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Business growth in 2017

Happy New Year 2017!

I choose to write around this time of the year because New Year’s is one of my favorite seasons. Not because of the celebrations, champagne, and fireworks. But because it represents new beginnings. Out with the old; in with the new.  Fresh starts. New Year’s resolutions. New business budgets. New goals. A chance to start over if you’ve had a tough year, or make bigger plans with the profits from the prior year. Also, a time to celebrate that the crazy Christmas season is behind us. As pathetic as that sounds, the ‘reason for the season’ gets crowded out by an increasingly more commercial, stressful, and secular holiday celebration (or madness). But the New Year’s season is, for the most part, everyone celebrating around the world together. How cool is that? New Year’s is just one big, worldwide Kum-Ba-Yah. Sort of a symbolic joining of hands in peace and unity. And that is a good segue into my update for this year.

In a few days, I will have been a business owner for 18 years. Yes. 18 years. And just like many parts of life (growing up, relationships, parenting, etc.), businesses have seasons too. This business has certainly had its share of rapid growth in the first 5 years of its life. Like chasing after a toddler, falling down a lot and learning how to run–fast! Then a few mistakes of adolescence and figuring out where you fit in (the industry, the market, the competition), and the dreaded year 13, where a rebellious, teenaged business reared its ugly head to turn into a monster I didn’t recognize or enjoy for a few years. Thankfully, we won the battle of the wills, as we now slide into year 18 of the company. And you know what turning 18 means: time to cut the cord and fly with less help from who created you (ahem…that would be me). I guess you could say the company is an adult now!

So, 2017 holds another season of change for RioTel. Some independence from me, the founder. Client Services already operates with little input from me. My role has primarily been focused on strategy, sales, and business operations. We have a stellar group of people advising and running the company’s client and business operations today. I have been able to take real vacations, without being tethered to the phone or laptop 24/7. And if you own a business, I know you will appreciate that sentiment. But don’t think I am leading up to the “R” word (retirement?). No—definitely not yet. My second act.

Over the past 5 years, I have experienced huge amounts of creativity and ambition, and more and more of that has been directed at giving back to others and to the community. My second act involves mentoring and coaching startups and other small businesses trying to grow. Putting years of operational experience behind a new set of Business Managed Services to help others run their businesses better. Better operationally, and with a better use of technology. One of the advantages of taking big risks and working as hard as you do to grow a business, is that you do get the freedom of choices along the way. And you get wiser. Life and business experience does that to you, so my wisdom was earned the right way. And there are those who need that wisdom, and I plan to share it.

My second act will also be devoted to further developing the charitable initiative we began in 2011, ARK. ARK originally stood for “Acts of RioTel Kindness,” and was our way of giving back to others in need during the holidays, both individuals and charities. It has now been rebranded ARK Networks, and consists of multiple initiatives as announced earlier in 2016.

Launched in 2011:

ARK Holiday – Financial donations of the company’s profit to selected charities in December.

ARK Pay-It-Forward –RioTel’s bonus program, where we give our employees and contractors cash, and ask them to “pay-it-forward” to someone in need during the holidays, and post about the experience on our internal social media page.

Launched in 2016:

ARK Serve – RioTel offers paid time-off quarterly for employees to serve a local charity. Our remote workers get to pick the charity of their choice. But in the Houston area, we pick the charity, so we can build local relationships with them. They get to know us, and we get to know their needs, and the needs of those they/we serve. They can count on us. We have their back.

Launching in 2017:

ARK Hire – This takes the program further into the community, particularly the small businesses community and charities.  ARK Hire is a small business partnership of like-minded, like-hearted businesses who want to help those in dire need of employment. A focused effort to hire those where employment is critical. Situations where getting a job will change lives in a big way. Lots of lives, not just the employee’s but their families. And since small businesses creates more jobs in the economy than any other segment, they are the perfect group to get behind this initiative, while helping them with their own hiring needs.

