The Power of Local Business: Unified Technologies
In hindsight, one of the funniest success stories from our expansion into Investment Answers’ new home office is the story about our phone system. The phone system that kept me up at night. I had countless nightmares about Voice over IP (VoIP) phone systems!
Actually, this isn’t a complaint about VoIP. It’s a story about the power of local businesses using great communication: a story of teams working together for the benefit of our Investment Answers clients.
Two of our teams—Louisville Geek, our information technology (IT) team, and Unified Technologies, our telecommunications team—worked to end my phone system nightmares, by networking each other’s available skill sets and services. Teams that work together can accomplish great things. And frankly, we needed both of their help. If they hadn’t networked and referred each other, we would still be stuck in phone purgatory.
In December 2012, Investment Answers was set to move into our new headquarters at 4205 Springhurst Blvd. in Bailey Park. It was a completely empty space, so when we started the expansion process in early 2012, we started from scratch (except for the exterior walls and concrete base flooring).The process of creating a space for our team had been relatively smooth, by construction standards. However, one challenge had begun early in our planning, and lingered through most of the process, festering until the very last weeks: the phone system.
New construction meant that before the drywall went up, we had to decide what communication technologies we would be embracing in our new space so that the office could be properly wired and so the correct equipment could be pre-ordered from all vendors.
Over the year, the more I learned about phone technology from our networks and from my research, the more challenging these choices became. One would think that if you want this classic style of communication to be high in quality, easy to use, reliable and affordable that you should have classic phone wiring installed, pre-drywall, buy some good quality, basic telephones and “voilà!” You’re done.
It is so not like that.
The more I looked and listened, the more stories I found about horrible call quality, poor customer service support and conflicts between different utilities and vendors. None of which are OK with me.
Poor call quality is unacceptable when we’re on the phone with our clients. Our time with them is too valuable.
Frankly, there are few things I want less than one of my IT guys- highly qualified to resolve important issues- stuck on hold with a major phone vendor for hours, getting the run around and then getting hung up on, multiple times.
And it’s just not good business to have poor communication between my vendors whose actions affect each other. The utility industry, as a whole, wants to you think it has to be that way, and it’s up to your project manager to find a bridge to those gaps of IT and telecommunications.
I’m happy to report that our teams were able to install a phone system that works well and didn’t distract my Investment Answers team from our core mission: serving our clients.
Meet the people who made it possible: our partners at Louisville Geek and Unified Technologies.
This is Jeff Emonz, our Systems Engineer, and one of Louisville Geek’s founding partners. Jeff had to answer round after round of questions and concerns that I had about VoIP. (Look for a future blog post on Louisville Geek to learn more about how that partnership worked.) He was incredibly patient, even when he didn’t want to be.
Jeff and Erik Eckel, another founding partner of Louisville Geek, knew they needed to find someone on the phone services side of things to help alleviate my ever-present concerns about VoIP. The Geeks know me pretty well, and so they knew they had to introduce us to someone who was well-versed in the industry and whose success was tied to our success.
Erik Eckel, MCSE, founding partner of Louisville Geek and our IT Project Manager since 2009.
Erik was the one who put the pieces together since he knew I was struggling with committing to VoIP. Erik said, “I’ve got this guy, Mike, I want to introduce you to. He’ll take good care of you. Don’t worry.” Whenever Erik says something like that, I listen. Erik knows everyone, and he can articulate complex technology systems in a way that you can understand.
Having Louisville Geek introduce us to Unified Technologies was fantastic. Louisville is a small big city, and turns out we have known Mike Avery, one of their business development guys, since the late 90s when we were all in college.
Meet Melissa Johnston, our Project Manager and Mike Avery, Business Development, from Unified Technologies, two members of our telecommunications team.
I am a customer for many of the companies that Unified Technologies services, and I am familiar with the quality of their calls. I was impressed right away since I had experience with UT already without realizing it.
What a riot it was meeting with Mike for the first time to discuss the phone system options! Before I had even asked about whether they offered analog and VoIP phones, I went into a 20-minute rant about my VoIP paranoia. I still chuckle about his response. “VoIP is a great product, for the right company.”
Unified Technologies actually does offer an analog option for those looking for the classic phone system. But Mike and Erik both asked me, “If you’re willing to embrace technology for the benefits it can provide in all other areas of your business, why not embrace the new technologies for your phone system?” And they were right. It was time to trust that these two companies would work together to take good care of us. I became more willing to embrace the advantages that VoIP had to offer our clients and I abandoned my hope for a classic phone system.
At that first meeting, I also learned quite a bit about Unified Technologies, which helped me feel confident that our success and their success were dependent on each other. I could rely on that interdependent nature of our companies for the success of our phone system.
Unified Technologies is an employee-owned company. They were founded in June 2009 by 27 employee-owners. Everyone bought in at the level they could afford…some used second mortgages, some IRAs, some borrowed from family. All of the original founders had worked together previously, some only for a few years, some for 20 to 30 years. When they started, they calculated that they had 400 years of combined industry experience!
Meet Helen Clasby, our Service Coordinator -and- Melissa’s mom. She’s been in the telecommunications industry for 36 years. She’s the reason that Melissa is such a powerful force as a Project Manager—Melissa was raised in this industry. Those two know this industry inside and out.
Since 2009, Unified Technologies continued to grow based on their founding ideals. Mike told me, “We have always focused on hiring good people who have a passion for customer service. We know that we can teach them the technical side of our business, but we can’t teach passion.” Isn’t that an awesome way to approach business, and life in general?
Unified Technologies’ team is an ideal example of who Investment Answers strives to have supporting us as we serve our clients. Our goal for our firm is for the experience to be enjoyable—welcoming. We strive for our technology to be so intuitive and useful that it disappears into the background—our clients shouldn’t even notice it’s there. I feel confident that with Unified Technologies on our team, our phone systems can do just that—be reliable, helpful and invisible.
Our turnaround time from the day that Mike and I first met to discuss my concerns to final install was very quick. They even squeezed us in during the year-end holiday season because the only landline phones we had since our move into the office were “the best” that Office Depot had to offer, and we couldn’t even successfully order pizza on them, the sound quality was so terrible. We needed the phones installed as soon as it was feasible, so that we could share with our client’s our new contact information, and welcome in the new year.
Meet Richard Millea, our System Engineer, at UT’s home office.
There were some very minor install challenges. True to their word, Louisville Geek and Unified Technologies worked together extremely well. They were able to resolve our initial install issues quickly and symbiotically, and I didn’t have any additional service bills because UT was able to resolve the minor issues under our service contract.
Through the power of local business and solid business referrals, I can come to you today and say that we LOVE our phone systems and our team has a lot of confidence in them! No more nightmares.
Where to find Unified Technologies:
9822 Bluegrass Parkway Louisville, KY, 40299
Read this link for more client reviews of UT: http://unified-team.com/blog/
Tags: business development, business phone systems, customer service, employee-owned business, engineer, Helen Clasby, Kentucky, local business, Louisville, Melissa Johnson, Mike Avery, phone maintenance, phone systems, phones, project manager, Richard Millea, service coordinator, Shoretel, telecommunications, Unified Technologies, VoIP