Verizon’s VP of Small Business Talks Labor Shortages, Inflation and Optimism

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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 provider for small businesses, said Aimee Novak, vice president of national small businesses at Verizon. Its team includes 1,000 professionals across the country.

“During the pandemic, it was more like how to help them survive?” she says. “I think we all probably have stories where our favorite little shop or restaurant didn’t survive. Nobody wants to see that. So we really found ways to help them pivot.

Services the company provides for small businesses include internet, 5G and voice over IP service, which converts your voice into a digital file and sends it over the internet so you never miss a call. It may also provide security solutions and a Zoom competitor 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 adopting it because they want to look professional,” she said.

Novak has been with Verizon for 16 years after starting out as a technical data representative. She moved to Texas three years ago and lives in Keller. She spoke about some of the knowledge she gained in her current role:

What have you learned from working with small businesses?

What we have learned over the past two years is that flexibility is not an option. We conducted a survey of small businesses 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 across all sizes of businesses, big and small, flexibility is really key when thinking about surviving and anticipating what might happen next.

How do you find small business customers for Verizon?

We welcome customers who enter the store. But we are also prospecting throughout the community for partnership opportunities with customers that we do not have today. One example is Cristina’s Fine Mexican restaurant in D-FW. They’re 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 modify some of their operating models. So, no small business wants to raise prices for customers, but ultimately try to find ways to bring their business into the digital world. So we hear a lot of questions about that. They try to find ways to collaborate that will make their employees more productive, like with video services. When we talk to our customers, more than two out of three of all the companies we surveyed said their business is doing better now than it was a year ago. And they thought they would be better in a year than they are today. So there’s definitely a sense of optimism.

What do you hear about labor issues?

I was driving down the street last night and didn’t see a business that didn’t have a sign in the yard or in the window saying they needed help. But I think it’s not just about trying to recruit talent. It’s that once they’re on board, how do you retain them? We therefore consider that the retention process starts from 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 are able to be part of the community.

Why do you think some companies struggle to fill positions?

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

Is compensation the most important thing for employees?

Not always. Salary is clearly important. But the flexible model has been moved from the bottom, because we didn’t know what it meant before the pandemic, to the top for people. Now people say, “This is how I want to work. And I’m going to find a company that supports that.

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