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Smithville Spotlight: Matt N., Small/Medium Business Sales Executive

 

You’ve probably heard “always be closing” as the mantra for those working in Sales. Matt N., Small/Medium Business Sales Executive, believes Sales is more of a personal connection to help find solutions. He’s been able to make a lot of connections with his experience in multimedia and telecommunications sales over the years.

We asked some questions to get to know Matt better before digging into his experience and time here at Smithville:

 

    • Hometown: Ellettsville, IN
    • Favorite TV Show: The Walking Dead
    • Favorite Movie: It’s a tie! Original Terminator and Braveheart
    • Favorite Food: Porterhouse Steak
    • What you Like to do in Your Free Time: Play or watch sports. Play = Golf and Softball, Watch = NFL, NBA, MLB, NCAA and Golf
    • Dream Vacation: Hawaii or a Cruise ship
    • Quote: “The only person you are destined to become is the person you decide to be.”- Ralph Waldo Emerson.

 

Matt joined the Smithville team February 2019. He helped launch our dedicated small and medium business sales initiative, focused on providing simple solutions for keeping local businesses connected. He had his eye out for positions with Smithville and jumped on the opportunity to apply. “With over 20 years in the telecommunications industry I had always felt that Smithville would be a great place to work. I kept checking the Smithville job website until I found a position that matched my skills.” After working at another internet company, he knew the service we provide would make a big difference for customers.

Being active in the business community is important to Matt. He’s on the board of the Bedford Chamber of Commerce and enjoys being out in the areas we serve and meeting with customers. On a normal day he’s talking with customers, either over the phone or in their offices or storefronts, and showing how Smithville’s Internet, Cloud Voice, and Security services can help them grow. “The most rewarding aspect of my job is giving new and existing customers the service and products needed in today’s competitive environment for them to exceed and be better than their competition.”

While in the field for most of the time, Matt also appreciates the team environment for all employees at all locations. “The comradery that all Smithville employees show to each other is something that outsiders would appreciate yet they really don’t know is there. The whole team, from top to bottom, make Smithville the best company it can be for employees and customers.”

Matt looks forward to talking to local businesses and seeing how we can meet their needs. You can reach Matt at 812-320-8319 or matt.narey@smithville.com.

6 Tips to Thwart COVID-19 Cyberscams

Thanks to USTelecom for these helpful tips.

What can you do to help stop online scam artists from taking advantage of the global pandemic? Here are some tips to keep you connected–and secure.

 

  1. Think Before You Click
    Don’t click on links from sources you don’t know. They could
    contain viruses.
  2. Turn to Official Sources
    Watch for emails claiming to be from public health experts.
    Here are the official websites of the Centers for Disease Control and
    Prevention and the World Health Organization.
  3. Vaccine Hoax Alert
    Ignore online or phone offers for vaccinations. There currently are no
    vaccines or other products—prescription or over-the-counter—that
    treat or cure COVID-19.
  4. Think Before You Give
    Do your homework before giving to charities or crowdfunding sites.
    Don’t let anyone rush you into making a donation.
    If someone wants donations in cash, by gift card or by wiring money,
    just say no.
  5. Don’t Share Personal or Financial Data
    Via email or unsolicited phone call.
  6. Turn on Auto Updates
    Keep your software up-to-date on your computer, smartphone and
    tablet to defend against viruses and hacking attempts.

 

Behind it All, There’s the Internet

Before COVID-19 hit so close to home, the internet generally seemed like a handy tool. Depending on your job or interests, the world wide web might not have been something you gave any thought to. The internet was just there.

Now, as we practice social distancing, that “handy tool” may be becoming a central part of our lives. While it certainly cannot replace good old-fashioned conversations at the neighborhood bakery or hands-on learning in the classroom, it does have the ability to keep us connected in many ways. And let’s face it, generally, we are social beings. The internet provides that outlet.

