Back in 2005, a boutique investment bank asked Roy Pottle if he was interested in acquiring Southwestern Bell Corporation’s paging subsidiary. At that time, demand for mobile phones was on the rise. In contrast, the paging industry was in decline, the technology increasingly viewed as a relic from a less convenient past. Roy thought otherwise.
As the former Executive Vice President and CFO of Arch Wireless Inc., the largest wireless messaging or paging company in the US, Roy had a unique understanding of the business and most importantly, understood which customers were leaving and which were not.
"For a subset of customers, particularly in the medical community, the use of pagers was deeply embedded in their communication processes for critical messaging. Those customers weren’t going anywhere," he explains of his decision to partner with Co-Founders Marc Gineris and Tom Hopkins to buy and then rebrand SBC’s paging division into American Messaging.
Sixteen years later, American Messaging has evolved into a global leader in critical messaging. It has consolidated the US paging industry through 35 acquisitions, but more importantly, modernized its network infrastructure and broadened its product suite to integrate its networks with its proprietary secure messaging app, AMS Connect.
The narrower focus of critical messaging is simply communication required immediately and with great certainty.
"Five years ago, we set out to modernize our networks and related infrastructure to ensure it was modern, reliable and secure," Roy says.
This need brought about a series of dependencies within the company’s operations, described by American Messaging President and COO Dave Andersen as a "circular connection": "Our requirement to be secure drove investments which made us more reliable and modern. The requirement to be more reliable drove investments which made us more modern and secure. Our desire to modernize drove investments that made us more reliable and secure," he says. "The relationship between these three dependencies supports each other for the benefit of our customers and improved network performance."
Meanwhile, American Messaging set out to broaden its product suite through the development of a new, secure messaging application which was in turn integrated with traditional paging and third-party broadband networks. "We married two wireless networks – our traditional proprietary paging networks and third-party broadband networks, providing customers with redundancy and increased flexibility as messages are now delivered simultaneously, using two different networks, to a pager and our secure messaging app AMS Connect," Roy says.
This provides end users with the flexibility to use their pager or their mobile device depending on the coverage and individual preferences. In hospitals, broadband coverage can be uncertain – sometimes resulting in missed or delayed messaging. In-building penetration associated with pagers, on the other hand, ensures messages are received immediately. "It’s not one or the other, it’s one and the other," Roy says.
When messages are critical and seconds count, pagers are often the preferred device. When immediate receipt of messages is not critical, however, AMS Connect provides end users with the flexibility to carry their preferred device given their specific needs and circumstances at any point in time. "Essentially, we have transitioned from a network company to a network and software company as we continue to build the feature set for AMS Connect and its related software."
Developing AMS Connect and its software suite for onboarding and feature selections has been crucial to American Messaging’s long-term strategy, Roy says. "Over the last few years, we’ve moved very quickly to position the company and grow through our integrated messaging solution," he says. "We’ve evolved our software solution through our third-party offshore partner Intelligencia LLC. They’ve proven to be an outstanding collaborative partner."
American Messaging listens to its customers and thereby determines incremental functionality; Intelligencia then handles the development and testing of the software platform to introduce additional features and ensures they work as intended.
According to Roy, the secure messaging world can be split into two components: critical messaging and clinical and collaborative care. The latter primarily relates to the software and related feature set that physicians and other medical personnel use to interact with one another during patient care. "However, the narrower focus of critical messaging is simply communication required immediately and with great certainty," he says.
It’s a business that comes down to being a dependable and reliable choice for critical messaging. "When you’re a critical messaging company, your messages have to be received immediately, and you have to have high confidence that they will be," Roy says. "For us, reliability is everything."
As a company and as a culture, we must do what we say we’re going to do – and we are honest about what we do well and what we need to do better.
Reliability extends to supply chain competence and partners. According to Roy, American Messaging has relied upon its partners to build stronger and more reliable operations, allowing it to modernize its business. "We set out five years ago to modernize our network infrastructure and our device equation. We have two critical manufacturers on the device side, one in Seoul, South Korea, and another in Taipei, Taiwan. We’ve worked closely with them over the last several years."
One of the fruits of this collaboration is a new paging device with a USB port. "We’ve also undertaken development work on encrypted pagers, ensuring all messages are secure."
Reliability flows from the top down and is the cornerstone of the company’s culture. "American Messaging’s tagline is: ‘The Dependable Choice.’ Underpinning our strategy is the need to excel at service delivery," Roy insists. "From the beginning, we’ve said that to be the dependable choice for our customers, we had to be dependable to one another. As a company and as a culture, we must do what we say we’re going to do – and we must be honest about what we do well and what we need to do better. We also accept that we don’t get everything right, but when we do make a mistake, we’re upfront and we commit to fixing the problem.
"We have a culture committed to getting things right and doing the right thing. We set out on a mission to be the best, most trusted provider of critical messaging services in the US, with a strategy to differentiate ourselves through every employee excelling at customer service and service delivery."
While stoic words such as ‘reliable’ and ‘dependable’ are exactly what clients require, Roy says it’s fun that forms the basis of company culture. "The cornerstone of our culture is: ‘Let’s have fun doing it,’" he says. "We still have the same passion for having fun doing what we do and enjoying working with each other to make a difference in delivering critical messages that often save lives."