by Lori Bonenfant, Director of Channel Marketing at Verizon Business Markets
Twitter | @lorib4599
In the last few months we’ve prompted many discussions about the impact of tech on small and medium businesses — like how lessons learned from Pokemon Go can help revitalize your marketing and why the mobile revolution is leaving many small business owners flat-footed. Get technology right and you can improve your products and customer experience, enhance your brand and extend your marketing reach.
But technology isn’t a golden ticket for success. Your reputation with your customers isn’t based solely on how well you use mobile or your online marketing strategies. Your brand image is a reflection of how existing and prospective customers perceive your business. And you can make a big impression by showing them you care about the same things they do. Your business can do well by doing good.
Show you care
There are many things you can do to start showing customers your philanthropic side. The quickest way to get involved is to donate money to a local charity or sponsor a local community event. If you’re not sure where to start with this, ask your employees. It’s likely that some of them are already involved in raising money or supporting the local community in some way. You could follow the practice of many large corporations that match donations raised by employees for big achievements, like running a marathon.
But this doesn’t have to be about you giving money. Why not organize a cookie sale or a fancy dress day in the office to raise money for good causes? Or you could ask employees to bring in tins of food for the local food bank or donate coats they no longer need to a homeless shelter. Since 2001, HopeLine from Verizon has been collecting wireless phones that are no longer wanted. These are turned into valuable resources for non-profit organizations and agencies that support victims of domestic violence.
You’ll generate more interest the more involved you get. After all, nothing is more valuable than time. Whether it’s helping kids with their reading, keeping local spaces clean and tidy or offering your workforce’s skills pro-bono, donating your time shows that you’re part of the community. And you’ll be engaging with your customers on a whole new level.
An employer of choice
Doing good won’t just boost your external brand; it can boost your employer brand too. Millennials, in particular, want to work for organizations that care about corporate social responsibility (CSR). 62% of millennials are willing to take a pay cut to work for a “responsible company.”1 That means your philanthropy could help you attract and retain today’s best talent.
Your employees will value the opportunity to get involved with causes they really care about. And engaged employees are more productive. Providing them with the opportunity to spend time volunteering could also help them develop new skills, which will make them a more valuable asset.
By giving back, you can help to build a better future for everyone — the communities you serve and your business.
Tell us what you’re doing
You can find out more about Verizon’s commitment to CSR here. Our major programs include HopeLine and Verizon Innovative Learning — an initiative that provides kids from under-served communities with access to STEM education. #WeNeedMore kids to see the world of possibilities waiting for them.
We’d love to hear what your business is doing to support your community. Let us know by using #CommunityMaker in your Tweet.
1 2015 Cone Communications Millennial CSR Study
by Martin Burvill, Group President at Verizon Business Markets
Twitter | @burvill_martin
Think back 10 years. If I’d told you then that by 2017 most video content would be watched on a small screen that people carried in their pocket, you’d never have believed me. But it’s true. What if I’d said that many of us would have a little box in our houses that we talked to and it answered our questions, could turn our heating and household devices on and off, and could DJ your music library? You might have actually thought that was more likely, after all it’s the sort of thing that science fiction has been promising us for decades. You might have been less likely to believe that the box would cost less than a pair of brand jeans.
Technology has vastly changed the way we do everything. It’s making life easier in ways that we could never have imagined. I’ve always thought that futurologist sounded like an amazing job, spending your time imagining what might come next. Working at Verizon I get to rub shoulders with many of the people that are building the next generation of networks and making the next wave of technology possible. I recently visited the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh for an event and watching the children there made me think about how all this new technology will affect their lives.
From education to learning
Whether you’re from iPod generation, or like me the Walkman one, a lot has changed in the classroom since you went to school. It’s vital that schools keep up to date with technology as everything is changing rapidly and kids need to be prepared for that world when they graduate.
Back when I was in school I don’t think that the job of data scientist existed—I know that social media specialists didn’t. Most of the children entering pre-school this year probably won’t enter the workforce until the mid-2030s. How can we prepare them for jobs that we don’t even know about yet? We need to teach them problem solving skills and encourage and empower them to innovate. And technology has a huge role to play in that.