Both ARK Hire and the launch of our Business Managed Services will require a significant amount of my time and expertise, and will be where much of my second act begins this year. Whereas RioTel’s tagline for the past 18 years has been Building Tomorrow’s Networks, ARK Networks will be building networks too. Human ones. Compassionate ones. Kum-Ba-Yah. I look forward to the journey, and hope you will join along to help. New beginnings, as I said. New beginnings.

Happy New Year 2017!





Karin-RioTel 17 yrsThis week we celebrated another milestone in the life of RioTel, the company I founded in 1999. 17 years of being in business is even hard for me to believe. During a small conference room celebration to mark this milestone, employees shared their first impressions and funny interview stories. But since I have been around the longest, and am feeling a little nostalgic, I thought I’d do some reminiscing about how it all began back then. This is my founder story.

17 years ago this week, I walked into the Montgomery County Texas courthouse to file for a DBA for the business I wanted to start. My plans were to be an Engineering Consultant in the telecommunications industry, where I had been working for the past 13 years. I had a layoff coming in a few months, after being part of the launch team that built Sprint’s initial wireless network in Houston—an amazing feat that took almost 2 years. My job was moving to Kansas City post-launch, and I chose not to go with it, so this was my Plan B. Back then, the wireless industry was exploding with growth, and I was encouraged by many of my coworkers to “go it on my own.” My newlywed husband even bought me motivational “Start Your Own Business” CDs to listen to on the way to work to encourage me. So at the age of 34, I decided “why not?” and RioTel was born.

My next stop that day was to open RioTel’s commercial checking account, and that was where I first noticed a change in the way people would view me and treat me, from that day forward. Instantly I had transformed into a “business owner,” and people were overly impressed, or so it seemed. They would always make such a big deal over it, as if they were pleasantly surprised. I was a little embarrassed, but amused, not really owning this new identity just yet. This still happens occasionally, and I now realize that it has more to do with me being a woman business owner, than just a business owner. I had no idea at the time, that those 3 words put together were so rare, but had never given it much thought. Apparently I had entered a new arena in 1999, and thought to myself, “This is going to be interesting.”

Over the next few weeks, I rounded out my business start-up to-do list:

  • Used executive desk from the oil industry bust, moved into the master bedroom. From Exxon I was told. Check.
  • Desktop computer built by a friend, with Microsoft and Quickbooks loaded. (Remember this was still the 90s.) Check.
  • Business cards with a new logo, designed by a college student for dirt cheap. Check. Check.

So I was all set to begin my new adventure. All I needed was a customer…

Fortunately for me, the timing was perfect to start a business in the wireless industry in 1999. As the old adage goes, “A rising tide lifts all boats.” I quickly picked up a big industry contract doing what I knew how to do, and the man who hired me famously said, “Karin—you’re going to need some help.” Silly me, thinking I would just do some independent consulting work out of my house. What was I thinking? So that arrangement didn’t last long and within a few weeks, I moved to a single-person office, rented from my insurance agent, when I went in to purchase business insurance for that new contract. She too, was a woman business owner—my first mentor in that area, and she answered a lot of questions for me that first year as I rented office space in her building. Things like “What do I do with all these receipts?!” She was more than happy to give me tips and advice, as have so many other business owners in my path these past 17 years.

So 1999 turned out to be an awesome first year in business. I hired my first employee, an Admin, to help me with those receipts and answering the phone. Plus a few more engineers, and I picked up a few more clients through my network of industry colleagues and friends. Funny, I ended up taking over ALL of my agent’s space, so she let me have the whole place and moved her company elsewhere. I incorporated the business in early 2000, and things were going so well, I thought (foolishly) that an early retirement for me might be possible. But the economy, the industry, and life had other things in mind, and we have skinned our knees many times along the way. I think everyone recalls what happened to tech after 9/11, the dotcom bust, the recession, etc… In hindsight, we call them “bad years” vs. “good years” after we recovered. But as a financial advisor once told me: ”Tough times never last, but tough people do. Karin, you have grit, and will do just fine. Mark my words.” So I did, and I learned that I am more stubborn and determined than I thought, and we have not only survived, but thrived in an industry and economy that has taken many good companies down. I even got a wild hair in 2011-2012 and went back to the University of Texas for a master’s degree in Technology Commercialization, which ended up being the catalyst for our developing and launching a much needed software application for our industry in 2013.

