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CEO of cloud communications CoreDial still values human interaction

Q&A with CoreDial CEO Alan Rihm. He discusses the importance of company culture to success among other topics.

Alan Rihm, CEO of cloud communications company CoreDial, LLC, based in Blue Bell.
Alan Rihm, CEO of cloud communications company CoreDial, LLC, based in Blue Bell.Read moreCourtesy of CoreDial LLC

Alan Rihm, CEO of CoreDial LLC, values the importance of company culture to the success of an enterprise. His 165-employee, business-to-business company offers cloud communication products and tools, such as phone, messaging, and chat systems, and, more recently, video collaboration and meeting rooms, like Zoom. Another competitor is Vonage. And though Rihm, 56, is keeping pace with the technological demands of the growing reliance on remote work, he is not losing sight of what he believes makes for a cohesive and collaborative workforce.

“I value human interaction,” he said. “It seems intuitive to me that if you engage with your fellow team members more often there’s more opportunity for people to recognize greatness and an opportunity to promote somebody.”

The privately owned CoreDial, based in Blue Bell, Montgomery County, has 32,000 businesses on its platform, catering mostly to firms with between 25 and 500 employees. CoreDial doesn’t have contracts with the clients that use its products but reaches its end-users through some 850 sales partners. Founded in 2005, CoreDial’s flagship CoreNexa platform has integrated recently acquired video collaboration tech following the acquisition of Stoneham, Mass.-based company eZuce. The key acquisition was several years in the making but took on added urgency as the pandemic forced American workers with jobs that could be performed from home to work remotely. “The pandemic caused us to get really aggressive about looking for [a video addition],” Rihm said. “Luckily, we found it.”

I noted some key acquisitions in the last couple of years. Talk about your growth strategy and your strategy for your product. [In September 2020 CoreDial acquired video technology company eZuce. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.]

One of the reasons you do acquisitions is you buy customers, and the other is to accelerate your road map. And we wanted to accelerate our road map. Obviously, we just have been through this pandemic. Video has become everybody’s best friend. And we had a solution, but it wasn’t good enough. So we found eZuce. It was a diamond in the rough that, quite frankly, had pretty ugly software. But really, really capable. Like a really solid engine. And so, we spent the last seven, eight months adding a really nice user interface to make it more delightful to use.

Who is on your scout team? How did you find eZuce?

It’s myself and my leadership team, Warren Barratt, my chief financial officer, and Ken Lienemann, chief revenue officer. We get some of these deals sent to us through bankers. So the first thing we do is we start by putting the word out that we are looking and what we’re looking for and what kind of deals we’re looking for. Because a lot of times you don’t know what is available. So you give them a couple of different things, and then you get proposals presented to you. And if you find a match that is interesting and compelling, you ask some questions and a lot of it has to do with team and the culture: Are they going to fit in? Is it going to make sense? Can we help them succeed? Are we better with them? And can we help them be better with us?

Tracking down the video portion for the product seems like a no-brainer now. But back then did you predict the growth of remote work?

We started building our own video platform probably four or five years ago. And obviously, the pandemic accelerated everybody’s need to use video. Video used to be a “nice-to-have” for a lot of businesses and then it became a “must-have” overnight. We needed a video product and a rooms technology that you could have 100 people in a meeting or 1,000 people in a webinar, or you can have huddle rooms and conference rooms, so people can connect. The pandemic just made it even more important and forced us to get serious about it, to really aggressively look.

As the boss, do you worry about people [working remotely] slacking off?

You worry about engagement. I think this whole environment caused a lot of leaders or CEOs or entrepreneurs to think about: How do I make sure employees are engaged and not just standing in front of the refrigerator, you know, looking at what they’re going to eat next.

So if I’m starting my work day [at CoreDial]. Do I have a camera on me?

No, no! Definitely not. Our culture is not like that. We would focus more on encouraging and trying to motivate and inspire an employee to be part of what we’re doing vs. demanding. The whole engagement thing is critical. Trying to make sure that employees feel part of the team, that they feel like they have the support that they need. And that we know that employees are buying in [to the company vision]. It’s a little bit harder today than it was when we were all together in an office. Now you have to do it all online.

Does remote work make recruiting harder or easier?

I think it makes it harder. We have to find new ways to make a first impression and have [potential employees] experience our culture. And so we have a culture team. Culture is not one thing. There’s layers and layers and layers of things that you have to do to build a [company] culture.

Where does your commitment to culture come from?

My commitment to culture came out of the natural need to identify your culture because people ask. Back in my second company, we had a growth spurt from seven to 75 employees in four months. And this culture was created but not by design. It just happened. Here in CoreDial, our culture has been designed. There’s so many things we do to make [employees] feel like we’re part of a family. This needs to be a trusted environment, where you are willing to speak up. Remotely, it’s kind of hard to do that.