I wonder what today’s kids would make of it if their teachers pulled out an overhead projector in class? It was a default in my childhood, but would probably look like an ancient relic to them. And the next generation of kids will probably think the same about tablets and 2D video calls. Virtual reality is already starting to appear in the classroom, and that’s opening up incredible new ways to learn.
But that’s not all, technology is also improving access to education. There are apps for just about everything and an amazing range of online learning resources. You can now take an MIT course whether you live in Cambridge, UK or Cambridge, Australia. Billions of people now have the opportunity to try new things and learn new skills: from basket weaving to advanced math. This is helping children find what Sir Ken Robinson calls their “element”—the thing that they love and are great at—and achieve their full potential.
From health to wellbeing
My reason for attending the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh event was to donate two more VGos on behalf of Verizon. These are remote-presence remote-controlled robots with cameras, microphones and video screens connected over the Verizon network. They enable the children who are patients there to attend classes or visit places virtually, while physically in the hospital or house-bound. The feedback on our previous donation was that this can make a world of difference for children with serious health conditions. It can help them to stay connected to their friends, family, classmates and others, which is great for their development and their self-confidence.
Technology can also help kids with chronic conditions. Children with diabetes can now have an insulin pump fitted that tracks their sugar level automatically, and warns them and their parents if it reaches a defined threshold. There are also intelligent teddy bears that can teach children how to manage this and other long term conditions. This can help children lead a more normal life and achieve more.
Of course, it’s not just about when things go wrong. There are also many ways that technology can benefit everyday wellbeing, including tracking fitness and monitoring vital statistics like heart rate and blood pressure. There’s even an artificial intelligence app that can help detect when a child is stressed and notify their parents that they need attention.
Equal education opportunities
There are over 4 million jobs in science and tech and that number is growing. But our youth needs access to education and resources to develop the skills needed to get these jobs and reach their potential. We need to make education, particularly in STEM subjects, better and more readily available to children regardless of their background or physical abilities.
While plenty of excellent online learning tools already exist — many of which are free, like Khan Academy — we need to do more to help give children access to them. Because how can a child take a free online course to improve their math skills if they don’t have a computer or a network connection?
At Verizon, we’re doing our part to give more children from all backgrounds, abilities, and physical abilities access to what they need to succeed. The Verizon Innovative Learning program provides free technology and immersive, hands-on learning experiences to students and teachers from disadvantaged communities across the US. This is giving children who otherwise wouldn’t have access a better chance of getting the challenging, well-paid jobs of tomorrow. I’m looking forward to seeing what they can achieve: from amazing medical advances to visiting another planet, even the sky isn’t a limit.
by Jacob Heinz, Executive Marketing Director at Verizon Business Markets
Twitter | @jlheinz
Working with people in other offices—whether that’s the other side of the country or the other side of the world—is a reality for most of us now. It might be a distant branch, a home worker, corporate headquarters, or an overseas supplier. The pace of modern business means that we can’t wait to see people face-to-face—that would be massively expensive too—and sometimes email just doesn’t cut it.
94% say video collaboration increases productivity.
But we’ve all suffered bad online meetings, right? People scrabbling around under the table for the right cable, noisy mobile connections, the list goes on and on. Only the other day a friend was telling me how the post-merger integration project she’s been working on has been held up by problems doing something as simple as sharing a large file. She reckoned that close to half of each meeting has been wasted. It’s such a common experience that it’s been parodied many times—like in this great video.
But it doesn’t have to be like that.
Good technology isn’t a “nice to have”
We all have fantastic communication tools at our fingertips these days. Smartphone messaging and videocalling apps are now incredibly powerful and easy to use. That’s why when we—especially the millennials among us—come across outdated collaboration tools we find it so shocking.
So why are business collaboration tools still such a laughing stock? The answer is that they’re not—at least not all of them. If you’re still suffering from a bad user-experience then it’s time to upgrade. The days of hunting around for dial-in numbers, poor-quality audio or video, and cumbersome reservation systems are gone.
By 2020, the majority of the workforce will be millennials.