Here’s a handful of creative ways people are using their internet connection to connect:

 

 

 

 

  • People are watching Netflix content together through Netflix Party. The service syncs up the streaming playback at different locations and includes group chat so you can comment as if you’re in the room together. https://www.netflixparty.com/

 

 

  • Many gyms and other fitness outlets are offering free online classes and daily physical challenges. Planet Fitness is offering free classes on Facebook Live at 7 pm for anyone. https://www.facebook.com/planetfitness.

 

We want to make sure you are having the best experience with your internet. Feel free to give us a call to troubleshoot issues you may be having with WiFi or to increase your bandwidth as your needs grow during this time.

10 Tips for Working from Home in a COVID-19 Environment

While some are more familiar with working from home, we recognize many of you may be new to working from home while we are dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic. To help you be successful while working from home, we’ve compiled these tips to help you stay productive, set expectations, and have some fun.

 

  1. Cleanliness is next to godliness: You know what they say, cleanliness is next to godliness. Now more than ever, personal hygiene is important. Even though you are at home, washing your hands frequently and thoroughly is important. While there’s many guides out there on proper handwashing techniques, these two are some of our favorites. Also, did you know, your cell phone has 10x more germs than a toilet seat? So, while you’re washing your hands, consider washing your phone, too. Here is a handy article on some ways to go about disinfecting your phone.
  2. Give yourself structure. Sure, working from can be awesome. Working in your PJs and all that. But that said, it is important to treat a work from home scenario as though you are working from your office. We recommend you wake up early and go through your routine as though you are preparing to go into the office. Get showered and dressed (no one wants to see you in your PJs, regardless of how cute they are). Similarly, we recommend take short breaks and a lunch break like you would as though you were in the office. This structure will help you keep your normal rhythm and keep your day from getting away from you.
  3. Have a dedicated workspace. Working from home allows you to have a more mobile office than you might be used to. Suddenly working from your bed, your kitchen table, or your couch all seems enticing. Setting up a designated workspace will help you eliminate distractions and stay focused during your office hours. There’s nothing worse than working from your kitchen table with a pile of dirty dishes staring at you. Trust us.
  4. Have a reliable internet and phone connection. Being and staying connected while working from home is paramount. We recommend running an internet speed test to assure you are able to maintain productivity with a number of new devices being connected on your home network.
  5. Be available and set expectations. Working from home means you should still be working during your normal office hours, even if you aren’t in your normal office environment. Set expectations with your team around your availability and make it clear when and how people can best get ahold of you. Phone calls, text messages, instant messaging, emails, and video conferencing are powerful ways to stay connected with your team during this time. We recommend using video conferencing tool like Zoom to stay connected in a “face-to-face” format (just don’t forget to mute your audio when you aren’t talking). An instant messaging tool like Slack is a great way to communicate with your team via direct instant messages or group messages.
  6. Check in with each other. Working from home is not always easy on everyone and your team may be struggling with uncertainty, loneliness, their workload, or more. Now is the time to be a good neighbor—reach out and check in, and check on, your team.
  7. Get a good playlist. Matching your playlist to your task at hand can be a great way to get motivated, stay focused, and conquer your task list. We recommend Metallica and Mozart.
  8. Maintain your mental health. Working from home and social distancing can be hard. Maintaining your mental health is important for creativity, productivity, and your overall well-being. Check out this list of ways to support your mental health during COVID-19. We like the idea of getting out in nature, reaching out to venerable neighbors, and of course, being (and demonstrating) gratefulness.
  9. Plan activities for your kids. If you are like us in Oregon, schools are temporarily shut down as a means to slow the spread of COVID-19. Working from home with littles (or pets) can be challenging. We recommend planning activities to keep your kids entertained so you can remain productive. Here are a few resources to check out:
    1. Outschool is offering classes for free for kids affected by the shutdown:
    2. If you have kids or grandkids in kindergarten – 8th grade at home, this is an excellent free math resource during the pandemic. Thanks, Dreambox Learning!
    3. Check out this survival guide for being stuck at home with your kids.
    4. Or this INDY’SCHILD article on 70 fun things to do with your kid while we are all stuck at home!
    5. Disney+ added Frozen 2 to its lineup three months earlier than expected and is now available for streaming.
  10. Stay educated. There is a LOT of information out there and it can be hard to follow what is happening. Staying informed is crucial to your health and safety so we recommend checking in (and sharing, when appropriate) resources with your team on new developments in your area or that affect your organization. We recommend following sites like the CDC’s Coronavirus page or the World Health Organization’s page to stay aware.

