IT management

James Foxall Version 3.1


Like the company he leads and the MSP industry around him, James Foxall has evolved quite a bit in the past five years. And later this month, he'll have a chance to reinforce that point during Tigerpaw Partner Conference 2015 (Oct. 28-30, Omaha).

Tigerpaw Software, like many of the IT service providers it supports, is striving to shift from a lifestyle business into a hyper-growth business. Foxall says 2014 was the company's strongest ever in terms of revenue and cash flow -- and 2015's final results are on pace to be even stronger, he told ChannelE2E in a recent interview.

Like many software companies that started out in the PSA (professional services automation) space, Tigerpaw has repositioned itself for a broader use case -- business process automation.

Tigerpaw Software's History

Dave Foxall (James' dad) launched the family business back in 1984. By the time he was old enough to work, James gradually climbed the company's employee and management ranks. The big leap -- and company transition -- arrived in 2010, when James shifted from VP to president. Gradually, the CEO title also transitioned from father (Dave Foxall) to son (James Foxall).

Speak to James, and you'll get the feeling that his executive journey involved some big ambitions (2010), a bit of a reset amid staff and product changes (2012-2013), and then a gradual return to normalcy and growth (2014-present).

The way I see it, Foxall's journey can be summed up in these "version" milestones:

  • 1.0 -- The early years, climbing the corporate ladder.
  • 2.0 -- Taking over for dad, the first years. Grand ambitions mixed with hurdles and setbacks.
  • 3.0 -- A bit of a reset amid staff changes and a refined focus.
  • 3.1 -- James today, leading a company that's growing again.

Looking back on the CEO transition from father to son, James says he'd make a few changes if he had the chance to do it all over again.

  • First, he would have moved much more quickly to a "good metrics system to support the strategic vision. When we finally had metrics in alignment good things really happened."
  • Second, he would have been more stringent more rapidly on the hiring process.
  • And third, he would have changed up some portions of the staff a bit more rapidly to ensure everyone on the team aligned with the company's direction.

Foxall and ChannelE2E hope to discuss the CEO transition a bit more fully in the weeks ahead, after the conference.

Tigerpaw Software Today

Tigerpaw now has roughly 45 employees, a half-dozen openings, and a "stringent hiring process" in a region (Omaha, Neb.) where unemployment is less than 3 percent. In terms of the partner mix, Tigerpaw started out in the telecom market in the early 1980's, but most of the company's ecosystem now involves converged voice and data partners.

During Tigerpaw Partner Conference 2015, it's safe to expect a "repackaging" of Tigerpaw's core software -- easing the way MSPs and IT service providers consume the platform. "We think it will be disruptive for the industry," says Foxall. He's also particularly proud of Tigerpaw's mobile application since it blends CRM, salesforce automation and more.

In terms of customers, Tigerpaw has been attracting larger MSPs -- with five to 100 seats representing the bread and butter. The largest install has overall 1,800 employees and 600 concurrent users. Tigerpaw doesn't work as much with one- to three-person MSP shops. "We're happy to have them but we tend to go fishing in a bit larger ponds these days," says Foxall.

Watching the M&A Scene

Tigerpaw has also closely tracked the M&A market, where PSA and RMM companies have been shacking up over the past few years. Several RMM providers -- including AVG, Continuum, Kaseya and SolarWinds N-able --- will attend Tigerpaw's conference. "We're quite happy to be on neutral ground," Foxall says without mentioning combination PSA-RMM rivals like Autotask and ConnectWise by name.

But will Tigerpaw remain independent amid ongoing industry M&A? Foxall says he isn't out looking to sell the company, and he believes plenty of additional customers are still on the sidelines -- lacking a transformative business management platform.

Still, I sense that Foxall has been working with an industry mentor or two to really shape the company -- today and for the long haul. Among the key items the company still must address: A hosted or cloud version of Tigerpaw. Foxall says details about that effort will arrive in 2016. The headline writer in me says stay tuned for Foxall 4.0.

In the meantime, ChannelE2E will be watching Tigerpaw Partner Summit closely for additional company and industry trends. And perhaps even a surprise mentor or two on the scene.



Joe Panettieri

Joe Panettieri is co-founder & editorial director of MSSP Alert and ChannelE2E, the two leading news & analysis sites for managed service providers in the cybersecurity market.