Today MAP Communications, Inc., is a well-known player in the answering and call center industry, but it wasn’t always that way. Founded by a small group of Australians in late 1990, the company opened its first call center in Lyndhurst, New Jersey. The Aussies still remember their first experiences working in a snowy weather environment (unheard of in Australia), including the first snowfall they watched together from their offices during the winter of 1990–1991. Business took off despite the economic recession and the uncertainty of Operation Desert Storm brewing in the Middle East at that time.
With its early successes, it wasn’t too long before MAP needed to expand its operations, and after an extensive search for a new and larger location, they moved their call center operations to Chesapeake, Virginia, in early 1992. That same location still serves as MAP’s corporate headquarters today. Situated near the Virginia Beach resort area as well as next door to the world’s largest naval base, Naval Station Norfolk, Chesapeake has been a smart location choice for MAP. The nature of the Navy’s employees coupled with the economic infrastructure of the military in the area has meant that a steady and reliable workforce has always been readily available.
What separated MAP early on from most of its industry peers was that it designed and developed its own software called Echo™. The backbone of the software initially came out of Australia, but it was continually developed and expanded in the United States, resulting in a robust yet highly flexible call center platform that MAP believes is one of the best operating systems in the industry today. The operating system is tightly coupled and integrated with its own proprietary billing system, allowing MAP to provide custom-designed performance and statistical information with great ease for their clients.
Today MAP employs a fully staffed software and development team that is continually expanding upon ways to deliver the ultimate call handling experience for their customers. Like many in the industry, MAP’s customer base is diverse, ranging from small business owners to some of the biggest well-known corporations in the world.
The year 2002 was a game changer for MAP. After twelve years of sustained growth, the founders of the business were looking at alternative directions for the company. Whatever strategy they were going to execute had to guarantee the continuation of the business, and moreover their employees had to have a viable future ahead of them.
The solution came in the form of an Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP), and since then the company, the founders, and the new “100 percent employee-owners” have never looked back. It’s a concept the executives at MAP believe in so strongly that they accepted invitations to speak about it at both the ATSI and ASTAA conferences last year. As they shared during those presentations, the creation of an ESOP provides a symbolic and powerful vehicle for any selling owner: symbolic in that it allows sellers to pass on their legacy and their business philosophies to the people that made it all possible in the first instance, and powerful in that it creates real employee wealth with absolutely no cost or contribution from the employees.
MAP executives say this also created another powerful benefit: culture. From the moment the ownership of the company transitioned to the employees, the mentality of most staff changed to that of “real business owners.” For example, if a customer called to cancel their service, the employee would fight harder to save them. Employees that observed a co-worker slacking off would tell that peer to pick up his or her game.
Why the change? Because now employees actually understood that every decision or action could create a potential financial effect on the business. It didn’t matter to many of them before because it never affected their pocketbook directly. But now as employee-owners, everyone has a vested financial interest in the performance of the company, and that powerful concept ultimately changes everything!
Today MAP operates call centers from coast-to-coast and is actively looking to expand even further. MAP offers sellers the opportunity to sell to an ESOP without the time and expense involved in creating their own, not to mention the years of waiting to be paid out.
MAP’s CFO, Grant Sibley, looks at what’s ahead for the company. “Obviously our primary focus is the continued growth of the business, and that will occur both organically and by way of acquisitions,” he said. “Simply put, because we are an ESOP, we believe we have an ongoing obligation to all of our employee-owners to continually grow the value of the business, just as a public company has an obligation to grow their businesses for their shareholders.”