Friday, May 7, 2010

M5 - This is What Your Business Sounds Like

Last night I attended M5's 10th anniversary event. Very nicely done, and it was great to see such a strong turnout, especially among their customer base. The event had a very local feel, since M5 is based in NYC, as are many of their customers. CEO Dan Hoffman gave a stong presentation that covered all the bases. He talked about where the company has come from over their history, and how their vision hasn't changed. They had a nice video segment where various employees talked about their favorite customers, and it's clear they have a pretty loyal base on both fronts.

Dan also tied in the event to launch of their next phase of development. He had an iPad on display along with one of their standard Cisco IP phones, which is reference to their recent VoIP integration news with the iPad.

What really stood out for me in his presentation was M5's focus on voice, and how it's still so central to everyday business activities. When the company started, one of the disconnects he saw was how dis-integrated phone systems were to everything else at work. Phone systems were just too clunky, costly and inflexible for such an important function. He made a pretty strong case for the quality and flexibility that comes with hosted VoIP, and summed it up nicely by saying "this is what your business sounds like".

Being customer-centric is a big part of M5's success, and his point is when you put yourself in your customer's shoes, it's not hard to see - or hear - how the limitations of a legacy phone system can reflect poorly on how the outside world perceives your business. His examples showed how the intelligence that VoIP brings by tying in with business applications makes for a more productive and professional end user experience.

One that I particularly liked was the way you can set up new voice greetings on the fly that reflect near real-time situations. The Iceland volcano was used as an example, where callers would have a prompt option for those whose plans had been disrupted by this event. The key here is that businesses can now be very responsive to changing situations, and easily incorporate that into the front door of their business. Simply put, your business sounds much better to customers when your voice prompts refect their reality, and you can solve their problems first time around.

Dan spent a fait bit of time talking about their next iteration of hosted VoIP, which is more applications-centric and customer-centric. He's not calling it Unified Communications - which is fine, since M5 is still mostly about voice and telephony - but he's taking the hosted VoIP concept a bit further by making it more integral with other business applications.

I'm certainly a big fan of UC, but it's clear to me there's still a pretty large segment of the market - especially SMBs - who rely primarily on voice, and simply want a better way to do telephony. Absolutely nothing wrong with that, and with milestones like 10 years and 1,000+ customers, M5 must be doing something right, and I'm glad I could be there to see this first hand. Congrats, Dan and company on ten-oh, and just like making your first million is the hardest, I've got a feeling they're going to see the hockey stick ramp-up rate in the next few years.

Dan Hoffman

Literally, how cool is this? At the vodka bar, a Cisco phone embedded in ice.

The M5 house band - love it - these guys were great.

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