It’s not only staff productivity and morale that can be affected by not keeping up. If your technology is out of date then you’re going to struggle to recruit the best new talent. These days candidates aren’t just looking at your latest earnings figures, they want to know about your culture too. And if you haven’t invested in the technology that they expect, then it might be them sending the “thanks, but no thanks” email.
The answer is out there
There’s no need to put up with technology that wastes your time and gets in the way of you achieving great things. There’s no need to leave your desk, the tools available on the desktop are now pretty impressive. And it’s not just the big screen, you can do a lot on your smartphone—including sharing applications.
Services like video conferencing have become much better as connectivity and network management have improved, but some of the biggest improvements have been in the user experience:
- “Call me” services eliminate the need to scrabble around for dial-in numbers.
- Screen sharing and whiteboarding are now easier to setup and more intuitive to use.
- Instant meetings and personal meeting rooms make it a piece of cake to start an impromptu meeting.
- And capabilities are expanding all the time. Products like Microsoft Surface Hub and Google Jamboard mean that conferencing can be almost like being in the room.
So what’s holding you back?
The technology is there, but implementing it well takes skills that many businesses don’t have. And no matter how good the technology, a bad implemention can damage return on investment. That’s where a specialist IT services provider, like a Verizon partner, can add tremendous value. Their experience can help you accelerate deployment, avoid common problems and build better a better user experience.
In the second part of our conversation with Verizon’s Channel leaders, we talked about what makes a great channel leader. See the first part, about what makes a great partner, here.
We’ve already discussed how having what it takes to be a great Channel partner is changing. What makes a great channel leader? And is that changing too?
Joe: There’s still a long way to go, but it’s already changed a lot. Good channel leaders know that they can’t achieve their goals alone. They have to rely on the people around them for help and support. And that’s why, for me, a great channel leader is someone who puts their people first and helps everyone on their team develop to their full potential.
Lori: Absolutely. But it’s also about getting the right people on your team in the first place. I strongly believe that to be successful, organizations need teams that are representative of their customer base. People from different backgrounds bring different perspectives to the challenges you face—they stop your approach from turning stale.
Janet: As anybody that knows me or follows me on Twitter will know, this is something I’m really passionate about. We’re currently facing a diversity crisis in the channel and it’s the job of leaders to challenge it. It’s not just the right thing to do, but it also makes good business sense. First, you need the best people. Period. Second, diverse teams have been shown to solve problems more quickly and creatively. And this isn’t just about gender and race. My father survived polio, but spent the rest of his life in a wheelchair. He was an inspiration to me and instilled in me how important it is to listen to and value different perspectives.
How does that fit with the image of the channel being quite cutthroat? Where what matters is making a sale. Is that image out-of-date?
Janet: Channel leaders can’t just be salespeople anymore. They need to be all-rounders, and they need to build teams that support them in that. Sales are still hugely important, but it’s just as important to have a thorough understanding of the latest technologies and be a marketer. Future leaders won’t be having meetings about their funnel—they’ll be looking at the best technology to build that funnel and the best way to go to market. Lori’s a great example of this—she’s a marketer first and foremost, but she also has a great understanding of tech.
Lori: Thanks, Janet. I agree, channel leaders can’t just focus on making the next sale. The great channel leaders are the ones looking forward and thinking about how they can get their team, and their business, to the next level. I was taught early in my career to constantly focus my people on where they wanted to be and how they could accomplish that. That’s something that drives me every day.
Let’s move on to relationships outside your own business. What’s the key to creating a successful network and being recognized as a great leader externally?
Janet: Lots of people in the channel will still say “I know everybody.” I hear it all the time and they think that means that they are made for life. Wake up. Millennials already make up half the workforce and are quickly becoming key decision makers and they communicate in entirely different ways. The leaders that aren’t engaging with people using social channels will quickly become obsolete.
Joe: I totally agree. To be successful today, channel leaders need to create a visible and engaging social brand. Who today doesn’t check out someone’s LinkedIn profile before they meet them for the first time? This is a relationship business. Your personal brand shows who you are, what you stand for and whether they’d want to do business with you.
Lori: Absolutely. It’s not enough to broadcast. You need to engage with people and listen to them. You have to say things in your own voice too. That’s how you can build a strong personal and corporate brand, and build relationships.