 

We hope this time for you working from home is safe and productive. And once you’re done working for the day, check out this list of shows to binge watch while stuck inside.

Gov. Holcomb Announces Small Business Assistance in Response to COVID-19

Hoosier small businesses invited to apply for low-interest loans
from U.S. Small Business Administration

INDIANAPOLIS – Governor Eric J. Holcomb today announced that Indiana small businesses are eligible for financial assistance under a disaster designation by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA).

 

This declaration is in response to a formal request Gov. Holcomb submitted with the SBA on Tuesday, seeking assistance through the organization’s Economic Injury Disaster Loan program for small businesses impacted by the COVID-19 outbreak in Indiana.

 

“Small businesses play a critical role in driving Indiana’s economy forward, with more than 512,000 employing 1.2 million Hoosiers across the state,” Gov. Holcomb said. “These disaster loans will provide much needed financial support to small business owners who are weathering the impact of the coronavirus outbreak.”

 

Under the program, small businesses, small agricultural cooperatives and nonprofits across the state are eligible to apply for low-interest loans up to $2 million to help overcome the temporary loss of revenue due to the COVID-19 outbreak. These loans may be used to pay fixed debts, payroll, accounts payable and other bills incurred during this public health emergency. The loan interest rates for small businesses and nonprofits are 3.75% and 2.75%, respectively, with terms up to 30 years.

 

To qualify for disaster loans, applicants must demonstrate credit history, the ability to repay the loan, and proof of physical presence in Indiana and working capital losses. Additionally, the Indiana Small Business Development Center, which has 10 regional offices throughout the state, will provide free business advising and application assistance for small businesses impacted by the COVID-19 outbreak.

 

To apply for loans or receive more information about the Economic Injury Disaster Loan program, visit SBA.gov/Disaster. Contact 1-800-659-2955 or disastercustomerservice@sba.gov with additional questions. The deadline to apply for the disaster loans is Dec. 18, 2020.

A Message From Our President Regarding COVID-19

Dear Smithville Customer,

As we collectively navigate the uncertainties of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, and the effects of this on our lives, businesses, and families, we want you to know that you can rely on Smithville’s commitment to service to keep you connected to what matters most. While you focus on addressing the needs of your families, employees, and businesses, our teams will be working hard to ensure that your network, internet, and telephone services remain up and running at the level of service you have come to know and expect from Smithville.

Our commitment to you, and all customers, is one we take very seriously. As a company that supports critical infrastructure, such as 911 service, we have developed a solid plan to prioritize the continued operations of our network, while taking proactive steps to ensure the safety of our employees and customers. Our teams remain confident in our ability to provide safe and reliable service to every customer. We are here to answer questions and provide support should you have any additional needs, or specific concerns, during this time.

We are closely monitoring the coronavirus and are following the current guidance from leading government and health authorities to ensure we are taking the right actions to protect our customers, employees, and the communities that we serve. This includes a commitment from each of our employees to:

  • Wash hands frequently and thoroughly
  • Wear protective gear when in your home or business (gloves, foot coverings, masks if required)
  • Avoid contact with potentially sick people
  • Avoid touching eyes, nose, and mouth
  • Stay home if they are feeling sick
  • Check-in with supervisors each morning to discuss their current state of health

We hope that you, your friends, colleagues, and family are all safe and remain well during this time. As you continue to focus on taking care of your families and businesses, you can rest assured that Smithville has your connectivity needs covered – as we have for nearly 100 years.

Thank you for your business and continued loyalty.

Smithville Spotlight: Rob R., Product Manager, Media Production

“Challenging. Rewarding. Self-expanding.” That’s how Rob R., Product Manager, Media Production, describes his 14 years at Smithville in three words. Throughout his time here he’s helped to grow and expand our media and marketing capabilities using impactful video of local features, sporting events, and community events.

