5 Questions With Greg Forrest
By Robert Evatt, Tulsa World, Okla.
Jun. 20–1. Earnings have been strong at Xeta Technologies Inc. recently. To what do you attribute the success?
Our fiscal second-quarter earnings were about $371,000, which is 25 percent higher than last year. The boost was largely a result of our increased commercial systems sales, strongly aided by higher shipments of orders received from the Miami-Dade County Public Schools System, the largest project in Xeta’s 27-year history. In the first half of our year, we’ve seen strong growth in our commercial contract business, and benefited from a key strategy to grow our wholesale services practice. We expect revenue growth for the 2008 fiscal year to exceed 15 percent.
2. What are some of the emerging trends in communication technologies, and how is Xeta adapting to that?
Today, many businesses are consolidating their communications into one delivery system. Through “unified communications,” companies are breaking down the walls that have existed for years between traditional e-mail, voicemail and faxes. This new technology is making it possible to streamline IT efforts and communicate ubiquitously. The end result is that companies increase their overall efficiency, improve their bottom line and, ultimately, change
the way they think about communication. Xeta offers various Avaya, Nortel and Microsoft unified communications platforms, adding virtual communication capabilities for audio, video and Web conferencing and various other features.
Unified communications is beginning to catch on in the Tulsa area, and it adds value to businesses in a variety of industries. We are deploying our largest Nortel/Microsoft unified communications platform to date at Tulsa Technology Center. The new system has numerous features, including a social network to keep students in touch with classmates, teachers and other subject-matter experts. It also allows teachers to conduct class virtually and directly access voicemail from their e-mail accounts. Overall, the platform is enhancing student-teacher communication while generating hundreds of thousands of dollars for the school.
3. The tech sector in Tulsa crashed at the start of this decade. How much of it has come back?
That’s a little tough to measure, as Tulsa’s technology sector has changed. However, it’s coming back more dynamically than when it was first built, with business value now being a critical outcome. We also see an increase in business intelligence in this community. There’s a bit of a buzz about new business development. Demand for technology is growing–so much so that it has prompted local educators like TTC to prepare students to meet the growing technology needs of enterprise businesses.
4. Do potential clients have a different perspective of Xeta in Tulsa than they would in an area known for tech, such as Silicon Valley?
The majority of companies we do business with — many of them Fortune 1000 companies — are located outside the Tulsa area, so they already see us as a high-quality implementer of communication technologies. They value the level of service we deliver regardless of where we’re located. At the same time, we’ve made a conscious effort to reach out to our local region and build relationships with our community.
5. How could Tulsa better retain college graduates with tech-oriented degrees?
I believe this happens naturally if we create a dynamic work environment and a region full of opportunities. Many of those efforts are already under way. Tulsa’s economic development council is trying to drive more business into the local area. Working on developing more entertainment options, working to attract more technology jobs with higher salaries, and supporting projects like the BOK Center and other efforts to create a vibrant downtown are all a great start. To retain these new technology graduates, a community should also address the characteristics that these forward-looking graduates look for in a city; for example, community responsibility such as the new “going green” initiative of the mayor’s office.
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