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The future of phones: Tele-Data getting a makeover Finaldi brothers busy pushing the family business into clouds

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Damon Finaldi, left, president, Vincent Finaldi, vice president, and Michael Finaldi, founder, Tele-Data Solutions.
Damon Finaldi, left, president, Vincent Finaldi, vice president, and Michael Finaldi, founder, Tele-Data Solutions. - ()

Damon and Vincent Finaldi now lead the company their father started 30 years ago, and their vision for future growth couldn't be more different than his:

Damon and Vincent are encouraging Tele-Data Solutions' customers to migrate to the cloud for their telephone and Internet services.

But the brothers don't plan to change what they consider the key to Tele-Data's longevity in a changing marketplace: providing fast, personal and local service to small and medium-sized businesses.

The Union-based Tele-Data serves about 2,500 businesses in New York and New Jersey, and nearly all were affected when Superstorm Sandy cut off power to the region. But Damon said Tele-Data's cloud clients could still communicate with their customers, even though their electrical power was cut off for a week or more. That's because the servers powering Tele-Data's cloud service are in a remote location that wasn't impacted by Sandy.

“After Sandy, anyone who had cloud-based services was still able to communicate with their customers and employees,” Damon said.

Company founder Michael Finaldi launched Tele-Data in 1982, just as the nation was moving toward the dismantling of the AT&T telephone monopoly that spawned a new era of competition.

A onetime AT&T salesman, Michael, 66, said most businesses back then leased their telephone equipment from AT&T. Tele-Data and other firms began selling equipment and also providing the ongoing service to maintain it.

“Our premise was you could rent it (from AT&T) and pay for it forever, or you could buy it from me and cut your costs,” he said.

But as the technology keeps changing, his sons see the future as less hardware-intensive and more service-oriented, since cloud solutions don't require as much of a hardware investment by customers. 

For example, for clients who use online marketing, “we route calls to the right people in their organization, so when a potential customer calls, the call doesn't go the receptionist; it goes to the vice president of sales.”

When a client needs a new telecom or IT feature, “we provide training tools to help coach and train their staff.” And Tele-Data serves as their “help desk:” If a client has a problem with their telecom provider, Tele-Data deals with the issue.

And as mobility is transforming businesses, it is creating opportunities for Tele-Data. 

“As more and more of us use smart phones, once you enable cloud-based services, your smart phone becomes an extension of your (physical) site,” Damon said. “One of our clients is a financial consulting company. They don't have an office, but when you call them, the call is routed to an employee, and the customer has no idea that the company is virtual.” 

Another client is outgrowing their office space, and, “by moving them to cloud-based telecom, they can move their sales people into home offices and hire more people in their existing office space.”

Tele-Data has 15 employees and annual sales of about $3.5 million. The company plans to add staff next year when it projects revenue growth of about 10 percent.

Damon said most of Tele-Data's customers are located from Manhattan through northern New Jersey to Monmouth County and have between 10 and 200 employees. Currently 20 percent are fully cloud-based — something he predicts will grow significantly over the next five years.

E-mail to: beth@njbiz.com
On Twitter: @bethfitzgerald8

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