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Keeping Customers and Workers Just a Call Away

This entrepreneur keeps an eye and an ear on his business with a brand-new communications system.

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Mobility isn't always about racking up frequent-flier miles. For 44-year-old retailer Rob Navarino, it means the freedom to move quickly from his back office to the showroom of his gourmet kitchen products store whenever a customer enters or a sales associate needs help. New mobile technology helps The Chef's Shop owner see where he's needed before he's needed. The same technology also helps this single dad work in his home office while easily monitoring the activities of his 10- and 12-year-old children.

"We're not the kind of office where there is a lot of road time," Navarino says, "but within our business, you can't be tied to a desk, either."

The 14-year-old, million-dollar business in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, faced a communications quandary when it expanded onto the second floor of Navarino's 7,000-square-foot building. Soon after the expansion, Navarino started having trouble locating and communicating with staff members because his two-line phone/intercom system didn't work well on two floors. Enter the new SD4500 series from Motorola.

This communications hub can tie together up to eight wireless telecommunications gadgets. That starts with a basic cordless handset on a landline, but can also extend to other handsets, a Motorola cell phone, surveillance cameras, and even a PC using VoIP over a cable or DSL modem.

How it works: Once you plug your cell phone into the SD4500's docking station, you can receive calls placed to that phone on any of the cordless handsets. Likewise, you can pick up any of the handsets to make a VoIP call. The cameras allow you to watch different rooms in your home or business via wireless audio and video feeds to a base station add-on.

The SD4500 series was developed with small offices in mind, says Paul Alfieri, manager of Motorola's connected home business sector. "Entrepreneurs I know live and die by the cell phone."

It didn't take much to convince Navarino. He was already considering a comparable product with a price tag near $1,500. In contrast, the Motorola SD4500 costs from $70 (all prices street) for a cordless base unit and one handset to $100 for a corded base and phone, and an additional wireless handset. The camera/intercom and cell phone docking station are add-on modules priced at $80 and $100, respectively.

Navarino says the system took him less than an hour to set up--it's mainly a matter of putting in the batteries and registering the wireless components with the base station.

Based on his success with the system at his office, where it has helped intrastaff communication, Navarino was inspired to install it at home. There, it helps him feel less guilty about working while the children are playing nearby. Says Navarino, "I feel more comfortable and secure."

Heather Clancy, editor of technology newsweekly CRN, has been covering the industry for 16 years.