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March 1999

Boating Retailer Goes With The Flow To Control Revenue


Controlling revenue flow in real time is the ambition of many of the world's businesses because with that control comes power. In reality, circumstances prevent many companies from obtaining that goal. But for leading U.S. boat retailer MarineMax (www.marinemax.com), the corporate dream became a business fact.

Based in Clearwater, FL, MarineMax has more than 40 retail outlets in Florida, Georgia, Texas, California, Ohio, North Carolina, Arizona, and Minnesota. As the company acquired additional outlets, the need to introduce a more powerful communications network became ever pressing. So MarineMax turned to its trusted telecommunications partner - Inter-Tel of Tampa (www.inter-tel.com) - for guidance, since the businesses had been working with each other for about five years.

MarineMax wanted to connect its six geographic regions on one network consisting of over 40 sites. This would allow each retail outlet to share data such as sales information, accounting processes, and boat inventory. The senior executives at the MarineMax corporate headquarters in Clearwater would also be able to access real-time financial statements through the network.

Since 70 percent of the calls coming through MarineMax were internal, the company also wanted to save on long-distance charges and keep internal calls from burdening the receptionist by bringing them onto the network. Because MarineMax was hesitant about the quality and ease of use of a voice system, they wanted to test it in a few locations.

"Since we did not have anything but a computer and a LAN, we set out to look for a company that would be able to provide us with a complete solution - that's the reason we chose Inter-Tel and its partner Motorola," said Brett McGill, director of information systems at MarineMax. "I do not claim to know everything about frame relay, routers and voice integration, so we needed someone who could choose the right products and manage the project from beginning to end."

At the host site in Clearwater and at each of the regional centers, Inter-Tel installed Motorola Vanguard 6520s (www.mot.com). Each regional center was connected back to Clearwater via a long-distance frame relay using Sprint (www.sprint.com) as the carrier. The local retail stores were linked by Vanguard 320s using a local frame relay network.

Inter-Tel chose Motorola because of the flexibility and scalability of its smart access solutions. Motorola is an industry leader in frame relay, and voice over frame was just what MarineMax needed. Service support was also an important consideration, and Motorola provides customer service, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week with the help of eTAC, the company's online customer assistance Web site. MarineMax clearly recognized the value of the Inter-Tel/Motorola partnership.

"There have been a couple of sites where we had carrier problems, but Motorola and Inter-Tel were able to sort out the problem at no expense to us. During the entire installation process, we perhaps lost only one day - that's it - and I would have to add that the process has been almost flawless since installation. In addition to the quality of the voice calls on the network, we now have daily financial statements. Being able to go to frame relay has already saved us money on data transfer costs," McGill commented.

"There are also benefits for customers since all service and maintenance data can be shared at all MarineMax locations. Customers can take their boat to any MarineMax outlet and know that MarineMax staff can view the specific service record of that vessel, thereby both improving and streamlining service," said McGill.

MarineMax also has the ability to grow with the Motorola solution. The company can move equipment around to different sites if one location has outgrown it. MarineMax recently ordered an additional Vanguard 6560 with Motorola centralized voice mapping software, and although the company was hesitant about voice quality and ease of use, nearly all of its new orders include voice. The cost savings of voice over frame relay have been proven.

Motorola also offers customers the flexibility to migrate from frame to IP, should they need it. Multiservice edge devices allow IP traffic to be converted to frame and vice versa, and traffic may interface with other manufacturers' PBX equipment. Motorola also complies with H.323, G.723, and G.729 standards to enable multisolution interoperability.

In McGill's words, "MarineMax is in the business of delivering dreams - its command of its own financial data would be a dream most businesses would love to share."

Linda Elliott is a project manager with the Technology Integration Group at
Inter-Tel, Inc. in Chandler, AZ. Chris Kilgore is a systems engineer with the Technology Integration Group. Inter-Tel offers complete IP telephony solutions for carriers and corporations. NextGen service providers can benefit from Vocal'Net's scalable, carrier-grade solutions and software packages. Any size business can save on voice and fax with InterPrise products. For more information, visit Inter-Tel's Web site at www.inter-tel.com.

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