PBN: How did you become involved in the fiber optics industry?
SKELTON: I held a position for a telecom company as director of communications right after college. Because of this experience, I was recruited to work for PennWell and became media consultant/business manager on the brand Lightwave. Lightwave delivers content focused on fiber optics and optoelectronics, the technologies that enable the growth, integration and improved performance of voice, data and video communications networks and services.
For twenty years, I worked with most of the marketing and business development departments at the major corporations in this industry. This has provided invaluable experience and industry perspective. Fiber Optic Center Inc. is an international leader in distributing fiber optic components, equipment and supplies and has some of the most technically knowledgeable experts that I worked with in my previous role.

PBN: What do you hope to accomplish in your new position? Are you leading a team of employees?

SKELTON: In my role of marketing for FOC, I will effectively communicate to the world the depth of manufacturing knowledge and technical support this company provides every customer and partner. I feel privileged to work for a company built on a philosophy of honesty, quality and character. I have joked, in the past, that this foundation of true business integrity is one of the best kept secrets because they are not boastful. My team includes the technical experts, business development managers and sales. Within our marketing department I have the unique opportunity to work with a full time, incredibly talented graphic designer. I hope to lead this team and expect they will lead me as well in our efforts.

PBN: How has the industry changed since you first became involved with it 20 years ago?

SKELTON: Twenty years ago, information was delivered primarily through printed, mailed formats. Technical information was generally found in long format articles in trade magazines. Phone conversations during set business hours happened frequently; we were still dependent on them.

One of the biggest impacts on our industry has been the Internet. It has impacted the interconnect needs, product specifications and performance speeds. Distribution has switched to online options, mobile devices, on-line / on-demand entertainment options and application stores that do not have traditional storefronts. If you get someone’s voicemail, you generally leave both your phone number and email and more often than not, the message is returned by email. The change in the business model has redefined the industry with greater bandwidth needs for home networking, audiovisual entertainment (television), communications (laptop and mobile phones) and Internet-based content.

PBN: Is Fiber Optic Center concentrating more on its online strategy, or on social media, as a result of your hire?

SKELTON: When developing any marketing strategy, understanding where and how your customers are receiving their information is key. A famous line in marketing is “know your audience”. FOC, being an industry connection for optical products, technologies and the top technical experts, needs to balance both an online strategy as well as social media. With the main focus being assisting cable assembly houses with supplies, equipment, consulting and technical support, we are reaching a variety of time zones on different devices. Because we strive to “make the business part easy,” through personal customer service, being that resource through multiple vehicles is crucial.

PBN: Tell me about the Skelton Cohere club, and working with youth groups – why do you think it’s important that youth learn about business strategy?

SKELTON: Working with youth groups is a passion of mine. I have four children of my own and have truly loved the lessons I learn every day from both my children and the youth I work with.

Approaching life challenges with a business 101 approach allows students to take some of the emotions out of a situation, feel empowered to work through the challenge with a structure and methodically find solutions. In addition to the business basics of objectives, challenges, market analysis, sales, marketing, accounting and communication, I always hope to incorporate the life basics of empathy, perspective and kindness.

The Skelton Cohere Club began when my son, who was in middle school at the time, wanted to raise funds for cancer research and a few other organizations and felt overwhelmed with how to accomplish those goals. We discussed the basic principles of pay-it-forward and organizing his goals as a business with an actual marketing plan. I shared the resources and some basic structure, but he had to identify his goals, challenges, possible solutions and create marketing plans to meet the objectives. He broke down his objectives into different categories. Some of his work was simply getting more engagement and help from the community for the Challenger Baseball program for mentally and physically disabled players but many of the events focused on fundraising for cancer, autism and cystic fibrosis research. The strength of the club is teams of individuals with similar passions. A team he has walking for Cystic Fibrosis will have completely different members than one for cancer research but they all support each other under the umbrella of the Cohere Club.

My son is now a senior in high school, working hard to get to his dream college next fall. For the club, he is working on a larger event from where he first began – a concert with the group Voices of Hope for this spring. It involves corporate donations, community donations and ticket sales. In the true spirit of the club, he has passed the smaller projects and mentoring on to his younger sisters to carry on. There are now fourth grade and kindergarten teams forming to continue the toy yard sales and a new art show project they are in the beginning stages to figure out.

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