Joe: Authenticity is really important. Your online persona should be an honest reflection of who you are. You’ll get found out pretty quickly if the reality doesn’t match what people see on social media. It’s about living what you say and taking a genuine interest in the conversations that you have.
Janet: That’s so true, and I’ve got a great example. Through talking with people online about our services and what they meant to them, I met Cris Colaluca. He has spina bifida and uses Verizon connectivity and a VGo robot to attend school virtually. He’s a fantastic inspiration, and we’ve helped with his fundraising efforts to give more kids the same chance. For me that’s a great reminder that what we do isn’t just technology, it can change peoples’ lives and as a channel leader I want to share that with everybody.
Vote for Janet Schijns to win her bracket in CRN Channel Madness: Tournament of Chiefs!
Watch this space for the conclusion of our Channel Champions roundtable, when Janet, Joe and Lori will be discussing how you can get the most from your talent and champion diversity.
So your business is more organized and you have a focused business strategy; now it may be time to develop a disaster recovery plan.
Yes, we’ve done a couple of these posts on having a disaster recovery plan in place, but that’s because this is important. Great plans include making the most of your resources and opportunities for growth while being acutely aware of the risks and challenges so you can minimize trouble by having a well thought-out recovery approach.
According to research by the University of Texas, only 6% of companies survive a catastrophic data loss, while 43% never reopen and 51% close within two years. In spite of those shocking statistics, Gartner Research estimates that only 35% of small and medium businesses have a comprehensive disaster recovery plan in place.
It might feel like focusing on the negative, but it’s just good business to be prepared. Companies that create disaster recovery and business continuity plans proactively do so hoping they will never have to use them. Whether “disaster” is defined as natural, such as a flood, snowstorm or hurricane, or man-made, such as the loss of power or networks due to an accident, the event can potentially have a significant impact on your business.
Each year, downtime costs our economy tens of billions of dollars. Researchers estimate that companies lose, on average, over $80,000 for every hour of downtime. And this is just the direct cost. Bad publicity, loss of morale, loss of customer goodwill and, potentially, the loss of brand value is at stake. Yet many enterprises put off implementing company-wide disaster recovery plans until it’s too late.
The first step when designing a disaster recovery plan is to identify your key assets and resources. Think about it: exactly what would you need to ensure continuous service to your customers in the event of a disaster? Decide what software and equipment your business needs to continue operations, and make a detailed list that includes service contract and warranty information. Speak with your insurance agent and suppliers, and purchase business insurance policies that provide the protection you need. Make a list of all pertinent phone numbers for local authorities and utility companies, suppliers and vendors.
Next, ascertain what information is absolutely critical to your daily business operations. For example, gather your customer database and all contact information along with purchase histories and any important proposals or presentations. Run detailed accounts payable and receivables reports. Create an essential document file and include duplicates of important business records such as insurance policies, leases, equipment rentals, equipment purchases and personnel files. Take steps to protect these files in a secure offsite location and also back up your data in the cloud.
As part of your disaster plans, formulate a communications plan and identify key individuals who will be responsible for contacting customers, vendors, partners, investors, creditors and the media (if needed). There should be only one leading communication officer who should present one cohesive message and reduce possible confusion that may occur post-disaster.
These are just a few suggestions of what to include, but it’s important to note that your disaster recovery plan needs to be an ongoing process that changes as your business changes.
The U.S. government provides many free resources to assist companies and individuals in developing their business disaster recovery plans. Along with the U.S. Small Business Administration, the government provides free assistance through SCORE, Ready and FEMA.
If you have a disaster recovery plan in place, please share what is in your plan that we didn’t mention.
Editor’s note: This article first appeared in Verizon’s Small Business eNewsletter. To receive a free copy of future eNewsletters send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Give our eNewsletter a new name and win $1,000 – enter by March 6, 2012. Click here for more information.
Guest post by Mario Acosta-Velez, Director, Government and External Affairs for Verizon. Mario manages strategic alliances and external relations with key stakeholders, business organizations, and diverse communities in the MD / DC region.