I absolutely love owning a business, and wouldn’t trade the past 17 years for the “security” of being on someone else’s payroll. I’ve seen too many of my own clients get laid off. And stepping back to take a more global view of life, as we tend to do with age and wisdom, what brings me the most joy and pride is twofold. Professionally, the names on our client roster whose networks we have helped build and support are impressive. RioTel’s ‘digital fingerprints’ are everywhere around the country in the wireless networks everyone is using. But personally, knowing all the jobs this company has created, that have allowed many families to be supported over the past 17 years makes me even prouder. We’ve had babies born (including one of my own!), marriages, new houses, promotions, and graduations, and several of our employees have relocated to the Houston area to work for us over the years. That speaks volumes. And as goes with life, we have also weathered some personal storms…family deaths, divorces, illnesses, and downsizings of our own in the tough years. But all of these shared experiences are quite humbling to me and have helped fuel my commitment to be successful, so we can continue to provide for everyone’s families in a very uncertain world. I realize that employees get to make decisions about where they want to work, but I always tell applicants who interview with me that I will work harder to keep your job for you, than any publicly traded company ever will.

For the past 5 years, we’ve been able to extend our financial support to our communities through a charity program we created called ARK, Acts of RioTel Kindness. Through ARK, we provide our RioTel Front-17 yr anniversaryemployees with a cash bonus during the holiday season, earmarked for them to “Pay It Forward” to someone in need. The stories they return with are amazing and touching. 2016 will bring even more expansion of ARK as we partner with community agencies to help connect job creators like RioTel and other small businesses, with specific people who are in desperate need of a job for their survival. We will call this ARK Hire, and if I may borrow my alma mater’s slogan, “What Starts Here Changes the World.”

This is my founder story. Hook ‘Em –


We are off with a bang in 2015 and full of energy and enthusiasm for the year. We had an awesome year in 2014, and are keeping our momentum going. We continue to grow our client base and partnerships in the telecom space, and despite the recent slump in oil prices, there is plenty of opportunity in the oil & gas industry as they advance the digital oilfield more and more every day. Of course telecom cost-savings are important right now and that is one of RioTel’s specialties.

RioTel doesn’t sell telecom services. Instead we are consultants who spend hours daily looking at network records, databases, maps, and other cool optimization tools to evaluate and recommend cost savings initiatives for our clients. Savings come from a variety of initiatives including bill audits, contract negotiation (or renegotiation), optimization of the telecom network, or even routing issues that send calls over inefficient or more expensive routes in the network. We do the messy work that you don’t want to—-all those details….we love details and research!

To all you techies like me…I’m fresh off of attending CES (Consumer Electronics Show for those non-techies) in Las Vegas. Check out my Twitter feed @RioTelTweets for some pics of some of the coolest things I found, but there is never enough time to see it all at this show. My favorite was Eureka Park at The Sands. Why? Because that is where all the startups are! Startups are a culture all their own. They are the most enthusiastic of all business people and so I found myself asking them questions like….so who is your target customer? When were you founded? Are you raising money? How much? Like who cares, right? I do! In February, I get the privilege of judging the semi-finals for the Texas Venture Labs Investment Competition (TVLIC) at The University of Texas at Austin. I am excited to see what the latest MSTC class is doing with technology commercialization and hope to offer some input from someone who’s been in the trenches for 16 years now. That’s right….Happy Birthday RioTel….born 1999. I’m an old hat at this now. But I look forward to seeing the pitches and asking questions to help them further their opportunities. Who knows what the next hot startup will be.

