I spoke with Wendy Taccetta, Verizon Business’ senior vice president for nationwide small business and channel chief, about their recent Small Business Recovery Survey.
This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.
Karen Walker: I started reading the survey results and, much like a good book, I found myself highlighting something on every page. There’s a lot here.
Wendy Taccetta: Yes, starting with optimism! The majority of businesses surveyed predict their companies will be better off in a year versus now and that the overall state of their firms is better than in August 2020.
Walker: Security was the top concern – fifty percent cited endpoint vulnerabilities as a business risk. The majority of companies plan to begin using multi-factor log-ins for system access and train employees on best cybersecurity practices.
I’m not too surprised because I know that’s true in the world in general. Cyber security is significant. But for small businesses, that seems like quite an investment.
Taccetta: It is a topic for everyone, but everyone doesn’t understand that they can influence it. It’s almost a place of paralysis because it seems so big and scary.
There are small things that business owners can do, including use policies. One of the biggest drivers of how companies are exposed is behavior of the individual team members. It’s straightforward to do a security test once a quarter, where you send a phishing email and let people see how easy it is for something to look authentic when it’s not.
Walker: Great to put the power back in the hands of the small business owners. Another result was that work flexibility is as important as health insurance.
Taccetta: Seventy-four percent said work flexibility could be as important as health insurance to attract and retain employees regardless of their physical location.
This is a reminder that people are looking at their work location as part of their wellness. Companies need to address how to do it better. And I don’t think of it as work from home – I think of it as “work from anywhere.”
Do your employees feel as if they are as effective, regardless of where they work? Every business owner is concerned with the stress that comes when an employee doesn’t feel effective.
Sometimes people think that just being available is enough, but customer expectations have never actually been higher than right now. I also don’t want a one-dimensional black and white experience. I want the richness of a video experience.
Walker: One of the things that will keep employees engaged in any business is their ability to be successful. When they don’t feel like they can be successful or work at their potential, that’s when they are going to take the call from a recruiter. And we know a lot of that is going on right now.
I saw a survey about the importance of tech tools for employees, and there is an expectation that’s not being met around tech tools that can be used with the “work from home” scenario.
Taccetta: I’m curious about what we’ll learn from real classrooms, whether it’s college or high school because I think classrooms have been more forward in tech adoption than corporate and small business.
Walker: To your point, just being available was good enough in March and April of 2020. But there’s been a tremendous accelerated digital transformation wave.
I recently spoke with Jo-ann de Pass Olsovsky, CIO at Salesforce, about their commitment to having a good Day One for every employee, what she calls Salesforce Easy. The idea is that every employee has the technology they need – no matter where they are – to participate fully. That means getting technology from San Francisco to places like Australia when our transportation system is not working as well as it could. So it’s certainly doable for smaller employers.
Taccetta: It’s a big priority for me right now, “What does Day One look like?” And honestly, I work from, “What does it look like before you start, even during the interview process?” Because you start to form your opinion long before you come through the doors. This is about culture – the difference between the culture you felt in the past, and questions about how we make a hybrid culture work. You don’t want to create inequality between those who are present face-to-face and those who are remote.
Walker: You’ve just been recognized as #1 in customer satisfaction with small businesses by J.D. Power.
Taccetta: I’ve been at Verizon for 22 years. I call myself a Verizon baby, because my dad was a tech here for 35 years. I have a reasonable purview of what we do – from consumer to enterprise to public sector – and what I get to obsess about is how I take the best of those things and build it for small businesses so that it is simple. My goal is low touch for big impact – those are the four words I use in every discussion about small business. These are people who can make real- time decisions who have scarce time and resources.
Walker: The last of the major takeaways from the survey is about embracing technology. Sixty-three percent of decision-makers said they have implemented digital tools and technologies to enhance their customer experiences and to create new business opportunities, compared to just over half who did last year. Again, that’s a trend we see with big companies. I’m a little surprised to see it happen in small companies during this time.
Taccetta: Here’s an exciting thing for me – the small business owners that have survived the last 18 months are some of the most resilient we’ve ever seen. One of the things that many of them have discovered is how to expand their customer base.
Technology opens up a lot of opportunities, enabling a rich experience beyond face-to-face consultation.
I have five principles related to how I think about small business. The first is that they need immediate access to funding. Funding is everything. Twenty-five percent of small businesses don’t make it to the first year. The ability to take payments in real time and take it securely, those things are table stakes.
The second thing that they need is more capacity. If you own a restaurant, your ability to hire staff impacts your ability to service more people. Technology lets you do things faster and lets you do things from a distance.
The next thing that is you need is agility. Because whether you want to do it at my home or your home or your worksite, you need to be able to answer the way the customer wants. You could be like me and you love a virtual experience or like my husband who wants everything done face-to-face.
The fourth is that small businesses cannot afford to have a security breach. They can’t afford to expose customer data. They can’t afford not to be available. I love the statistic that reports that 85% of people say if they call a small business and they don’t answer, they’ll never call again.
The last piece is you’ve got to be reliable. Your word is everything.
When I think about our solutions, it’s always through one of those lenses. I think about what we are trying to solve for business owners so that they can focus on their customers.
Small business owners want their small business to play big, and technology can make any business feel as big as you want.