Answer the Call

Two companies ring in much-needed new phone systems.
Magazine Contributor
2 min read

This story appears in the September 2005 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

Switching to a new form of technology can be exciting for a growing business, but the road is rarely smooth. We caught up with two very different businesses as they shed their old telephone systems and got onboard with some of the latest technology.

In 2001, Mary Heather Hanley, 28, founded PR and advertising firm 525 Communications in Atlanta. At first, her landline was her main phone. Now, with eight employees working remotely and a lot of business travel happening, everyone uses cell phones, mostly Blackberry-enabled models.

Giving up the landline has required some adjustments. At one time or another, everyone has accidentally racked up big monthly overage charges. Hanley covers her employees the first time it happens, but they're responsible after that. Unlimited-minute plans help keep costs in check. Hanley also keeps a backup battery with her and has a half-dozen chargers. For this 'round-the-clock business, the switch to cell phones made sense. "No one has to wait for me to get back to them unless I'm on an airplane," she says.

First Century Bank, based in Bluefield, West Virginia, balances about 180 employees in 10 branches in a largely rural area. When they decided to upgrade their leased digital PBX phone system, they went with VoIP. The VoIP project was part of a larger upgrade to a new IP network with T1 connections.

Senior vice president Bill Albert and IT manager James Farmer oversaw the project. Along with Advanced Logic Industries, an IT consulting company, they selected a Cisco-based system. "We were already using Cisco equipment for our data, so it made sense to run the voice and data across the same equipment," says Farmer.

The major overhaul took about a year to complete. With VoIP in place, First Century saw monthly long distance bills drop from around $4,000 to $300. Conference calling, voice mail, caller ID and music on hold are no longer extra costs. "The other big benefit is the flexibility of moving sets and [making] changes," says Albert. When it comes to balancing the books, it doesn't get much better than that.

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