Did you know in the last decade the number of Hispanic-owned business increased to 2.2 million according to the US Census? I mention this as our nation celebrates the contributions of the Hispanic community during Hispanic Heritage Month from September 15 to October 15. In the state of Maryland, for example, there are more than 25,000 Hispanic-owned businesses, a fact highlighted by the MD Hispanic Business Conference held recently and attended by more than 700 state-wide business leaders. This growth in Hispanic-owned businesses makes Maryland one of the top fifteen states with the largest number of Hispanic-owned businesses.
At this conference, Verizon had a strong presence and showcased our latest most advanced technology and solutions for small businesses, including our all fiber-optic FiOS and wireless devices. As I talked with several Hispanic small business owners at the conference, I realized that while many Hispanic-owned businesses effectively use wireless technology to conduct business, they are not taking full advantage of the use of other technology components essential to the success of their businesses. A key aspect emerged as part of each conversation: Hispanic-owned small businesses need to maximize the use of advanced technology in order to make business more productive and remain competitive.
It’s not just Hispanic-owned businesses, but many small business owners need to consider using new technology or more innovative technology to help run their business better. For instance using a total solution that combines advanced wireless, broadband and voice technology will help small businesses be nimble, capture every call, and service customers on the go, no matter where you are. Small business owners should not be afraid to use key business services such as advanced calling features, high speed internet paired with personalized email. I must stress that a business website is a must as it can make a significant difference in the success of a small business (check out these tips from the winner of the Verizon Hardest Working Small Biz Dad contest). Additionally, small businesses need to protect from cyber-threats and put in place security and data recovery features to protect essential business documents in case of natural disasters. In essence, a business’ growth and its sustainability is directly linked to the effective use of technology to manage all aspects of a small business.
Small business owners such as those operating restaurants, insurance agencies, beauty shops, construction companies, day cares, photography, real state, home improvement and design, and many other types of businesses are busy running their business, but please make the time to incorporate some new technology that can transform the business.
Technology simply enables a small business to be a contender in a highly competitive business environment.
Verizon is committed to helping small businesses streamline and run their businesses more productively and faster by gaining access to the most advanced technology.
For Hispanic-owned businesses we also offer information in Espaňol. To learn more about wireless solutions for small businesses, visit www.verizoninsidernegocios.com where you can also learn about the Verizon Latino Small Business Award. To learn more about how Verizon’s all-fiber-optic FiOS network can help make your business more productive in Espaňol, please visit www.enciendeteFios.com which includes testimonial from successful Latino small businesses owners. If your business is in the East coast visit www.verizonbusinessmadeeasy.com for exclusive news and offers.
The Winner of the Verizon Hardest Working Small Biz Mom Contest Winner Is…
Drum roll please (click here for sound effect)… we are excited to announce the winners of Verizon’s Hardest Working Small Biz Mom contest. First, thank you to all the ladies who entered this contest. We loved your stories and were in awe of the way you are able to care for your kids, family, your business and more.
Congratulations to Texas’ Nichole Bently who is Verizon’s Hardest Working Small Biz Mom Contest Winner.
Mary Yarbrough, vice president of business marketing for Verizon, said, “It certainly wasn’t easy choosing the ‘hardest working’ mom. We congratulate the winners and commend all the women from across the country who entered the contest. The best part of this contest was the feedback we got from our customers on how they use Verizon’s products and services to help grow their businesses. We were thrilled to recognize all ‘mompreneurs’ and provide them with the opportunity to share their story.”
Nichole Bently, owner of Bentley Business Consulting, in Coppell, TX, is the first-prize winner (watch her video) followed by Lisa Pelino, owner of Sweet Dawn Café in Rochester, NY (click here to read her submission); and Jennifer Manriquez, owner of Bilingual Fun in South Lyon, MI, is the third-prize winner (click here to watch Manriquez’s video submission in which she shares how she relies on her Verizon Wireless Blackberry smartphone daily.)
We will issue the news release tomorrow which will have more information on the winners. Additionally, all of our winners will offer a guest blog post sharing some tips that might help your business…. so check here back soon.
Congratulations Nichole, Lisa and Jennifer!
Picture below of Nichole and her family.