Last year, Alan Masarek made news as he left Google to become Vonage’s new CEO.
A few, last pieces of advice, before you get started.
Because there is so much opportunity in this industry, a number of programs have been designed to give the illusion of being legitimate telecom ventures, while in fact, the owners are only interested in parting you from your hard-earned money. Be especially vigilant when someone asks you for money in this industry. The best resources for telecom agents in this industry are typically FREE.
Specifically, there are companies out there offering lists of the "best vendors" and "best programs" in the industry. The ranking of these lists is generally determined by how much money a vendor is willing to pay for the "honor" of being listed. Legitimately ranking vendors like this is almost impossible, since there are so many variables involved. A program that is good for one agent may be terrible for another. Also, listing the "best programs" as the ones paying the highest commissions is crazy, as these companies are typically the ones most likely to go out of business! These lists typically are non-refundable. Be extremely cautious of any product or service that is non-refundable (within reason). There is usually a reason why they won't give refunds (like everyone would want their money back!).
Also, be extremely cautious of any vendor recommendations you read in magazines, periodicals or websites (even ours!). Some periodicals can be "bought", fairly cheaply. That wonderful article you just read about a vendor may only have appeared because the vendor forked-over some cash for "editorial consideration". These "fluff pieces" are generally more confined to business opportunity type publications. The vast majority of publications within the telecom industry are on the up-and-up. Just be cautious.
I would also highly recommend doing your due diligence before signing with any specific vendor. There are many ways to check a company out. If they are publicly traded (on the stock market) you can generally find tons of free information on their operations via numerous financial websites. Try Free Edgar as a starting point for these companies.
For privately-held corporations, partnerships and sole-proprietorships, the task is a bit more difficult. The best source of info on these companies can be obtained from Dunn and Bradstreet. Don't expect to get any info for free from D&B though. Running a D&B report on a company will cost you anywhere from $25 to $150, depending upon the type of info you request. A D&B report is similar to a credit report for individuals. The reports are very reliable, and make no recommendations on companies one way or another.
Lastly, all companies can be checked-up on by calling their local Chamber of Commerce (membership is a good sign), from a list of references, or with their regional Better Business Bureau. Keep in mind though, the BBB derives almost all of its income from its business memberships. Though they may technically be run as a non-profit, that doesn't mean that they are a charity. I have seen absolute scumbag companies with "acceptable" BBB rankings. Whether this was because the company was a BBB member or not, I couldn't say. However, a good rule of thumb on determining the real motivation of any person or entity is to "follow the money".
BBB membership is not necessarily a good sign, as anyone with enough money can buy a membership. Much more difficult to achieve is obtaining a place on the BBB Honor Roll. This award is given to businesses who have gone an entire year without a single, valid complaint. As far as I know, this award can not be "bought", although you do have to be a BBB member to qualify. Few companies qualify, so being on the BBB Honor Roll is a fairly good indicator of their business practices.
Talking to other agents (ones who aren't trying to recruit you) is probably the best method of screening vendors though. So, be sure to make contacts with your peers in the industry. You can do so via computer chat rooms, via meetings, or by attending industry trade shows. I highly recommend the Phone+ Channel Partners Conference & Expo, which is held twice each year. You can find more info on their shows at http://www.phoneplusmag.com.
On the following page is a list of vendors that we recommend. All of them have free info on their programs via their websites, and many may be contacted via phone, fax or e-mail. As always, do your own due diligence and consult your attorney if you have any questions concerning contracts.