Verizon’s VP of small business talks labor shortages, inflation and optimism

Most people think of Verizon as a rival to T-Mobile and AT&T.

But the New York-based telecommunications company wants to be seen as more than that, including as a small business provider, said Verizon’s vice president of national small business Amy Novak. Her team has 1000 professionals from all over the country.

“During the pandemic, it was more about how do we help them survive?” she said. “I think we all probably have stories where our favorite store or restaurant doesn’t make it. Nobody wants to see that. So we really found ways to help them convert.”

The services the company provides to small businesses include Internet, 5G, and an IP voice service that converts your voice into a digital file and sends it over the Internet so you never miss a call. It can also provide security solutions and a competitor to Zoom called BlueJeans. Novak said the tools help small businesses look bigger.

“Customers can use BlueJeans and it makes them look a lot bigger than they really are, and small businesses are embracing it because they want to have a professional look,” she said.

Novak has been with Verizon for 16 years, having started as a technical data representative. She moved to Texas three years ago and lives in Keller. She talks about some of the insights she’s gained in her current role:

What have you learned working with small businesses?

What we’ve learned over the past few years is that flexibility is not an option. We conducted a small business survey at the end of April and found some pretty interesting statistics. And one of them was the importance of being flexible. So you can see that among all business sizes, small and large, flexibility is really critical when thinking about survival and anticipating what might be next.

How do you find small business customers for Verizon?

We greet customers entering the store. But we’re also looking throughout the community for opportunities to partner with customers we don’t have today. Christina’s Fine Mexican Restaurant in D-FW is a case in point. They are a newer customer and we were able to partner with them and meet their needs like 5G and internet.

How are small business owners feeling right now with inflation, supply chain issues and labor issues?

Like consumers, they have had to adapt and change some of their operating models. So no small business wants to raise prices for customers, but ultimately they are trying to find ways to take their business into the digital world. So we hear a lot of questions about that. They are trying to find ways to collaborate that will make their employees more productive, as with video services. When we talk to our customers, more than two out of three of all businesses we surveyed say their business is better now than it was a year ago. And they felt they would be better off a year from now than they are today. So there’s definitely a sense of optimism.

What are you hearing about labor issues?

I was driving down the street last night and I didn’t see a business that didn’t have a sign in the yard or in the window saying that they needed help. But I think it’s more than just trying to recruit talent. The question is, once they’re on board, how do you keep them? So we think the retention process starts on day one. We really make sure we have a great onboarding program. Again, culture is super important. Make sure the team feels they are getting the training they need and that they can be part of the community.

Why do you think some businesses have trouble filling positions?

I think when people came home during the pandemic, they decided to make different choices. Some wanted to work from home and that is certainly an option.

Is pay the most important thing for employees?

Not always. Pay is obviously important. But the flexible model was moved from the bottom, because we didn’t know what it meant before the pandemic, to the top for people. Now people are saying, “This is how I want to work. And I will find a company that supports this.

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