Cheers to another wonderful year,


As RioTel continues BUILDING TOMORROW’S NETWORKSSM, we continue to build our team.  I was proud to make these organizational announcements during 2013:

  • Katy Trosper joined the firm as Vice President of Operations.
  • Altro Tate was promoted to Director, Client Services and celebrated 7 years with the firm.
  • Sherard Tate was promoted to Director, Technical Services and celebrated 5 years with the firm.
  • Michele Ramirez was promoted to Manager, Quality and Project Administration and celebrated 7 years with the firm.
  • Deborah Johnson was promoted to Manager, Finance and Administration and celebrated 8 years with the firm.
  • Leigh Fox celebrated 6 years with the firm.
  • Chris Berlinger celebrated 5 years with the firm.
  • We also welcomed several new staff members and consultants to the firm, and we are still hiring!

We look forward to an exciting and prosperous year in 2014 and continuing our relationship with you.  If you need anything, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Cheers to a wonderful year,


Hello again. Thank you for visiting my blog.  I cannot believe it has been 6 months since we launched our new website and I started this blog.  And I carefully chose the word “started” because admittedly, that is all I did.  So what have I been doing that has kept me from blogging?

Well, many of my activities that kept me away were certainly blog-worthy had I only had a second to blog about them.  But just to cover myself for the moment,  my excuses  include:  finishing graduate school (shout out to UT MSTC!),  getting through 2 quality audits, celebrating the college graduation of our daughter and then moving her across the country to start her new career (shout out to Kaylie and Teach for America ENC!),  taking a first-time vacation to Hawaii with the hubby to celebrate the end of our grad school crazed life (Love ya Mark, Maui and The Big Island!), and returning from vacation to deal with some unexpected business problems that you risk when you are dancing with elephants (they are prone to step on your toes if you are not careful and they weigh a lot compared to a small business).  But I digress…..this blog is supposed to cover topics of interest in telecommunications, right?

Well thank goodness for Twitter for those of us who can’t sit still to write more than an email.  I have managed to tweet over the past few months about things that are important from my vantage point as a small business owner in the telecom industry.  Things like the 10x growth forecast for mobile backhaul that is being fueled by this country’s data consumption at unprecedented rates.  And Google Fiber’s launch in KC, designed to capture some of that demand.  I certainly hope these trends in our industry will help our economy rebound and create jobs.

Tweets also included how AT&T and Verizon are tapping start-ups to fuel their innovation, another economic booster in my opinion (start-ups that is).  But all that optimism is tempered by our industry’s spectrum shortage, which Steve Largent so aptly summed up in his report on the results of CTIA’s semi-annual survey.  It is a finite resource and we can only get so much of it.  I do think there are some intersections in my tweets related to the solution and that lies in innovation from start-ups.   In fact, my crystal ball predicts that a patent will be forthcoming from an unknown start-up giving the world a solution to better utilize existing spectrum.  Soon, I hope.  And I hope the financiers of the world are willing to put their money behind these inventors, and more importantly that these inventors get connected with smart entrepreneurs with the kind of business acumen that is being fostered in UT-Austin’s MSTC program.   I met some amazing people over the past year as part of that graduate program, and I will get to meet more as I network with alumni from prior years in this program at the MSTC Alumni Appreciation Dinner this week in Austin, Texas.

So I will leave this blog with the fun stuff.  Follow me on Twitter to keep up and I promise to only tweet about important things, including really cool technology products that catch my interest like Tactus Technology’s awesome anti-flat touchscreen technology and “Tappy” the T-Mobile testing robot!

Thank you again for visiting my blog and please follow us on LinkedIn and Twitter.

February 29, 2012  (Leap Day – We don’t get to say that very often!)

Welcome to our new website and blog!

I have fully validated why we have waited so long to update our website.  Embarking on a company rebrand and designing the site have been quite an experience and another great company project to pull together.  Our goal was to design a site that reflects the personality and culture of RioTel, and we hope you enjoy your visit and getting to know our company better.

Over the years we’ve been asked numerous times about the company’s history and name, so we decided to dedicate a page to explain that called RioStory.  We had the most fun designing the RioLaffs page and we have more tricks up our sleeve for that page in the future.  We have to keep a sense of humor so we hope you will laugh with us and share your own industry or tech humor that we may feature on this page.

Our blog will cover topics of interest in telecommunications and I will feature guest bloggers to share their expertise with our readers.

Thank you again for visiting our site and please follow us on LinkedIn and Twittter.