Scott Etzler evaluates opportunities to grow InterCall

Before he graduated high school, Scott Etzler became somewhat of a entrepreneurial celebrity in his southern Indiana hometown. He held three or four jobs, but the biggest was his own junk-collecting business that he started by picking up trash outside Salem’s city limits.

By 1970, he was working about 20 hours a week, at $25 an hour, bringing in $500 a week. In his words, he was “living large.”

Though he got out of waste management and into providing conferencing and collaboration services, his level of success hasn’t changed.

He joined InterCall as president in 1998 when the company had less than $50 million in revenue. He led the company through double-digit sales growth each year to 2009 revenue of more than $1 billion. In that time, the company has also evolved from simply offering operator-assisted calls to providing and managing advanced audio, Web, video and event services, and even unified communications.

“If someone says, ‘Well, gee, you’ve done pretty well for a kid from southern Indiana,’ I’m like, ‘Oh, because I know how to execute,’” says Etzler, who sold the company to West Corp. in 2003 and now runs it as a subsidiary.

The secret to his successful execution lies somewhere between a guess and a math equation — but really, it’s a lot of research and disciplined decisions. Etzler must listen closely to his 900 meeting consultants and 2,800 other employees in 83 sales offices worldwide, along with the customers they serve, to understand and assess opportunities in the marketplace.

“Anybody that tells you that it’s a classic formula that’s run through a meat grinder, I question that,” Etzler says. “There’s always a lot of unknowns because the markets can change and there’s some subjectivity on how big the market really is. … That’s what makes it fun, to see what happens.”