Ron Jensen Discusses How He Helps Businesses Save Money on Telecom Expenses
November 19, 2018
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Erik Wolf: Hello and welcome to a political ad-free episode of The Denver Executive Association Trusted Advisor podcast. We are high above the hockey arena at Denver University’s Ritchie Center where 30 of Denver’s top business executives meet twice a month. We talk, we share knowledge we share connections and we share business. And twice a month one of them is stapled to the chair opposite me. My name is Erik Wolf and I am with the digital marketing agency estound. We serve small and midsize business owners with CMO-level digital strategy, website design, and development, Search Engine Optimization, pay-per-click advertising, marketing automation, yadda yadda yadda. All of that online good stuff. My guest today is Mr. Ron Jensen a principal of Abilita of Colorado for 17 years. His firm focuses on the reduction of telecom expenses and technology and telecom related projects for enterprises, nonprofits, and school districts. Welcome, Ron.
Ron Jensen: Hi Erik. Thanks.
Erik Wolf: You got it. We are happy to have you. So a really great place to start I think would be just with your story. I’d love to hear how you came to the telecom industry and to Abilita.
Ron Jensen: I started out in the telecom business way back when Alexander Bell was a kid. It was a long time ago. It’s really the only industry I’ve ever been in. I got started in telecom right after I got out of the Air Force here in Denver, been involved with technology and telecom-related companies since then. As you indicated about 17 years ago, I and 10 or 12 or the people from around the country started Abilita. And the whole premise is that we wanted to sit on the client’s side of the desk for telecom related projects so that’s a little bit about the background and how I got started with Abilita.
Erik Wolf: So what exactly, you mentioned sitting on the same side of the desk as the client. What does that entail for you guys?
Ron Jensen: Basically what that means, Erik, is that we are not a vendor, we’re not an agent, we’re not selling any telecom products. What we do is sit on the client side of the desk and help them understand what they’ve got as far as telecom expenses. We’re looking for ways to save money for our clients. And that’s the crux of what we do. Then we also get involved with other telecom related projects, for example, the example I use is if a company is looking to buy a new phone system, that’s something that they do probably every 8, 10, or 12 years. Things change. They may not have the talent. They may not have the resources. They may not understand the questions to ask of potential vendors. So in that situation they will hire us to, again, sit on their side of the desk, help them decide what kind of technical requirements they need for their telecommunications and then help them select a vendor, we will help them in contract negotiations, we will project manage the installation and the implementation of that system. So again we’re not selling a product, we’re helping a client solve a problem through telecommunications and technology and we help them through the process of that acquisition.
Erik Wolf: And you would say that you guys are agnostic to the actual technology and vendors and things like that. You’re really just trying to bridge that gap between where the client is and where they want to go, no matter what company it means they work with. Is that accurate or?
Ron Jensen: That’s exactly right. Very well said. Our tagline is independent and objective and that’s how we set up our business model which again differentiates us from other other companies that have a vested interest either through commissions or referral fees or direct payments from the vendors. We don’t, but at the same time we keep up with the technology. We go to vendor events, we know what’s going on in the industry. So again we bring that talent and resource to the client during this negotiation and during the acquisition process.
Erik Wolf: So what makes it, I was going to ask this question one way but I think I’m going to put a different spin on it. What’s different about the experience of making a telecom purchase whether we’re talking about service or whether we’re talking about a system. What’s different in the process when you and your team are involved versus the standard way where either they call an agent or a broker or something like that. What’s different?
Ron Jensen: We take a little bit, I guess I would consider it a consultative approach. The first thing we do with our clients or prospects is really understand how they use their telecommunications services. Is it a retail operation, is it a wholesale distribution? The technology might be the same but the way that they use it is different.
Erik Wolf: And those needs might have billing implications.
Ron Jensen: Absolutely. Absolutely they do. So that’s why again I keep saying it, we’re sitting on the client’s side of the desk helping them solve a problem, rather than being a vendor or an agent trying to come in and sell a product. So we think that’s the big differentiator in what we do for our clients.
Erik Wolf: You mentioned that you guys like to stay up on all the trends and all the cool toys. What’s out there that that maybe some of us haven’t heard of.
Ron Jensen: Well I think the buzzword now is cloud computing, cloud this, cloud that. A lot of the services are cloud-based, web-based so people don’t have to have premis-based equipment. Rather than having a phone system or a PBX or servers sitting in their phone closet someplace. All of that functionality and even a lot of the hardware is in the cloud. That’s great for most applications.
Erik Wolf: And you get your closet back.
