By Rush Blakely

Rush Blakely, President & CEO of RealtyCom Partners, recently sat down with our friends and founders of George Stephens, LLC, to discuss the benefits of VoIP phone systems in apartment communities. Our companies have worked together over the years with many clients to not only increase ancillary revenue opportunities and bring new technologies to your communities, but to reduce telecom expenses and business service costs for your leasing offices and operations teams. Robert George and Dan Stephens work with all types of organizations and below is some helpful information as you consider VoIP systems:

Rush:  Can you tell me a bit about your backgrounds?

Dan:  I have a background that started in operations management with a Fortune 500 company.  I made my foray into telecommunications in 2009 working for a regional provider.  I went on to sell managed communications services before co-founding George Stephens, LLC in 2011.

Robert:  I have worked in the technology field since 1997, and enjoy the inherent problem-solving  aspect of telecommunications.

Rush:  Can you tell me a bit about George Stephens, LLC?

Dan:  George Stephens, LLC was founded in 2011.  It serves as a telecommunications advisory firm for businesses and organizations of various sizes.  Our team maintains a provider-neutral position and helps our clients make comprehensive, unbiased evaluations of their providers, service implementations and costs.  We employ exclusive tools which allow us to complete analyses with great expediency, and our experience, neutrality, and multi-channel relationships allow us to deliver exclusive pricing, benefits and concessions for our clients.  We have specialized in serving the multifamily housing industry since 2015.  Since that time, we have evaluated over 1,000 assets totaling over 250,000 units.  Highlights of the successes for our clients include an average 32% cost reduction, increasing service delivery at 40% of evaluated assets, $1,000,000 of new annual savings delivered to clients in each of the last 5 years.  We also provide our clients with project coordination as well as a single point of contact for ongoing account management, which exceeds typical provider support.

Rush:  Can you explain the value of today’s managed VoIP systems?

Robert:  The rapid advance of stable, high bandwidth internet options have made VoIP the leading choice for voice communications.  It provides a platform that includes all of the features that most companies would like (and many that are often unknown) with low to zero investment into new hardware, and monthly costs that are often 50% or less than traditional phone services.  In addition, disaster recovery comes virtually built-in, as most providers also include soft-phones and apps that can be downloaded onto mobile equipment.  If a need arises for remote working, or there is a temporary loss of internet connectivity or power, our clients can continue to make and receive calls on mobile devices as though they were still in the office.

Rush:  How does managed VoIP get deployed in an apartment community leasing office or business office?

Dan: Deployment is far simpler than most people imagine.  Due to the nature and functionality of the service, brand new service can be set up within days utilizing soft clients or a couple of weeks if desk phones are preferred.  For a more traditional desk phone implementation, if the office is already wired with cat5 (or above) cabling, the time to set-up is straightforward.  After a brief design call, phones will be pre-programmed by the provider and delivered with temporary local phone numbers that are assigned to each phone.  The client simply needs to unplug the cat5 cable going to their computer, plug it into the new phone and then plug the cat5 cable that came with the new phone into their computer.  Within minutes, the phone will connect to the internet and register with the providers’ servers and be ready to make and take calls.

Once this is completed, we advise the client to call their current provider and have the main phone number call forwarded to the temporary main number that is on the new VoIP phones.  Approximately after 7-14 days, the main number will have ported to the new VoIP provider.  In this scenario, we can have new VoIP service up and running in about 1 hour with virtually no interruption to current operations.  The process for new construction is even simpler and we can help avoid the headache of buying a marketing number ahead of time and then dealing with cell phones that never go away or porting issues that are never resolved.

Rush:  Can VoIP be used for life safety and/or elevator lines as well as in leasing offices?

Robert:  VoIP should never be used for fire and life safety lines.  It is very advantageous for the office phone lines, but aside from not being certified for fire and life safety lines, it would leave two massive points of failure for those lines:

  1. If the internet goes down, you have lost the fire/life safety line.
  2. if the power goes out, again, you have lost your internet service and your fire and life safety lines will not be able to function.  George Stephens has multiple options for fire/life safety lines and will provide this detail with every community analysis.

Rush:  How can an owner or manager of multiple apartment communities benefit from deploying managed VoIP across their portfolio?

Dan:  There are several benefits, some of which include:

  • Cost reduction
  • Uniformity of equipment
  • Built-in disaster recovery for business continuity
  • A wide array of multi-channel communications and integration with existing apps
  • Built-in conferencing and sometimes video-conferencing

Equipment often has a 7-year warranty, and clients may upgrade equipment at any time with no penalties.  George Stephens has a proven implementation method and we provide our clients with a single point of contact that will anticipate our clients’ changing needs.

For more information on VoIP or for a portfolio evaluation, please reach out to RealtyCom at to assist with any preliminary questions or for a listing of your current courtesy services granted under your marketing and revenue agreements. Dan or Robert may be reached at or