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Using Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP) devices and servers, Bitnetix provides small businesses and non-profits with communication systems that incorporate PBX telephone systems, desktop phones, mobile phone apps, computer-based software phones, cloud-based hosted systems, and intelligent call routing that lets them decide what is the best way for their customers to communicate with them and for them to communicate with their customers.
Eric Loyd, the founder and CEO of Bitnetix, has over 25 years in Information Technology, Telecommunications, Consulting, and Leadership roles. Prior to founding Bitnetix, he attended the Rochester Institute of Technology for microelectronic engineering, and then worked for RIT as the manager of the campus computing systems. He subsequently worked for Eastman Kodak, Frontier Communications, and Global Crossing, which set the stage for him to develop Bitnteix’s VOIP platform.
Through his vision and guidance, Bitnetix was accepted into the fast-track of the SBA’s Small Business Teaming Pilot Program; completed the Rochester Regional Business Plan competition, graduated from The Entrepreneur Network of New York (TEN), and was a finalist for the Digital Rochester GREAT Awards in Communication Technology. Mr. Loyd is a local and national speaker, a mentor for Digital Rochester, and is very privileged to have Bitnetix chosen to be part of High Tech Rochester’s technology incubator program at the Lennox Tech Enterprise Center. He was recently invited to join a panel of CEOs for a luncheon discussion with New York Lt. Governor Robert Duffy on how New York government can help small businesses succeed in New York State.
MO: Can you elaborate on why making small businesses look bigger than they actually are can be a good marketing strategy?
Eric: Certainly. Consider a small, home-based office supply company with slightly lower prices than a “big box” store. If the home business has a web site comparable to that of the store’s, and if they sound professional when you call them on the phone, and if you can reach their sales and support staff when you need to, then there are fewer barriers for a potential customer to choose the small business over the big box store. They simply wouldn’t be able to tell that the small business was a small business. More than half of all US small businesses are home based, more than 60% of those have no paid employees, and more than 50% of all startups fail within the first four years. Any competitive edge, especially one like ours that also saves money, is one that helps make more sales, close more deals, and turns single orders into repeat business.
We got into this business for the very reason that we decided to market it to customers in the first place. I founded Bitnetix as an IT consulting company. When it grew too large for me to handle everything on my own, I needed a way to coordinate contractors, short-term staff, support calls, call backs to customers, and other aspects of the company in a way that made Bitnetix look bigger to our potential customers. Using a VOIP phone system was the solution, and I just decided to build one myself. It worked out so well for us that we decided to commercialize it and sell it to our customers. Now, it is the core of our business.
MO: What are some ways that you help business increase their perceived value in the eyes of their customers, partners, and vendors?
Eric: We help make our customers look like larger, more dependable, and more mature companies. This increases their value in the eyes of those they work with, buy from, and – most importantly – sell to. How do we do this? Our phone systems give a company toll-free numbers, the appearance of having multiple departments, the capacity to serve different geographical areas from a single location, and lots of other features. Plus, our smart phone app and desktop/laptop “soft phone clients” allow people to work from home or the road while still appearing to be at an office and keeping personal cell phone numbers private.
Another facet of using our cloud-based platform is that it can act as a backup to a communications server on the customer’s site. This means that if our customer’s office is down due to fire, flood, or other disaster, or even if it’s simply a downed telephone pole that takes out their Internet, our service is still working in the Cloud, providing inbound call processing from their customers and performing outbound call processing from those remote devices. This lets a small business survive a business disruption that might otherwise impact sales, decrease revenue, and literally put them out of business.
MO: Can you expand on how being accepted into the High Tech Rochester technical incubator program has helped your business grow and what resources have been the most useful so far?
Eric: High Tech Rochester recently celebrated 25 years of helping businesses succeed in the Rochester area. It primarily provides access to business development professionals, coaches, and classes that are only available to its clients, which are high tech, bio, and manufacturing companies. Those services easily make it worth ten times what it costs to rent the physical office space, but HTR is not just office space. Companies are interviewed and have to be accepted as part of the program. The best part about that is that all of the other clients are other companies that are trying to grow, manage change, and develop products, services, and markets as well. Access to this collection of first-time and repeat business owners to ask how they tackled a problem and what solutions they tried (or didn’t try) provides instant, real-world expertise. This has allowed us to more accurately define our market, differentiate ourselves from our competitors, revamp our sales and marketing strategies, and better prepare Bitnetix for equity investors.
MO: How are you managing to offer businesses world-class phone functionality at warehouse club prices that, until recently, was available only to large enterprises?
Eric: In a word – the cloud. To get all of the services that our platform can provide, businesses used to have to purchase expensive, proprietary equipment that required costly service calls to make changes, even ones as simple as adding a new employee’s voicemail. By leveraging cloud-based computing, open source software, and standards-based equipment, our customers get significantly reduced capital expense, typical ROIs of less than 24 months, and can make routine changes to their telephone systems just by going to a web site. No more costly service visits, and no more expensive equipment.
Besides costly proprietary equipment, phone service itself is still mostly provided by the local telephone company using what is basically a hundred year-old business model. Our VOIP service provides substantially improved capabilities with substantially reduced costs that allow calls to be placed using the Internet as a transport, instead of antiquated copper wires run on telephone poles across the country. A three-person company, working out of their respective houses, can get our world-class telephone system for less than the cost of a single traditional business telephone line from the local phone company, and get all of the increased values and benefits of looking like a larger business.
MO: Can you share a bit about your experience of being part of the Digital Rochester mentor program as a mentor. What advice would you offer to get the most out of a mentoring relationship?
Eric: Digital Rochester, a great networking organization for technical (and non-technical) people in Rochester, volunteered to coordinate a mentor program that connects mentees who are considering starting a business with mentors who have already done so. A mentor of mine used to always say, “Yes, but have you considered…” and it always made me question my assumptions and conclusions. I was proud to be asked to be one of the first Digital Rochester mentors and think that a good mentor is one who can always help their mentee question their assumptions and conclusions in a positive way.
One of the people who mentored me on being a mentor put it to me this way, paraphrasing a previous mentor of his, “mentorship is like a sidewalk. The goal is to get the mentee to join the mentor on the same square, but the square can only hold one person. Either the mentor or the mentee must then move on to the next square after that.” Never underestimate the power of seeing things from a new perspective, whether you are the one asking the questions or giving the answers.
MO: Can you elaborate on the importance of impact and intent when it comes to communication in business?
Eric: When someone writes an email, talks to clients, or communicates in any way, there is intent and impact. Intent is what they imagine they look like or sound like, and the message they think they are conveying. Impact is the set of perceptions and the message the recipients take away from that communication. Intent is irrelevant. It’s having the right impact that means the difference between a client for life and a potential client that never returns your phone calls.
Since it’s impossible to predict with absolute certainty the impact people will make on others, it’s in the best interest of every business person to eliminate potential misunderstandings and present a positive image to customers, partners, and vendors. For most businesses, the primary communication with other people is still the telephone. “Can you hear me now” may have been an entertaining marketing campaign, but if this is the most common phrase heard on a business phone call, it does not make for good impact on a potential client. Our entire mission is based on providing our customers with tools that help them make the best impact possible, and hopefully increase sales and retain their customers as a result.
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