner in Orlando, we're still not cashflow positive on the operations there. And we want to prove that, hey, we can go into any market with this amount of funding and do this and be cashflow positive within a year. And, and main reason for that is now that regional team that we've started to build, we can really grow them out. And by having those regional teams out, it allows us to have a really high level of customer service for our clients.
Umar Hameed 14:33
Brilliant. So how do you plan to stay true to who you are as an organization as you grow and more people come in, then the culture becomes really important. So what are your thoughts on a defining the culture and how do you make it contagious? So basically, people live it breathe it.
Keith Walter 14:49
Well, first, you know, our executive team has to emulate that culture and live it themselves. You know, right now. It's our CEO Joel MacIntyre. We just brought in New CFO, Jessie Sanders and myself that make up the executive committee. And then we have two private equity firms behind us that really believe in the technology. And so one of the driving things, one of the things that we've already said and we agree upon on group is when we get into an argument over, you know, something is coming down to either engineering or sales and marketing, engineering rules that day. And to us, that's how we're going to keep the quality really good of service. And that will spread and through the culture. And I think for us internally, it's not so much about what your appearance is in. If you're in the office at this particular time. It's Do you have the right attitude? Are you becoming that person for your customer, that they call every time they have a technical issue or need, and that's really what we want to become your one stop shop, when you have something technical, and you can't figure it out, or you want it, you get gigs streaming call first.
Umar Hameed 15:58
Brilliant, Keith, what's the best advice you've ever gotten? Well,
Keith Walter 16:02
it's actually from my father, you know, he said, a lot of times when you're in engineering, and you're in a position where you have to, you know, purchase things or run a large team, you're going to be up against some technology or something you're not an expert in. And so what you do is you find three to four people that are experts in that, and you get the same quote, or proposal from all of them. And as you go through the presentations for all three or four of those, by the time you're done, the fourth one, you'll most likely if you did your homework, right, be an expert, not only in that area, but know exactly whether you need any of those vendors or whether you can do it yourself.
Umar Hameed 16:45
Great advice. You've got a sales team in the three markets, how do you motivate the sales team?
Keith Walter 16:51
Well, you know, the big one is, is that once they get to a certain point, they start to earn bonuses and commissions, right. So that's, that's the big one is trying to get them down the road to that the other big thing is really, you know, showing them that our technology is real. This isn't smoke and mirrors. We're not just talking a good game, we're actually providing some amazing service out there service that other people have, you know, for instance, in Baltimore, we are the only gigabit internet provider for residential customers. There's no other option for that. I mean, there's some other companies claiming they are. But but it's actually not true. You know, if you call them up, say, Hey, I saw that ad for a gig, can I get it at my address? 99% of Baltimore is going to be told no. So it's you know, why they even do that? Why would you? Why would you advertise a service, you can really deliver. I mean, that's really upsetting to us. And again, it's one of the reasons why we founded gig stream in the first place. You know, one of the big things that we do, I think that's different is, when you buy a service from a cable provider for residents, they give you the speed packets that you're supposed to get like 100 by 20, or whatever, if you go do a speed test, you'll never see those numbers, you'll see slightly below it, you know, at the good times during the bad times, it's going to be way worse, but you never actually get what you pay for, you know, with our services, we actually throttle them a little bit higher than what we're giving our customer. So we're actually giving them at least what they've paid for and, and you know, and oftentimes better and oftentimes better. Now, unfortunately, with a gigabit because of the overhead of the technology. You can't actually ever give anyone 1000 Meg's by Meg. So unfortunately, in that department, we do kind of fall a little short. But hey, that's a technical restraint, not not some just decision. The laws of physics.
Umar Hameed 18:46
Yeah. What's something you know, now that you wish you knew 10 years ago,
Keith Walter 18:50
that I should have listened to my dad more and gone into technology earlier, instead of trying to pursue becoming a pro soccer player. As you grow leadership in your organization, for some of the younger executives, as you grow them, what would be three pieces of advice you'd give them to be a better leader, one, always try to emulate what you're asking your own to walk your dog, walk your talk to organization as an organization and planning, you have to take time for that you have to take certain parts of your day and dedicated to that, to make sure you're nice. And then the biggest one to me, one of my biggest pet peeves is don't ever have a meeting without an agenda. Because if you don't have the time to create an agenda for a meeting, what's the point of the meeting?
Umar Hameed 19:37
This is a book right now you'd recommend people should be reading
Keith Walter 19:40
now. I'll be honest, you know, most of my reading right now is engineering manuals. And if you want to
Umar Hameed 19:45
fall asleep read some of the stuff you're reading.
Keith Walter 19:47
Yeah, exactly. That's exactly when I read it to is right before bed. No, I mean, for me, I mainly when I'm reading for entertainment, it's either sports related about international soccer, And I need to give back and do some good reading. Thanks so much for sitting down with me. Thanks for I really appreciate it.
Umar Hameed 20:11
If you enjoyed this episode, please go to iTunes and leave a five star rating. And if you're looking for more tools, go to my website at no limit selling calm. I've got a free mind training course there that's going to teach you some insights from the world of neuro linguistic programming and that is the fastest way to get better results.