A local entrepreneur’s clever new startup is helping people slash their ballooning phone bills.
Time Brokers, the brainchild of Kelowna’s Michael Lavigne, negotiates with telecom companies on its customers’ behalf, snagging (sometimes substantial) discounts for those unhappy with how much they’re paying.
For as long as he can remember, Lavigne has negotiated his own bills, phoning up companies and talking his way into cheaper phone, cable and internet prices.
“I just don’t accept full price, that’s just me,” he says.
That urge probably stems from the entrepreneurial drive that was instilled in him when he was young, as he helped with any number of the companies his “serial entrepreneur” father built.
Lavigne even admits that, when Time Brokers first “fell into [his] lap,” he was already building a different, social enterprise company.
It all started about two years ago, when a friend was griping to Lavigne about his outrageous phone bill.
So Lavigne offered to work his negotiating magic; he called up the provider, and managed to save his buddy about $500 on his contract.
Word got around and another friend asked him for help, and again Lavigne earned her some serious savings. When that friend told him “I would totally pay for this,” the lightbulb went on.
He reached out to a few close friends and offered them the service, to see if he had a viable business model on his hands, and things just grew from there.
Less than a year ago, Lavigne shelved his social enterprise and incorporated Time Brokers. Turns out, he says, people are hungry for the service he’s offering.
“Necessity is the mother of all inventions, and people need to save money on their telecom bills,” he says.
With Time Brokers, Lavigne has wedged himself between competing telecom companies, capitalizing on their obsession with customer retention.
“Because there’s always going to be customers going from one provider to the next, the providers fully understand it’s cheaper to cut the bill in half and keep the customer than to try and go and acquire another customer,” Lavigne explains.
Lavigne says he has a deep understanding of the telecom market, and agrees to explain his methods “without giving away too much of my secret sauce.”
Essentially, he says, he plays the companies off one another, as they vie to keep their customers from jumping ship to their competitors.
The providers are used to these kinds of calls, and have entire departments dedicated to customer retention.
So when people come to Time Brokers with ballooning bills, he looks at what they’re paying for, what services they’re actually using, and how he can spin that into discounts.
“I call the right person, I say the right thing, and I convince them to lower the rates,” he says.
Lavigne says he’s often able to save his customers hundreds (sometimes thousands) of dollars on their contracts this way.
He takes a third of anything he saves them as his cut, with no risk to his customers. That means if he doesn’t save them any money, they don’t have to pay him anything.
That “no risk” approach was an important one for Lavigne, because he says it has allowed him to shake any perception that Time Brokers was some kind of scam business, or multi-level marketing company.
“I think it’s really important from the customer’s point of view, because if I was just like ‘no matter what I’m going to charge you fifty bucks,’ then they might not take the time,” he says.
Right now, he says, he has a few hundred clients, whom he’s saved about $250,000 in total.
Lavigne says he’s now considering scaling the business up, bringing in more team members and stepping away from the phones to take on a more management-oriented position.
For the moment, however, he is happy operating as a “boutique” business, serving mostly local clients and flying largely under the radar of big telecom companies.
More information on Time Brokers is available online.
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