Getting Started In VoIP

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Chris Labatt-Simon, president and CEO of Albany, N.Y.-based D&D Consulting, a recent addition to Avaya's solution provider ranks, on what it takes to get up and running with VoIP:

• LEARN FROM OTHERS: We're trying to leverage knowledge gained from our peers on the mistakes they've made when starting up a VoIP practice. We've also been able to go to customers who have implemented it to find out about the benefits they've gained, and that's been really helpful to us. One of the lessons we learned is that you have to have somebody in your company responsible for IP telephony.

• LOOK IN THE MIRROR: We took a close look at how we do business. Are we interested in stocking spares and parts and providing services with people in blank white trucks? We decided no, so we looked at what the different manufacturers offered to make us successful without having to offer Day-2 support. We found Avaya had the best fit, allowing us to offer architectural development, implementation and high-end support and grow into the rest.

• TAKE TIME TO BUILD YOUR PRACTICE: We spent about three months in 2006 going through the courtship and determining the vendor we wanted to bring on. In November 2006, we decided to go with Avaya and started putting investments in place by training our engineers and bringing in an Avaya system to replace our telephony system because I'm a big believer in using the technology we sell. We're hoping in the next 60 to 90 days to be out there pursuing IP communications opportunities.

• PREPARE TO SPEND: Our cost estimate, including the amount for marketing, engineering, an overlay salesperson and commissions, is about $300,000 in first-year costs. But we're estimating that we're going to bring in $200,000 to $250,000 in profit within 12 months after we launch, so there will be only a slight loss in the first year, and by the second year, we should be turning a profit.

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• PROTECT TOP TALENT: We had someone lined up to be our practice leader but he ended up taking another job. The space is becoming more and more crowded, and there are a limited number of people who get it. You'll find installers, people to do the work, but the people to create the practice groups that become successful, there are very few of them in the world today.

• IT'S NOT TOO LATE: Running a company is all about managing risk, and by being conservative in our approach, we were able to reduce the amount of risk we have to become successful ... I hope.