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Rochester Business Journal

Making dollars, sense of phone bills.

By ALEXANDER SOULE, Rochester Business Journal, October 10, 2003

John Stevens has built a growing business translating telephone bills for corporate clients.

Stevens' Integrated Communications Management Inc. offers to analyze telephone, mobile and data communications invoices and recover funds due to billing errors. The Pittsford firm also negotiates with service providers to ensure a business gets the best rate possible based on its usage patterns, and it evaluates vendor proposals for new services.

The savings can be substantial: Brett Costello, president of USAirports in Roches-ter, says that after he hired ICM, the firm cut its telephone bills in half. USAirports charter pilots regularly rack up large cell phone bills because they often are charged roaming fees on their mobile telephones, Costello says.

Stevens started the company two years ago after being laid off from his job as a sales manager at Verizon Wireless Inc. Currently the firm consist of Stevens and a sales manager, and Stevens says he will likely hire a few people next year to keep pace with growth.

Besides USAirports, ICM has more than 40 clients after a year in business. One of the latest is Bureau Veritas SA, a French company with 16,000 employees that helps its clients conform with varying regulations from occupational health and environmental requirements to ISO certifications.

ICM is auditing Bureau Veritas' U.S. telephone records, including calls generated from facilities outside Buffalo and in Jamestown, Chautauqua County.

While Bureau Veritas' international scope creates complex usage patterns, errant phone charges can befuddle smaller organizations. ICM's clients include the town of Gates, Monroe Golf Club and Cobblestone Creek Country Club.

ICM has a simple business model. The firm provides an initial audit for free, and, if hired, it splits any subsequent savings it creates for clients 50-50.

So why would a client continue a vendor relationship with ICM, once it has learned a few quick tricks on how to spot problems in its telephone bills?

"There is always something changing on a telephone bill," Stevens says, noting the bundled plans being introduced regularly by companies. "By using ICM, a company has a single point of contact for dealing with all its telecom providers."

Stevens says he turned his first profit in August and expects to top $750,000 in annualized revenue by next summer. Long term, he plans to expand his business to auditing other utility-style invoices for corporations, such as water and energy bills.

Stevens says that the biggest challenge for his business has simply been, well, working the phones to get through to the right people.

"(Companies) are inundated with sales calls," he says.

(asoule@rbj.net / 585-546-8303)

10/10/03 (C) Rochester Business Journal

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