Thursday, May 21, 2009

Milton High students learn about marketplace opportunities

By Bob Pepalis

Courtesy Appen Newspapers

May 21, 2009 Alpharetta – Did you know it is a local company that puts a voice to many of the Businesses consumers call for customer service?

The success of GM Voices, which continues to grow during the recession, has Marcus Graham, its founder and CEO, passing along a message of opportunities and entrepreneurship to local high school students.

One night last week six Milton High School students in entrepreneurship classes visited the company, which records messages for major companies, like Dell Computers, HP, McKesson, Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport's shuttle rail line, Delta Airline's gate announcements, and even those voices heard on many GPS units.

Graham decided in 1983 that he wanted to be a voice talent, but he found he wasn't good enough to get hired. However, he noticed the recordings on business answering machines were low quality. Graham picked up the phone and called a telecommunications director and told him he could do a better job.

"So that's how this got started. It kind of grew from there," he said.

He moved into the company's first office above the Roxy in 1985. At first he did everything – writing the scripts, recording the voices and editing the recordings. As the company grew, Graham started slicing off components, hiring a production person, a writer and administrative people.

"But I was having fun. I had been doing it a number of years before I realized it was the work and career I was going to have," Graham said.

He realized some potential customers weren't happy with his voice, so he started hiring voice talent, professionals who are paid by the hour to record those call center recordings, business presentation narrations and Webinars. The timing was right as the technology for automated company phone systems took off.How that happened was a matter of timing, opportunity and being ready to take advantage of that opportunity, Graham said.

When digital voice technology was first being offered, those companies attended conferences in the telephone network world. And GM Voices was there with exhibits of its work."The guys who started doing GPS early came to those shows. That's how we met," Graham said.The business that started out in his basement grew to 29 employees and $4 million in annual sales. Some of his sales people are earning $100,000 a year.Approximately 500,000 words a month are recorded by GM Voices now.

Recording sessions are done all over the world, as most professional voice talents have their own recording studios in their homes. ISDN lines are used to link the company with the talent while still retaining recording quality. Recordings are made in more than 30 languages."We are going to save them a lot of money. Our business is ahead of where we were last year," he said."You are going to see opportunities as you are out there in the marketplace. Michael Dell started a business in his college dorm," Graham said. "Fifteen years from now, you can have a story like that."

Milton High students who participated in the event included: Ryan Gula, C. Van Heest, Eric Nail, Brian Richards, Thomas Buscemi and Phillip Speer. Each student had a chance to work as a "voice talent" and as an audio engineer.

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