When budgets permit, we like to hold an annual retreat for our NTCA team, typically one for our Arlington and one for our Asheville operation. This year, with the number of new members of our team, we decided to hold a staff retreat for the Arlington office with some folks driving up from Asheville that would allow us to spend some time with an NTCA member and share a little bit more insight with our team that spends more time in the office than on the road, exactly what an NTCA member might look like and how their operations run.
While not really a typical NTCA member (if one could actually describe any RLEC as typical!), we loaded up the buses last Wednesday and headed out to Shentel in beautiful Edinburgh, Virginia in the heart of the Shenandoah Valley a few hours drive west of Washington DC.
The hour was early and the trip was long but I was delighted at the number of staff members who were willing to make their schedules work for a telco adventure. As we traveled out, I had the chance to cross off being a tour guide with the microphone in hand from my bucket list, as I shared some insights on Shentel and their lines of business and how their size, number of staff members and wireless affiliation with Sprint made them harder to compare to other rural broadband operations but that at their heart how many similarities they also shared with other NTCA members.
Once we pulled into Shentel, complete with staff waiting to show our buses where to park, we were greeted by the executive team outside their own Shentel history museum in their headquarters office. Chris French, the President and CEO was gracious with his time and gave a history lesson on the background of Shentel and an overview of their various lines of business. Each of the executive team shared insights into their marketing efforts, their technology deployment plans and their passion for customer service. It was really a treat to have the team take so much time and effort to share their rich history and to share where their future vision is heading. The NTCA staff is passionate about the work we do and it was a treat for me to see so many members of our staff have the “lightbulb” go off on why we actually do the work that we all do on a daily basis and what a difference it can mean for those companies who serve rural America so well.
Shentel treated us to a tour of their CO, their customer service operation, and much of their internal operations and the morning simply flew by as we learned more about how Shentel values their fiber infrastructure and how committed they are to extending their service to others in the western region of Virginia who are looking for robust broadband options.
Of course, we then needed some time to debrief and support the local economy so we headed over to the old converted mill, now restaurant, to eat lunch and catch up with one another before we headed over to a local vineyard to learn about how Shentel’s products support the local small business community…and maybe hike around and taste some local Virginia wine.
The day was a great one. We learned a lot from the Shentel team and we had the opportunity to spend quality time with one another out of the office. A win-win for sure!