Before we talk about how he came to Smithville we asked some very important questions to get to know Rob better:

 

  • Hometown: Burnham on Crouch, Essex, England
  • Favorite TV Show: Firefly
  • Favorite Movie: Back to the Future
  • Favorite Food: Ham Sandwiches
  • What He Likes to do in Free Time: Video projects, board gaming, scale modeling
  • Dream Vacation Destination: Norway or Iceland, would be cool to see the Fjords and Northern Lights
  • Favorite Quote: “I was not the lion, but it fell to me to give the lion’s roar.” -Winston Churchill

 

Rob started out in the entertainment business interviewing film and music stars in London, England and streaming them online over a 56k dial up connection. He moved to the United States in 2003 and in 2006 he joined Smithville’s Marketing Department. A couple of years later he began producing local features and documentaries and broadcasting live high school sports. Now he heads up Smithville Media and, in addition to producing content for Smithville’s Youtube channel, he’s offering video production services to the local community.

One constant throughout his time at Smithville has been change. It’s been a big jump from videos on dial up connections to today’s super-fast fiber optics. “I’ve seen the company grow and change in many ways. As well as an increase in the number of staff, the technology at Smithville has changed from mainly a copper-based service to high-speed fiber, with many other product lines and services added as well.”

Growth and personal development are important for Rob as he has had a huge impact on over 50 interns who have helped produce, film, and edit local sporting events and features over the years. He’s been able to share his knowledge and has witnessed their own personal growth, with many interns currently working in New York City and Los Angeles. Internships at Smithville allow students to practice and hone their skills while building up a portfolio of work. “It’s kind of like paying it forward. And that kind of giving back is what Smithville is all about.”

Community involvement also means a lot to Rob and he’s represented Smithville well at various events. He has helped to film and produce high school graduations, Bloomington Chamber of Commerce events like Educator of the Year and annual meetings, and local sporting events. He also appreciates the level of customer service we provide and that we’re a family-owned company helping local Hoosiers. “Smithville is very involved in the community and doesn’t treat its customers just like numbers. It’s all about trying to get the best that we can for them.”

Rob recently began offering his extensive experience and expertise to local businesses. Most businesses think video production has to be expensive, but Rob can work with local businesses to find the right package for the right price. Smithville Media can do it all, including commercial, interview, documentary, and training video production, live broadcasts, and editing services. The Media team also has the latest technology available, including multi-cameras for large shoots, green screen capabilities, a full-service studio, and professional recording booth. Take a look at some of Rob’s work at Youtube.com/SmithvilleMedia and reach out by calling 812-935-2284 or email media@smithville.com. He’s happy to discuss your project and find the perfect solution.

Smithville Spotlight: Aaron B., Corporate Communications Specialist

 

Everyone has a story. With nearly 200 employees, there are lots of stories to tell about Smithville. Aaron B., Corporate Communications Specialist, uses his past journalism and communications experience to make sure everyone stays informed and on the same page as we work towards expanding rural broadband in South Central Indiana.

Aaron is usually the one asking questions and interviewing employees. We switched things up and asked Aaron some hard-hitting questions to get to know him better:

 

  • Hometown: Indianapolis, Former Park Tudor Panther
  • Favorite TV Show: Right now, it’s Curb Your Enthusiasm. I identify with Larry’s rage.
  • Favorite Movie: Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood. A real feel-good flick. Also, historically accurate.
  • Favorite Food: Fruit smoothie with peanut butter. I have one every single day.
  • What You Like to Do in Free Time: I stay extremely busy. I do something different almost every night. Some of my favorite things are bird watching, going to movies at the IU Cinema, bar trivia, running (I’m working on becoming more of a triathlete), horse playing with my dogs, going to plays. I do it all.
  • Dream Vacation Destination: I’m starting to look at going somewhere for birding. Someplace isolated and strategically located where I can see a lot of cool species. Attu, mayhap. Can’t be someplace easy, I guess.
  • Favorite Quote: My senior yearbook quote was from the movie Point Breakstarring Keanu Reeves, Patrick Swayze, Anthony Kiedis, and Gary Busey. “Fear causes hesitation, and hesitation causes your worst fears to come true.” I thought that was the coolest.
  • Description of Time at Smithville in Three Words: Challenging, supportive, fast-paced

