In business, proverbial wisdom used to dictate that if the business model was sound and included best practices, it’s best to stay the course. But in a technological age, where change happens in a flash, conducting business as usual may not be the wisest plan.
John Vazquez, senior vice president and head of global real estate and supply chain at Verizon, believes that it’s best to create a strategy that sets goals for long-term success, rather than focusing on the task at hand.
“As a manager, are you the custodian of what was or the owner of what will be?” Vazquez says. “I’m a firm believer that staying in the environment you’re in today is riskier than where you should be tomorrow.”
In fact, his forward-thinking approach has earned him a reputation in his field.
“John is a visionary leader that inspires those around him to think outside the box and push the boundaries of what is possible,” says Lisa Brinkman of HOK.
After more than six years at Verizon as the senior vice president of real estate, Vazquez took on the supply chain this year. In doing so, he expanded the number of employees under his watch to more than two thousand, and the budget he now manages to $50 billion. It might seem like there aren’t enough hours in the day to manage all of his responsibilities, but Vazquez learned long ago that it’s best not to go it alone. Instead, the best approach is to build a diverse team to complete his strategic plan.
“Inclusivity is not about quotas; it’s about inclusion, creating a culture that allows others to bring in new ideas and perspectives,” he says. “Your people should be better than you. They will focus on a goal, own it, and take responsibility for it. If you can get that scenario, it’s much easier to be a leader.”
He’s acquired this wisdom over a thirty-five-year career, during which time, he says, mentors played a large part in his professional development, starting with his father, Manuel, a Spanish immigrant. The middle child of three and native New Yorker, Vazquez was impressed by his father’s ability to achieve despite his humble beginnings. He watched his father work to support the family as a mechanic, eventually starting his own business in Little Italy in Manhattan and then opting to work as a supervisor for American Airlines.
“My dad has an unbelievable story, growing up on a farm, reaching the eighth grade, working from the age of fourteen, and serving in the Navy as a sharpshooter,” Vazquez says. “He is a real renaissance man like many immigrants who must learn new languages and do what it takes to see their children succeed.”
As a child, he says, he had no idea what his ideal job would be. He didn’t have relatives who worked for larger corporations or who had graduated from college. He also struggled at math, but one summer, his seventh-grade teacher gave him a packet of three hundred math questions to work on during the hiatus.
“I worked on the problems all summer while in Spain visiting relatives and at the end, it clicked,” he says.
Still, Vazquez chose to study business at Manhattan College, but he soon switched to mechanical engineering, a rare move for a business major. He would ultimately complete his studies in business as well, earning a master’s in business administration from Sacred Heart University.
“I had a greater sense of accomplishment with engineering,” he says. “I liked problem-solving and analytics. It connected back to what my dad always said, ‘No matter what you choose to do, make sure you use your head and not just your hands.’”
In college, he accepted an internship at IBM, working in the boiler room, where he eventually met his next mentor, Tom Benek, the company’s head of real estate.
“I saw how he dealt with people and how he had a vision, a well-balanced plan,” he says. “He listened to people, showed compassion, but he was also tough when he needed to be. For me, that’s where it all started, at IBM with Tom.”
Vazquez counts Marc Reed, executive vice president of human resources at Verizon, as his latest mentor. When he accepted the job in 2012, the company was in the process of transforming from a telecom company to a tech company, which appealed to him. He says Reed has helped steer him toward embracing a strategic approach over a tactical one.
“I’m now more aligned with business strategy,” he says. “I look at what cities are good for talent, at what we want, elevating the whole game to a location decision as opposed to a real estate deal. It’s not just about construction projects, it’s a fundamental change, developing what the workplace looks like, how you drive programs.”
As a result, the company has shifted from a focus on the employer to the employee. Traditionally, employees were encouraged to climb the corporate ladder, but not all employees want to advance in that way, Vazquez says. Some want to stay at the job they have but increase the complexity of their work. Recognizing this, Verizon changed its workspace, forgoing individual offices for an open space where employees and managers can exchange ideas. Rather than seek an entire building to fill with workers, Vazquez also adopted the practice of coworking where workspace is rented as needed. And his work in that space did not go unnoticed.
“We have been working with John and Verizon for many years,” says Karl Anoushian, senior vice president at Structure Tone. “His leadership and understanding of the entire construction process have made him an incredibly valuable and trusted partner and friend.”
Adding supply chain to the mix of his responsibilities in the past year seem like a Herculean task, but because challenges and problem-solving inspire him, he embraces his new role. His key focus will be to transform supply chain in a similar way to real estate to be more strategic.
“I want to make sure logistics are optimized and look at years down the road rather than the near term,” he says.
Some of his goals include moving supply chain to an automated platform to measure inventory levels and automatically order supplies and equipment for just-in-time-delivery to network sites, rather than ordering in bulk and holding supplies in warehouses.
Another solution he’s implemented involves finding ways to reuse old technology. His team is establishing Trademore.com as a telephone-recycling project at Verizon to buy old phones, refurbish them, and then resell them or use them internally.
“This way, we generate more income while increasing access to more devices,” he says.
He considers honesty, trust, compassion, and ethics important leadership qualities, values he saw and admired in his mentors and which he applies as a manager every day.
“You’d be surprised what people can do, given the opportunity,” he says.
Clune Construction is proud to congratulate John M. Vazquez for his feature as an exceptional leader in Hispanic Executive. John’s diverse educational background, coupled with his determination and hardworking spirit, are values that Clune holds dear. At Clune Construction, we place an emphasis on honesty and integrity. Professionals like John inspire us to produce high-quality results on every build. As a national general contractor employing more than 500 professionals and managing more than $900 million in commercial and mission-critical projects, we value our national relationship with Verizon and are proud to work with the company.
Gensler congratulates John Vazquez on this well-deserved recognition. Verizon’s mission is to give people the ability to do more in this world and to improve lives through Innovation. John and his team embody this charge “We don’t wait for the future. We build it.” Proud to be your design partner!
Jones Lang Lasalle congratulates John Vazquez on his appointment as Verizon’s global head of real estate and supply chain. John’s transformational leadership has created value, driven efficiency, and enhanced the workplace experience at Verizon. JLL is proud to be a Verizon strategic supplier and wishes John and his team continued success.