Ron Jensen: And you get the closet space back. Exactly. So from a financial perspective, that concept eliminates the service issues, the maintenance issues, that are associated typically with a premise-based phone system for example.
Erik Wolf: And it’s an operating expense instead of a capital expense.
Ron Jensen: Most of the time that is correct. So there’s not only technical issues, there are financial issues that go along with it and we help the client walk through that process. Sometimes it’s the best solution both economically and technically. Other times depending on how they’re set up organizationally or structurally it still might make sense to do a premise-based system.
Erik Wolf: I’d love to hear some a case study, a hero story. Give me a time when you had a client that was in some kind of jam or maybe being just horrifically ripped off. I know that you spend a lot of time looking at peoples phone bills and you guys came in and helped them out.
Ron Jensen: Yeah great. I appreciate that question and the example I use on that is a wholesale distribution company here in Denver. They had nine retail locations, a corporate office, a manufacturing facility, all based here in the Denver office. We got initially involved with them on our traditional expense management program and what we discovered is that they had multiple services, multiple contracts, multiple termination dates and just a lot of different things going on. And typically like we find, the phone bill came in, it went to accounts payable and it got paid. Nobody really dug into it. We got involved with our telecom expense management program and to make a long story short we were able to reduce their monthly recurring telecom costs by about 40% without changing vendors, without changing services. We renegotiated contracts, we brought in new services. And from that 40% reduction in cost, what we also discovered is that, for example, they needed a new phone system. The phone system that they had was antiquated, it was difficult to use, it didn’t serve their call center needs. So bottom line what we did is that we use that 40% savings on the monthly cost, to buy a new phone system. Not only that. And I don’t want to get technical here but they had 10MB services we were able to upgrade their services from the phone company to 100MB for less money than they were spending. So at the end of the day, they got 10 times the bandwidth, they got a new phone system, they had new equipment for the same monthly recurring costs that they were spending before we got involved. That’s the kind of deliverables that we’ve been able to prove.
Erik Wolf: That’s pretty cool. When you talk about 40%, is that where on the spectrum is that? I think a lot of businesses know that they’re probably overspending somewhere on their phone and internet service. But where does that fall? Is that normal?
Ron Jensen: It’s probably a little bit high just because of the conglomeration of different terms and services that they had. But typically we’re able to save 25-30% or more on almost every engagement that we get involved with.
Erik Wolf: That’s pretty remarkable actually.
Ron Jensen: And what we ask our clients or prospects is, what would you do with that money if you could reduce those expenses without changing vendors, without changing service and maybe even improving services. So it’s a direct hit to the bottom line positively for our clients.
Erik Wolf: Being that this is the Trusted Advisor Podcast, I’m going to ask you to give me some advice and I’m going to prohibit you from billing me for it. What’s a quick tip that you would give someone if someone is saying, “I get this phone bill, my accounting people pay it and I know I’m overpaying.” What’s the first step in sort of untangling the spaghetti.
Ron Jensen: There’s a couple of ways to do it and I’ll try to do this not in my vein. But the idea is to take a look at the phone bill. Call your vendor. Ask for a telecom, ask for a bill review, a bill audit. Most of the vendors will do that. But again keep in mind, what is their objective? Their objective is to increase monthly revenue. Where my objective is to decrease the monthly revenue.
Erik Wolf: And of course they also have you under contract already.
Ron Jensen: Absolutely. Absolutely. So take a look at it. If you’re a business owner or a business executive in charge of the phone bills take some time, have somebody come in and look at it and see if there’s anything that can be done. In our expense management program, when we do a bill review there is no upfront charge. We do that upfront at no charge. If there are ways that we discover to save money, we’ll bring it to their attention. If they want us to implement it, we will. If they decide that they don’t want to, we shake hands and wish them well. But even if they want us to go ahead and proceed with an expense management program we guarantee that we will save them more than they pay us in our fees.
Erik Wolf: That’s a fabulous promise to be able to make. Thanks and thank you so much for joining us, Ron. We really, really appreciate it. What’s the best way for our listeners to get in touch with you?
Ron Jensen: I am local here in Denver. My phone number is 303- 587-7500. My email address is firstname.lastname@example.org and our website is abilita.com. So I would encourage anybody to take a look at our website, give me a call directly. Obviously like you indicated there’s no charge for advice and starting a project.
Erik Wolf: Well thanks again for being here. We appreciate it. And thanks to everybody who is listening to the DEA Trusted Advisor Podcast we appreciate you as well.
Ron Jensen: Thanks, Erik.