 

Aaron came to Smithville from the newspaper industry, where he worked as a Sportswriter/Editor. He had a desire to live and work in Bloomington and talked to a Smithville employee about an opportunity available in Technical Support. While he didn’t have the technical experience, he was willing to learn and enjoyed talking to people. He supported Smithville phone, internet, TV, and security customers and utilized his journalism experience by writing standard operating procedures and job aids for the Technical Support team from 2015 until 2019.

Last year a new team was formed at Smithville: Corporate Communications. Employees had expressed that information wasn’t always shared across all departments. To grow and become more efficient, all areas needed to be on the same page and working towards the same goal. There was also some duplicated or unnecessary work, which didn’t help with productivity. Leadership took this employee feedback to heart and worked to create Corporate Communications to share relevant information. Aaron submitted writing samples to and worked with Liz I., Director of Corporate Communications and External Affairs. “Together, with the help of the third member of our team, Jen A., we created a department that more or less functions as a newsroom dealing with all things Smithville. It’s been a lot of fun, and I like that we are tackling what people considered the most prominent problem within the company.” Some of their communication tactics include updating an employee blog with news articles and department features and streamlining many communications into a few, organized emails throughout the week.

Seeing the shift in workplace culture has been the most rewarding experience for Aaron. He is the incoming chair of the Smithville Engaged team, which is focused on engaging employees with each other and the communities Smithville serves. Part of his duties on this team include creating messaging for employee events and initiatives. “This included stuff like creating catchy emails for Smithville’s March Madness bracket pool, Halloween party, and company picnic, among other things. Creative things like this are where my interests lie, so I gravitate to these activities even when it isn’t really my primary job function.”

Personal development is a focus at Smithville, and that’s something that’s important to Aaron. “It has been my experience that management and leadership help to cultivate the skills of their workforce. There are lots of training opportunities with online courses and tuition reimbursement and other ways to develop skills and knowledge through committees and meetings.” To expand on personal development, Smithville has launched a “Develop You” program where employees can take classes to develop skills, such as time management and communication courses.

To Aaron, Smithville is different because everyone is willing to change. That change requires constant communication and keeping employees in the loop, and Aaron and the Corporate Communications team are up to the challenge. “Everything and almost everyone is open to making changes. I think part of that has come from a shift in culture. People trust each other more and recognize that everyone is working toward the same goal.”

Smithville Spotlight: Jami H., Customer Service Representative

“Challenging. Rewarding. Growth.” That’s how Jami H. describes her two years here at Smithville in three words. As a Customer Service Representative, she’s often the first impression customers have, and she takes that seriously. Her dedication and determination for customers make that impression a great one.

We asked some hard-hitting questions before we dove into the work stuff to learn more about Jami:

  • Hometown: Bloomington, IN
  • Favorite TV Show: Survivor
  • Favorite Movie: Tommy Boy
  • Favorite Food: Pizza
  • What She Likes to do in Free Time: Spend time with my family or hang out with friends and laugh!
  • Dream Vacation Destination: Scotland or Ireland
  • Favorite Quote: “It will all come out in the wash.”

 

Jami joined Smithville in February 2018 as a Customer Service Representative I. After an in-depth training program, she began working with residential customers. On a normal day our Customer Service Representatives help set up service for customers, answer billing and service questions, and explain the different service options we provide. In April 2019 Jami was promoted to Customer Service Representative II. This change added business responsibilities, including setting up new service, answering business questions, and handling business ownership changes. No matter the role, Jami enjoys talking to our customers every day. “I enjoy speaking with people and helping them; whether it’s a new customer, billing question or payment, or just educating them on our services. I want to give customers the experience they wish they could receive from other service providers.”

Jami previously worked in the medical and education industries. Moving to the telecommunications industry and Smithville were a positive change for many reasons. “I could not say enough about Smithville’s culture for their employees. Everyone who works for Smithville enjoys their job and takes a lot of pride in being a Smithville employee. No matter what your position is at Smithville, you are valued because each role here is important. We are just one big family!”

