Karin Williams, CEO of RioTel, talks about the telecommunications business.
Please excuse any typos in this hasty transcript.
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We’ve got a wonderful program today, as I’ve mentioned about women entrepreneurs, and we have a very special guest in the studio today, Miss Karin Williams who is the president, founder, CEO, Chief [inaudible 00:02:07], person in charge, really created this business, it’s really a fabulous story. Her company’s name is RioTel. We’re talking telecom folks, this is pretty sophisticated stuff. Karin, thank you for joining us.
Karin Williams: Thank you for having me.
Jay Curry: So tell us, what is RioTel all about?
Karin Williams: RioTel started in 1999 as a consulting firm to help telecom carriers that were building out wireless networks. That was our primary customer base back then. Me, I came from the wireless industry and there were a lot of them building out cell towers all over the country, you probably remember in the late 90’s, was instrumental in helping launch several of those networks in the early 2000’s. We’ve continued on as a lot of those carriers have expanded and upgraded their networks to the different versions of G, 2G, 3G, 4G, 5G, et cetera, as you’ve seen all of that that creates work.
Jay Curry: I’m very interested. This is really very sophisticated back, what we’re saying, late 80’s, the 90’s, where we’re building this whole telecom industry. Guess what, as technology goes it all turns and changes, so now we’ve got to take out the old, put in the new, about time you get that done, you got to start again. It’s an ongoing process. How in the world did you get into this business?
Karin Williams: Well, I got into it when I lived in Austin actually. I just got a job in customer service working for a telephone company but the technical pieces really interested me so I kind of moved over into that area and sort of was trained at the hand of a master if you will and learned a lot of it on the job.
Jay Curry: And the cream rises to the top, right? Sooner or later you decided you can do this.
Karin Williams: Yes.
Jay Curry: That was in 1999, so you’re getting close to celebrating your 20 year anniversary for RioTel.
Karin Williams: Right, this year we’ll be 19 so got one more to go, but it’s been quite a ride.
Jay Curry: Tell us about what you’re doing. Were we engineering these sites? You’re working for the big telecom companies.
Karin Williams: Yes, mainly the wireless.
Jay Curry: Verizon, T-Mobile.
Karin Williams: Right, yes. The big projects that are happening now are optimization, a lot of the networks have been upgraded already so a lot of them are looking at cutting costs and integrating and optimizing that. We kind of help with the planning, and the implementation of that, so there’s a lot of coordination and project management associated with that.
Jay Curry: You’re the consultant. You come in and analyze, and tell them what they need to do, and then manage the project itself.
Karin Williams: Yes. We can do the design piece or some of the customers will have done the design and they just need someone to come in and execute on it and do the implementation. We can do both.
Jay Curry: Is there anything new coming out? Do we know it and you just now have got to get it spread all over the United States?
Karin Williams: I’m going to be at Consumer Electronic Show in Las Vegas next week so I’m going to be looking at everything that’s new out there in technology. It all has touches on the technology and infrastructure that handles that because most of it is using wireless to get a lot of the different apps and things out there.
Jay Curry: We went from copper, to fiber, now we’re going to wireless, and after that we don’t know what it’s going to be but you’re going to be in the middle of it.
Karin Williams: Yes, hopefully.
Jay Curry: What is a typical project for you?
Karin Williams: For the bigger companies that we come in, they usually have a statement of work of certain things that they need done that we’re going to do. We will develop the project plan for that, we’ll get our resources together for that, get them onboarded and then we’ll kickoff the project. We have a database that we use to manage that called track, so we’ll get track configured to be able to provide all the reports and things like that. Our team is really integrated with the client’s team. We sit on a lot of of their conference calls, we provide a lot of feedback on how the project is progressing. We’re kind of like an outsourced department if you will for certain niche, [inaudible 00:06:17] knowledge functions.
Jay Curry: You’re doing this all over the country, right?
Karin Williams: Yes.
Jay Curry: Go ahead George.
George Walden: You had referenced in our earlier conversation, you’re doing more and more work for the oil field industry. Could you go into that and issues they face?
Karin Williams: Yes. A few years ago we were very interested in looking at how we take our carrier, what I call carrier class project management and telecom expertise and how we could apply that for the energy industry. What we did see was a lot of them were moving to a digital oil field if you will, but they were challenged on how to pull that together. So we did some studies, remote communication studies to determine like how to best serve some of their rural sites where they’re drilling and they don’t have telecommunication services out there at all.
We can put together recommendation of how they can get the best service at the best price at those locations. Basically, just put a study in front of them so that they can make a good business decision. If they decided to move forward we can help do what we do which is the implementation and project management of getting that service up for them. We can be kind of that one-stop shop for anything telecom that they may need.
George Walden: It’s impressive.
Jay Curry: Yes, and that’s a big need too because we’re drilling places where you can’t get telecom.
Karin Williams: Yes, it’s our favorite.
Jay Curry: They’re sophisticated.
Karin Williams: We like the challenging places. We it’s like, “Don’t give me a city location, give me somewhere in the middle of nowhere.” That’s the hard stuff.
Jay Curry: Is that obviously on land, do you get involved with satellite at all or is that kind of old technology?
Karin Williams: Well, I don’t want to offend any satellite people, but there’s a place for that, but if you can get a better service, lower latency, better price, better quality speed, that’s the way to go. We will help search for those solutions across all the vendors, we’ll look at who’s out there even if you have to construct part of that fiber to their location, we can help them with that.
Jay Curry: You built a group of about 20 experts. How in the world you find them, where do they come from? I mean very technical.
Karin Williams: Hiring is challenging in Houston, it’s not sort of a telecom center if you will like Dallas or Atlanta, and they don’t always work in Houston, we have about half of our staff in Houston, the other half in other cities. We do get military, provides a lot of the training that you see for telecommunications, it’s really good. We’ve had many people that come form the military. We train, we do training for certain people that may transition from IT into more of the telecom pieces of that.
Jay Curry: We talked a lot about you building this business up, how sophisticated it is, it’s out there and dog eat dog world, you’ve been very successful, but you have a few other side little things that you’re doing now that you’ve been successful. Do you want to give us a little insight to Karin Williams as a person?
Karin Williams: Sure. I enjoy mentoring startup, and women entrepreneurs as well as men, but I just like business in general. If I can help, I’ve been part of judging business plan competitions, women startup weekends, and I have several entrepreneurs that will just call me that need advice.
Jay Curry: Good for you. A little give back time toward the end. Congratulations on your success.
Karin Williams: Thank you.
Jay Curry: It’s a wonderful story. If somebody has an interest in talking to you and learning more or talking to you about maybe mentoring or something like that, or even in the telecom business, how they best get hold of you?
Karin Williams: The easiest way is just go to the website, and there’s a team page and you can find my email address there, my phone number, anything. That website address www.riotel.co.
Jay Curry: You got it. Thank you Karin, wonderful story. Folks, we’re going to put that on texasbusinessradio.com, so you could go there, hook right in and check out their website. We’re going to close this segment, we’re going to be right back with another women entrepreneur that’s going to amaze you. Don’t go anywhere, we’re going to pay a couple of bills and be right back.
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In addition to hosting "Texas Business Radio," Matt is an investment banker and serial entrepreneur from Montgomery, Texas. He is the owner of RREA Media and Register Real Estate Advisors and a Managing Director and Principal at Corporate Finance Associates. He has a BS from the United States Military Academy at West Point and an MBA from Rice University in Houston. You can read more about Matt HERE.