Every leader experiences a handful of career defining moments: professional wins, business decisions, directional pivots and even mistakes. When they happen, you naturally pause, reflect, learn and charge ahead.

As the leader of ACC Business – a specialized brand from AT&T offering networking solutions – this month marks a defining career moment. This August, we celebrate the 20th anniversary of our relationship with AT&T. It has exceeded my expectations and been a deeply rewarding experience for me and the ACC team.

As I look ahead to our next 20 years, I’ve reflected on the most important lessons learned that have driven our success to date.

Competition can breed collaboration.

Before AT&T acquired ACC Business, we were competitors. ACC Business was the underdog – the small scrappy organization in juxtaposition with the established Fortune 10 company. But through this competition, we saw tremendous opportunity for collaboration.

There was no denying AT&T’s industry leadership and the company’s ability to propel our business forward. And fortunately for us, AT&T recognized ACC Business’ established reputation and brand equity in the market. Our alignment proved to be a win-win for both organizations and afforded a distinct advantage to our customers who can tap into the global power of AT&T by doing business with us.

Startup culture isn’t just for when you’re starting up.

Since the beginning of ACC Business, we’ve embraced our size. Being small comes with benefits. We’re entrepreneurial, nimble and responsive – the qualities of a startup culture that we’ve maintained for 20 years.

By hiring team members who embrace these core qualities of our business, we’ve achieved an extremely low turnover rate. I’ve been at the company since the start of our relationship with AT&T and almost 20% of our employees are also celebrating their 20th anniversary. It goes to show, you don’t have to be a startup to benefit from a start-up mentality.

The solution provider has always been at the core.

Many companies are talking about customer experience like it’s a buzzword. While customer service and communications channels have evolved (and expanded) over the years, delivering an exemplary experience is foundational. We serve our solution providers as our customers. They have always been at the core.

ACC Business has run a consistent, solution provider-focused program for the past 20 years. Our solution providers are in the very fabric of our DNA. We’ve built a community and a sense of belonging. They know they’re part of something that includes like-minded people with similar values and that’s important to us. It always has been.

Ownership is empowering.

ACC Business is 1 of 3 indirect sales channels for AT&T Business. The way our business operates – and what makes it unique from the other 2 models – is the ownership that our solution providers have.

When they sell to a customer, they assume responsibility for that relationship over the full lifecycle. They aren’t rewarded for the initial sale but rather for maintaining, nurturing and growing the relationship over time. This way, they bring a sense of ownership and personal commitment to every customer relationship.

Beyond that, our solution providers also represent multiple carriers. So, it isn’t all about selling our solutions – it’s about selling the right solutions. When our solution providers meet with prospective customers, they’re focused on understanding their unique needs and stitching together best-in-class carriers to deliver a single solution. We empower our solution providers through ownership rather than by pushing our products.

Market where it matters.

Most of our growth has been through word of mouth referrals, and we’ve been successful without much marketing support. That’s because we know our audience. ACC Business isn’t a B2C brand – we’re never going to advertise at the Big Game. And that’s OK because we don’t have to in order to achieve our business objectives.

Instead, we market to our solution providers in very select, specific channels where we know we can reach them – attending key tradeshows and supporting our solution providers at their events. With more and more marketing avenues, it’s important to remember you only need to show up where it matters.

Conclusion: A look at our future

As we look ahead, we’re already making important investments into the future of our organization. In the past year, ACC Business grew its sales force by 50%, and we shifted our leadership structure with all indirect channels under Zee Hussain, senior vice president and channel chief, AT&T Partner Solutions.

We see our indirect channels as a hyper-growth area and having all 3 indirect sales channels in a single organization is a fundamental change in philosophy. Historically, AT&T has been a “direct sales first” company. We might not flip this on its head, but indirect channels are gaining momentum with big growth and commitment from AT&T. And our solution providers are taking notice. This is the single most exciting development as I envision the next 20 years of ACC Business and carry these key learning lessons forward.

Pause. Reflect. Learn. Charge Ahead.