Smithville is also an active advocate for their customers and rural broadband, and that’s a big reason Jami loves working here. “Someone outside would be surprised about just how involved Smithville’s owners and leadership team are in the culture of Smithville and the amount of effort they put into working with government officials to fight for the best for their rural customers.” These efforts include working with local, state, and federal elected officials to make sure they understand the importance of rural broadband for the economy and have resulted in funding dedicated for rural fiber projects.

Since joining Smithville there have been many accomplishments Jami’s proud of, but three are top of mind for her. First is her move up to Customer Service Representative II, which allowed her to learn the business side of our services and engage with the business community. Second, she is a “Discover Smithville” host for the Customer Service Department and trains other employees about the department in our job shadowing program. Through this program she can meet with employees from many different areas in the company. Learning about each other’s departments often lead to new ideas and efficiencies. Third, and the most important for her, was her nomination as Customer Experience Champion by her fellow employees at our annual Night of Champions award dinner. Each year employees nominate coworkers for these Champion awards, highlighting the great work they’ve done throughout the year. She described this accomplishment as the most rewarding but humbling.

Every day she remembers that the customer experience is the most important part of her role, and she takes great pride in providing an excellent experience. That’s the biggest difference between us and our competitors. “We may be small in comparison to our competition, but we have more heart and the way we take care of our customers sets us apart.” Look for more Smithville Spotlights in the coming weeks!

Smithville Spotlight: Rusty S., Training Coordinator

A foundation for success is training and development, and Smithville is lucky to have an enthusiastic and dedicated Learning & Development Department. As Training Coordinator, Rusty Shields manages training initiatives and ensures employees have the adequate skills and knowledge to succeed. We followed him for a day to see his focus on growth and development. Before we got started for the day, we got to know Rusty better by asking some hard-hitting questions:

  • Hometown: Osceola, Arkansas
  • Favorite TV Show: Golden Girls
  • Favorite Movie: The Greatest Showman
  • Favorite Food: Steak
  • Best Part of Working at Smithville: Delivering world class products and service to the best customers a company could have!
  • Dream Vacation Destination: Ireland
  • Favorite Quote: “Dream as if you’ll live forever, live as if you’ll die today.” -James Dean

In addition to his role at Smithville Rusty serves as the VP of Communications for the Central Indiana Chapter of the Association for Talent Development. The organization offers development and networking opportunities for workplace learning, training, and talent development professionals in Central Indiana. On this day Rusty was busy helping with ATD-CIC’s annual Learning Summit in Indianapolis, where training professionals from across the state convene to share ideas and resources. Rusty hosted a breakout session called “Training with a Twist – Marketing Your Learning Program’s Value Throughout the Organization.” He offered many different strategies to market training programs to gain employee buy-in and participation. These included content marketing, personalization, engagement, and social media strategies. He also encouraged attendees to consider guerrilla marketing to grab employees’ attention and break through the noise and busyness of day to day work.

The most engaging part of the presentation was when Rusty had everyone work together as a team to develop marketing strategies for a new training initiative. This was a great opportunity to think outside the box on ways to market new training programs to capture employee attention and participation. Some interesting ideas included ice cream socials, lunches with leaders, and using technology like Google Glass to train new hires. At the end of the session all attendees left knowing the importance of marketing their training programs. If you can make it exciting and engaging, rather than just emailing that there’s an online training module to do, the results will be huge!

Rusty practices what he preaches, and uses a lot of videos to market new training initiatives. Smithville recently launched an employee development online training opportunity and Rusty sent out a sneak peek preview using an online video. This helped to create hype and interest, and has led to many employees registering for the personal development opportunities. He’s always monitoring trends to see what’s working in the training industry and adapting for the best results.

After his session was over he attended other sessions on creating intentional experiences and networked with vendors and attendees. This long day that started at 7AM finished up around 6PM and he left energized and ready to apply what he learned. Here’s to a great year of learning and development for the Smithville team!