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Related News

Texting Law is No LOL Matter Outlook Voice Access Comes to the Rescue

When Gov. Granholm signed the new Texting Bill into law during a live appearance on the Oprah Show on April 30, more than a few of us road warriors started looking for practical answers to staying legal.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the average American spends over 100 hours each way commuting to work every year, surely a fraction of the time most road warriors spend on the road. I have to admit, I have done my share of texting while driving.
What’s the safe bet? In my opinion, “Unified Messaging” may be the answer. On the server side, Unified Messaging (UM) delivers a complete suite of voicemail functionality, but Outlook Voice Access (OVA) may be the best part of the package. OVA allows users to interact with their e-mail, contacts, and calendaring information through any telephone or mobile phone.

Among the features in OVA:
  • Listen to new and saved e-mail and voicemail messages.
  • Forward, reply, save, and delete e-mail and voicemail messages.
  • Interact with your calendar.
  • Locate a person in the global address list or personal contacts.
  • Send a voice message to a person.

Voice Commands Keep You Hands-Free and Legal

The speech recognition technology in the Outlook Voice Access system lets you use voice commands to access your calendar and get meeting details, call the organizers, or send a message notifying attendees that you will be late. Then you can access your address book, find related messages from the sender, or call the senders directly. This system may be the best efficiency tool since the PDA. Another solution is the Cisco Unified Communications platform for small businesses, a complete package of hardware and software for integrating voice and email. Beyond integration with Microsoft’s technology, Cisco offers its own software packages to manage voice mail, email and calendaring, and even integrate your customer relationship management database.

On the leading edge for many small businesses is the concept of managed phone systems, which allows a company to outsource its phone service and system to a third-party provider. The Cisco system allows small businesses — restaurants, service intensive companies or those with disparate staff — to take advantage of the features of enterprise phone systems without the capital outlay.

Using a Virtual Private Network connection — essentially a secure, dedicated connection delivered over the Internet — managed phone service routes business calls and faxes to designated phone lines, and manages the storage and retrieval of messages. Employees can check any type of message from the same inbox — either the voicemail box, accessed from a phone, or the e-mail inbox, accessed from a computer.

Similarly, a growing number of IT companies are providing hosted (or cloud computer based) Exchange Servers that deliver similar functionality to Cisco’s managed phone systems. Keep in mind, those that currently offer Outlook Voice Access usually provide a streamlined feature set in keeping with Exchange Server 2007.

To get the system off the ground, your company will need to start with a systems analysis to understand your business needs as they relate to a newer phone system. Companies with older business phone systems may need to upgrade to take advantage of this new Outlook Voice Access technology. If your company currently uses Exchange 2007, you can take advantage of most of the Exchange 2010 features if your phone system can be integrated with the server.

If you think Outlook Voice Access will make you a more responsible road warrior or save you from one of those $100 tickets, we advise that you act now as the texting law took effect July 1.

Chad Paalman is Vice President, NuWave Technology Partners.

Businesses are Not Launched Overnight, Nor Are They Sold Overnight

By Eric Seifert, a Senior Business Consultant with the Michigan Small Business & Technology Development Center. From SBAM’s member-only Focus on Small Business magazine.

A successful business is not created overnight or in a conference room some rainy afternoon. It takes years of strategic planning, long hours and usually the owner’s personal financial investment to launch and grow a new business. The whole process of launching a business could take years. As the economy recovers, and it is recovering, more business owners who spent that time developing and growing their businesses will consider selling their business.

Establish an Exit Plan
Similar to planning the start of a business, a well thought out exit plan will increase the possibility of a positive outcome. Ideally, a seller should begin preparing two to three years prior to putting the company on the market. According to Kevin Hirdes, Managing Partner of NuVescor Group, “With solid planning for a transition in place, the enterprise value of the entity being sold can increase substantially.” It’s much more expensive, disruptive and time-consuming to rush and prepare all the necessary information in a short period of time than it is to consistently compile the necessary records over a period of several years.

Timing Can be Crucial
Many business owners wait until their business is stagnating, or they are exhausted with running the business to decide to sell. They wait until the last minute to try and sell their business-which will not provide the results they want. The optimal time to sell is when a business is doing well. Business valuations are driven by cash flow, so stronger cash flow creates higher value. At times, some business owners have a tendency to disengage from the business prior to selling it. As a result, these businesses many times are sold at compressed values as the business owners passion has decreased for leading the business, and the performance of the business often times follows suit. In sports, the adage is to leave at the top of your game. It is the same with selling your business.

Position the Business for a Sale
Staging or positioning the business for sale can result in a higher price. This can include grooming a level of management and leadership that reduces the reliance of the business on the owner. Unless the buyer is already familiar with the industry, he may need to turn to someone for help running the business after the seller exits. From the buyer’s perspective, it’s better if the current owner is not important to the day-to-day operations and ultimate success of the business. A great management team enhances a firm’s value. Steven Tjapkes, attorney with Clark Hill, Grand Rapids, commented that key employees should be under contract prior to placing the business on the market. “The type of contract is critical – a personal services contract cannot be sold,” according to Tjapkes.

Not only is a succession plan important for the business owner, so too is the management of the customer concentration risks and other key concentrated relationships within the entity. Critical vendor, employee, and customer concentrations are common risks associated with a business. These concentrations should be mitigated well in advance of a sale.

Pricing is Critical
Without professional assistance, many business owners price their businesses based on emotion or hearsay rather than a solid valuation. Unrealistic seller expectations torpedo many transactions. Paul Jackson, a business attorney with Warner Norcross and Judd, believes that sellers lacking a clear understanding of their business’s value can be at the mercy of buyers. Professional valuation experts, accountants and experienced intermediaries [business brokers and merger & acquisition advisors] can
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