Susan Anable | Crain's Phoenix

In this ongoing series, we ask executives, entrepreneurs and business leaders about mistakes that have shaped their business philosophy.

Susan Anable

Background:  

Cox Communications provides TV, internet, digital telephone, home security and tech solutions services to residential and business customers throughout the U.S. The company's Southwest region includes Arizona and Nevada.

The Mistake:

The biggest mistake that I made early in my career was not prioritizing community engagement and being more involved. I had my career and my family and it always seemed that there were other priorities, even though all of my professional roles have called for being involved in the community in some fashion.

Finding the strong personal connections and making them a priority would have certainly benefited my personal role in the community and I think it would have also deepened my professional experience as well.

I wasn’t doing something to just check the box or have the company write a check or attend an event here and there.

The Lesson:

Being more involved in the community has given me a lot more credibility in speaking on behalf of my company and its commitment.  I’m lucky to work for a company that has a very strong community ethos.

I think that establishing that credibility gave me concrete and tangible benefits. I wasn’t doing something to just check the box or have the company write a check or attend an event here and there. I got much more involved, serving on boards and doing things that are actually moving the needle in the community.

Measuring a company's success is easy: You look at your revenues and your customers. Measuring your impact on the community is more challenging. The lesson I learned has helped me be more influential in benefiting the community.

There’s a program we support at Cox called Connect and Compete. It’s a national program that involves different partners from different sectors. We are partnered as an internet-service provider, committed to helping close the digital divide. This is important for kids, in particular, because they are at the biggest risk for falling behind on the technology train. We’re committed to providing low-cost internet service to families who are eligible for free or reduced-price school lunch program.

In my region, we’ve taken it to heart. We’re finding ways to leverage those opportunities to get that offer out there and make it well known. It’s not a marketing campaign for the company; it's one that my team does pretty much exclusively. It’s a public affairs initiative to work with school districts and our non-profit partners.

The participation and engagement that we’ve had with some of the amazing nonprofit organizations in the community have helped us open the doors to promote Connect and Compete. It’s really helped us spread the word. We wouldn’t have been able to do that without all of the connections that we have in the community and without some of the nonprofits and educational organizations that are out there.

Follow Cox Communication on Twitter at @CoxComm.

Photo courtesy of Susan Anable

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