An Interview with
Champ Mitchell, Chairman and CEO, Network Solutions
By Derek Iwasiuk
March 21, 2007
Q1: Could you tell us more about your position at Network Solutions?
am Chairman and CEO of Network Solutions, a leading provider of
online products and services for small businesses. I oversee all
facets of the company with the support of a very smart and talented
Q2: Why did Najafi Companies decide to sell Network Solutions to the global private equity firm General Atlantic?
the past 3 years, Network Solutions has generated sustained and
accelerating double-digit revenue growth. As we became recognized as
a market leader, Najafi Companies began to receive unsolicited offers
for its stake in the company. Najafi Companies believed the timing
was right to capitalize on its investment and accepted General
Atlantic’s offer to purchase its interest in the company.
Q3: Will the new ownership affect Network Solutions and how?
Atlantic wants to see us continue to grow our business by enhancing
and expanding our product set, continuing to provide our customers
with an outstanding customer experience and acquiring new customers
through new channels of distribution. They also have a willingness
to fund acquisitions to help grow our company and expand our products
Q4: What challenges will the company face with General Atlantic as its new owner?
are two. First, we will continue to grow at high rates. Growth always
presents a challenge, but it is one we have handle so far and we will
as we go forward. The second challenge is finding quality acquisition
targets that share our passion for excellence, including the same
commitment to customer care and support.
Q5: Will your role in the company change?
will continue to be the Chairman and CEO of the company and continue
to oversee the company’s operations.
Q6: Tell us more about the transformations of Network Solutions through the years?
have been so many transformations in the 28 years this company has
been in existence; however, some of the most notable changes have
taken place in the last 5 years. I came to Network Solutions in
August of 2001 and this company was losing market share rapidly,
hemorrhaging cash and our customer service was the worst in the
industry. With a tremendous amount of hard work and the dedication of
a great team of employees, we were able to turn this company around.
First we had to fix fundamental problems with the operating platform
and completely rebuild customer service with people who cared about
the customers’ experiences with us. We also had to become cash
positive. This took us two years. Then we had to begin the
reinvention of Network Solutions from a domain name company to the
leading provider of web based services to small businesses. To do
that we had to not only have a highly reliable platform and the best
customer service in the industry, we had to add drastically to our
product portfolio, and we had to own and operate core products to
guarantee the customer a good experience. We have just completed
that. The result is that today a majority of our cash revenue comes
off of products other than domain registration and renewals and our
base of small business customers is growing rapidly.
new products that were added last year, particularly the best
ecommerce package in the industry and the broadest and best quality
online marketing suite of products, will not only continue to
increase our products per customer, but become strong differentiators
that mark us as best of breed. That is why we have seen such a
terrific uptake of these products by our existing 3.5 million small
business customers and the accelerating increase of that small
our focus remains on small to medium sized businesses and our current
top-line growth rate is 30 percent. It is the combination of product
excellence and breadth of our offering along with superior customer
service that is totally free and available 24/7 that now makes us the
best one-stop-shop for a small business. Our customer service is the
best in the industry and we are recognized by J.D. Power and
Associates, for providing our customers with an “outstanding
customer experience” for the second consecutive year, which is a
tremendous accomplishment. It is also available 24/7 and you do not
pay for it, not even for the call. It is part of what you get from
being a Network Solutions customer.
Q7: Will the deal influence Network Solutions' employees?
of the many reasons General Atlantic took an interested in investing
in Network Solutions is because of its phenomenal team of employees
and the significant growth and financial performance we have achieved
in the last three years. This change of investors will fuel our
growth and provide our employees with more opportunities to broaden
our product portfolio.
Q8: What do customers have to expect from Network Solutions' acquisition by General Atlantic?
customers can expect us to provide even more products and services
that small businesses need to establish and grow their companies
online. In addition, our customers will continue to receive the
best quality customer service in this industry, and to have it
available without charge 24/7.
Q9: How do you see your company's expansion in the near and in the far future?
will continue to enhance and expand our products, and we will focus
on broadening our market reach through the expansion of new channels
of distribution and customer acquisition.
Q10: Tell us more about Network Solutions' determination to bring the best services to its customers.
Solutions is acutely aware of the wide range of service offerings
that exist in the online market space. We believe that in
order to succeed as the premier provider in today's market, and more
specifically the small business customer segment, we must
differentiate ourselves on two key business imperatives: product
and customer support. Product differentiation for us
requires not only the broadest range of products, but the best
quality products to be found by small businesses. Four years ago we
found ourselves in the unenviable position of having a bulk of our
non-domain name service offerings outsourced to other providers.
While that position allowed us to save in the development area, it
left us unable to directly control the quality and capability of
the offerings on behalf of our valued customers. That has
our departure from VeriSign (2003), we have pursued a highly focused
strategy: develop or acquire best quality product offerings that can
scale to meet our stringent performance criteria for millions of
customers, develop them in every area of customer need, back them up
with exceptional customer service and offer them at a competitive
price. That strategy has netted impressive improvements in our
product set and, more importantly, in our customer satisfaction
levels. Over the last two years Network Solutions invested
heavily by purchasing a hosting and email provider, InQuent
Technologies, in 2005, and buying the premier hosted e-commerce
offering, MonsterCommerce, in 2006. In addition, we also
introduced our own branded digital certificate offering, a wide array
of online marketing services, "Do it For Me" website and
logo offerings and the world’s first secure domain based, web-mail
enabled secure email offering.
the customer service front, we have achieved equally impressive
results. In 2005 our call center was first certified by J.D.
Powers and Associates, for offering our customers an “outstanding
customer experience.” They recognized us again in 2006. We were
runners up in the national American Business Awards, which recognize
outstanding customer service performance, and we achieved a customer
service satisfaction level of 84%.
summary our strategy is working, but it is far from complete.
The online space is continually evolving. In order to realize
the full potential of our investments we must maintain and improve
our products as well as be constantly vigilant about what new
offerings could save our customers time or help them make money.
Q11: Can you tell us if the company is about to launch new products and what they are?
just launched SiteSafe™ Extended Validation Certificates, to
provide our customers with a new level of Secure Sockets Layer (SSL)
certificate, which offers the highest level of security and
assurance. And over the course of the year we will continue to
enhance our current products and introduce new services.
Q12: What does Network Solutions do to keep its existing clients and how will you recommend the company to potential customers?
simple really. We provide our customers with quality products and
services that perform as advertised and are supported by our free,
24/7 real person customer service to give the best customer
experience in the industry.
Q13: What makes Network Solutions different from the other providers of Internet services?
Our customer service support, which has been recognized by J.D. Power and Associates for providing an “outstanding customer experience” for the second consecutive year; and the fact that we provide the broadest range of products and services for small businesses to establish and grow their companies online in the industry. We provide this breadth and this quality of product and service at a scale that is unparalleled in this industry.
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