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Grasshopper is everywhere

Original Article

The Case For Renting Your Phone System

I may not be a college hunk, but I’ve got a lot in common with one.

A few months ago I wrote about an entrepreneur who saved a bunch of money by switching to a Voice over Internet Protocol phone system, which involves sending voice messages over the Internet (see “The Value Of VoIP”). There are other options too. Like renting. I do it, and so does Nick Friedman.

Nick is the founder of College Hunks Hauling Junk, a Tampa, Fla.-based trash removal and moving franchise, now with 70 employees, 23 franchises across the country and annual revenue of about $3 million. Nick started the company before his senior year in college, spent some time in the corporate world and revved it up again in 2005.

Nick’s guys are hauling junk all the time. No one’s sitting behind a desk. That’s why Nick decided to rent a phone system. He didn’t have the time to evaluate phone systems, nor did he want to be tied to one. He had other things to spend his money on, like software developers and attorneys.

“The last thing I wanted to do was fork over 20 grand on a phone system that may be obsolete in just a couple of years,” says Nick. “We’re constantly changing things around here.”

Nick and I share a few things in common. We both have growing companies; we’re both short on time; and we both have cash constraints. So we both rent our phone systems.

I signed up a few years ago with VirtualPBX. Around the same time, Nick signed up with Grasshopper (formerly GotVmail.com). He transferred his beloved 800 number, set up the automated directory and even arranged for emergency calls to be sluiced to franchisees’ cellphones. Better yet, says Nick, “I got a ready-to-go phone system operational in almost no time at all.”

I couldn’t agree more. Like my system, Grasshopper came with other helpful features. It supports caller ID. The same 800 number can receive fax messages, which are then converted into PDF files and e-mailed to recipients. (For that matter, all voicemail messages are recorded and e-mailed to recipients too.) Customers looking to arrange a trash pick-up get transferred to Hunks’ recently launched Tampa call center, which handles all scheduling and notification for franchisees.

Nick’s bill: just $150 a month for the whole shebang. I pay about the same. Prices for these services tend to vary with the number of users and call volumes.

We aren’t the only entrepreneurs saving a few bucks by renting our phone systems. Access Market International, a research firm, predicts that by 2010 small businesses will spend $1.5 billion on hosted services (about 7% of the entire phone services market), up from just $165 million in 2005.

“We went from a just a couple of guys answering the phones to a structured call center environment without blinking,” says Nick. “We’re still evolving as a company. And our phone system is evolving with us.”

Yeah, Nick and I: Just a couple of hunks, saving a few bucks.