Weidenhammer plans Valley expansion

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Weidenhammer Systems Corp.’s Web address is easy to remember: hammer.net.

John Weidenhammer said his nickname was “Hammer” as a teenager and in college. After he started the telecommunications and information technology company in 1978, some customers began calling it “Hammer.” That was better than other permutations, such as Weisenheimer.

In any case, Weidenhammer adopted the strong image.

Now his company, headquartered in Wyomissing, near Reading, employs about 200 people there and in Bethlehem, Lancaster, Wayne, Michigan, Arizona and Colorado. The Bethlehem office will move into 6,300 square feet of new space at 951 Marcon Blvd. in Hanover Township by the end of the year.

The company added about 12 employees over the past year. Sales and profits are ahead of expectations this year. Annual sales are about $40 million.

“We’re in a growth mode,” Weidenhammer said.

What’s new in the business?

Weidenhammer said three trends are getting attention – the need to move a lot more megabits around, allowing workers to use their own devices, and using offsite storage in, you know, the cloud.

Customers expect to be able to download and handle large files, use and share video and other rich media and collaborate seamlessly among groups of coworkers, which means they need higher data transfer rates internally and externally.

That demand is often what prompts customers to upgrade, Weidenhammer said.

Though it’s meeting resistance, the trend to allow employees to use their own phones and tablets and laptops for work is reaching a tipping point, Weidenhammer said.

The main problem with developing a bring-your-own-device policy is security – for example, making sure malware can’t get into the company’s system through an inattentive worker’s tap-tap.

Companies also want to be able to delete information from employees’ devices if they are lost or stolen or the worker quits or gets fired, but many workers are reluctant to give their employers that level of control.

And with everyone using different equipment, programs and apps on their own devices, it’s hard for companies to set and maintain standards to easily compile and share information.

Weidenhammer noticed that people even at high-level business meetings often have two devices – one for business and one for personal use – demonstrating that BYOD is not fully adopted.

Weidenhammer said he thinks companies will relent because of the advantages. Employees are happier and more productive using their own tools. They don’t need training on new devices. And who wants to keep track of two phones?

As well as bolstering data transfer and dealing with everyone’s favorite device, many companies are keeping their software and data off-site in the cloud instead of in on-site servers and computers. Weidenhammer has customers with nothing in the cloud, and customers with everything in the cloud, but most are split.

A customer testimonial on the Weidenhammer website mentions how his abandonment rate – the number of callers who hang up before talking to someone – improved with a new communications system.

Weidenhammer said many don’t know about this key metric, which measures part of the all-important customer communications experience. Most companies are seeing a drop in phone traffic because more people are communicating with email.

But phone calls still are important, and more companies are using sophisticated systems to handle incoming calls to make sure customers are quickly connected with the right person.

Conferencing and collaboration systems are popular and easier to use, with many laptops equipped with webcams. Though people all around the world might be electronically gathered for a meeting, it’s important to see the faces of people you talk to, Weidenhammer said. People at cyber meetings have higher comprehension and attention levels when they are speaking with people eye-to-eye, even on screens, he said.

Costs depend on features and whether the system will be owned or hosted. Cost per phone can range from $7 to $50. Some phone sets are as sophisticated as computers, boasting colored screens.

More companies are using so-called soft phones – giving up standard phones and having employees use computers or tablets with headsets as work phones.

School districts make up about a third of Weidenhammer’s customers. The company also has major customers in health care, manufacturing, distribution and finance.

The company has a new consulting division and is expanding its in-house app development.

As the owner, Weidenhammer has to be concerned about who will take over when he retires. Weidenhammer said he’s reached his goal of creating a robust set of employees in their 40s and 50s who could run the business without him.

“We have a deep bench,” he said.

Some employees have worked for the company since it was founded in 1978. Employees average 12 years of service.

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