‘Verizon Untethered’: A Book About a Big Company That’s Bigger Than Itself
What did it take to get the U.S. stock market up and running just days after the 9/11 attacks? What was Steve Jobs like as a business partner? How does a company close a $130 billion transaction, or choose a new CEO, or disrupt a successful business to stay successful?
“Verizon Untethered” provides an insider’s insight into these questions.
It’s a readable primer of interest to business students, technology geeks, or anyone curious about the collective impact of individuals who work together with a common purpose.
Many stories in this book are from the point of view of Ivan Seidenberg, the longest-tenured CEO in America before his retirement in 2011. The book also includes insights and stories from several dozen business leaders of Verizon and its predecessor companies, dating from 1983 up to present-day CEO Lowell McAdam. The text is interspersed with rare photos, and commentary from consultant Ram Charan about business “lessons learned” that are more relevant in 2018 than ever.
Scott McMurray is the author, but I suspect much of the book’s readability is due to the efforts of Joellen Brown, who is cited in the acknowledgements as helping to provide historical context, research materials and several reviews for accuracy.
Joellen, my friend and former colleague, recently retired as chief speechwriter for Verizon C-level executives and head of the company’s executive communications team. She is a masterful editor. Based on her involvement in this project over the past two years, I asked her recently what she thought were key takeaways from this book. She noted:
- The development of the wireless business, almost from birth, and the parallels between wireless’s early years and the current challenges in growing Oath, telematics, and other new businesses.
- The audacity of some of the strategic choices (e.g., Fios, AirTouch, even the aborted TCI deal). Hindsight sometimes turns bold moves into sure things… worth emphasizing that risk-taking has always been part of the strategic DNA of the company.
- The quest to make networks matter, and the longstanding belief that technological leadership would translate into competitive advantage.
- The role of culture in the building of a company. Or (maybe this is the same point) the primacy of culture over personality/individual ego.
- What makes a merger work? The book is full of mergers and acquisitions that work, but also plenty that didn’t. What’s the difference?
Finally, she asked about Verizon’s “essential character”: “If you could transport yourself back to 1984, what would you recognize as familiar to the Verizon of 2018?”
With full disclosure, let me try to answer that.
If one takeaway from this book is, “Verizon is not your father’s phone company,” I know that for a literal fact. My father worked 35 years for New York Telephone, NYNEX and then Verizon, and I have worked 33 years for NYNEX, Bell Atlantic and now Verizon. Still, it has never seemed that I have worked for the “same company,” even over the course of my own career, since whatever-the-company-is has changed so radically over that time.
“Verizon Untethered” is the story of that radical change, told from the perspective of people I’ve been honored to know and work beside.
There’s irony in this story too. Verizon has been changed by outside forces that it itself has hastened and enabled. The infrastructure and new technologies deployed by Verizon and its predecessor companies have been the prime catalysts for sweeping changes in the way we all live, work and play.
So to answer Joellen’s question, I would say simply: Verizon, existentially, has always been a part of something bigger than itself.
The people who work there realize that — they always have, and always will. That connected-ness has added value to the world, added value to customers, and added value to our personal and professional lives.
In that spirit, all proceeds from this book are being donated to the VtoV Fund, which provides emergency assistance to Verizon employees unable to live in their primary homes after a natural disaster. There are no administrative fees; every penny goes to someone in need, and the Verizon Foundation provides a match for every dollar donated.
In the end, “Verizon Untethered” isn’t a history book about a company. If history has taught us anything, it’s that companies come and go. This book tells stories about people, and the things some people do to try to make a positive difference in the world.
“Verizon Untethered” (publication date: May 1, 2018) is available for pre-sale at Amazon and other book distributors.
Originally published at varettoni.blogspot.com on April 15, 2018.