Happy New Year!

    New Year’s Day is a relaxing day that I look forward to each year. The madness of running around in preparation for Christmas has past, I’ve had a chance to clean up my desk and my office for the new year, and I have nothing to do on Jan. 1, but sit back and relax. It’s one of very few days I can do that each year.

    As I watch the Winter Classic (Go Leafs!) in the background, I’m scrolling around on the Internet, checking out the latest in all things business communications, reading new blog posts by the industry analysts and, perhaps, taking a peak or two at what the competition is up too.

    I couldn’t help but stop and think when I came to one blog post—by Dave Michels, a leading telecom analyst who regularly attends Mitel’s BPC—about the events of 2013 and how it failed to deliver. This quote from Dave really made me stop and think: “… 2013 in terms of UC was a boring year with only a handful of dramas.”

    As the principle of Merbridge, a Mitel authorizedPARTNER, I have been thinking along the same lines. It truly was a quiet year in the telecom space—with the exception of Mitel. Mitel had its share of significant and dramatic developments. As I look back over the year that was, I have a hard time keeping up; there have been so many positive changes at Mitel. It seems as though there was one major announcement after another. The industry may not be making big strides, but Mitel is. And as a Mitel authorizedPARTNER, that excites me. The announcements that Mitel made in 2013 positions the company as a true leader and reinforces our decision at Merbridge to sell Mitel’s solutions for the past 10 years.

    I think back to about seven months ago and a long trip down an escalator at Mitel BPC 2013. (As some of you may recall, the escalators at The Westin Diplomat in Hollywood, Fla., where the last BPC was held, are super long!) I was headed down the escalator at the same time as Rich McBee, CEO of Mitel. Rich looked back at me and asked “Neil, how are you enjoying the event? What did you think of this morning’s keynote?” I replied by saying “there was so much mentioned and so much going on, I don’t know where to start. I can’t keep up!” And I remember Rich saying, “Well just wait; we are just getting warmed up!” Little did I know what the rest of the calendar year would hold for Mitel. Rich wasn’t kidding!

    In the spring, Mitel announced its intention to purchase prairieFyre, a company that has long been the contact centre provider of choice for most Mitel partners for customers of all sizes. This was a great decision in my mind. For Merbridge, this acquisition sends more business our direction as many Microsoft Lync 2013 customers are looking for a way to manage their contact centre. And thanks to the prairieFyre acquisition, Mitel has just the solution—one that utilizes the Mitel 3300 ICP gateways for traditional (analog or digital) trunking. The partnership allows opportunities to be driven from the opposite direction as in the past. Previously, a solution was implemented by the phone system first, contact centre second and desktop/UC third. With prairieFyre as strong as they are with Microsoft and the Lync product, we now have customers with Lync already installed coming to us for the Mitel contact centre and trunking gateways. It really has allowed for more opportunities that we wouldn’t have seen in the past.

    In June, Mitel announced a partnership with Vidyo, which permits Mitel authorizedPARTNERS to become certified to market and implement Vidyo’s HD video and telepresence solutions. In this win-win partnership, authorizedPARTNERS can implement an end-to-end unified communications and collaboration solution for customers that is truly leading-edge at a fraction of the cost. With both Mitel and Vidyo focused on “software-first” solutions, a solution can be designed, implemented and maintained for much less than the other manufactures that focus on more hardware-based solutions. Being primarily software, the solution is quickly upgraded and new features introduced. This ensures a more positive ROI for the end-user customer.

    Fast-forwarding a bit to Nov. 7, Mitel made a US$20 million payment against its existing credit facility. Although this did not make the headlines of national papers, I consider it a major undertaking for Mitel. I’m happy to see that expenses are under control and any debt that does exist is taking top priority to be paid down. Being raised by a banker, debt is not something I easily live with. Quick debt repayment for my company is a very important thing for me—so I was only too pleased to see Mitel following suit. While other communications companies have upwards of billions of dollars in debt, Mitel is leading the pack to financial responsibility. This was an excellent move in my mind.

    November and December are busy months for everyone with the preparation of the holiday season, but the Mitel management team did not fail to deliver with further good news. There were several announcements in November and December, but none as big as the announcement for Mitel and Aastra to merge. With the approval of both the Mitel and Aastra boards of directors as well as the Minister of Industry in Canada, Mitel and Aastra are well on their way to combining to form one of the largest communications companies in the world. It is projected that the new company, to be called Mitel, will be the No. 1 player in Western Europe, and also making the top five list globally, in terms of size. The merger promises to deliver a more competitive company. What’s truly neat about this opportunity is the lack of overlap; the two companies actually mesh quiet well together. I truly believe this will drive new opportunities to Mitel and the authorizedPARTNERS around the globe, especially in the Euroregion.

    Finally, to top off the year, and a little closer to home, Mitel announced that it was the No. 1 provider of enterprise communications in Canada! According to independent analyst firm MZA Limited, Mitel has jumped to a 33 percent share of the IP extensions market in Canada. This makes Mitel the leading provider in Canada for business communications for the third quarter of 2013. This was no small undertaking, but exciting news as the Mitel team, led by Tom Lang, worked very hard to get to the No. 1 spot.

    As you can see, 2013 was no dull year for Mitel. It was one positive announcement after another. I continue to be excited to work with the fine people at Mitel; this new momentum makes it a truly exciting time to be working with them. Although a number of people have claimed 2014 will be a positive year for growth around the world, I can hardly wait to see what 2014 brings for Mitel.

    As I conclude, I want to remind folks that this year’s Mitel BPC will be held again in Florida, June 10–12. Each year, BPC seems to get better and better with attendance only growing. It’s a great chance for everyone to come together and celebrate our past success, while looking forward to the new and exciting things still to come. More details of BPC will be coming out shortly, but make sure to reserve those dates in your calendar. I truly hope to see everyone at BPC in June! Until then, here is to a happy, healthy and prosperous 2014!