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Executive Q&A: Oklahoma brings out the best in him, telecom veteran says

Executive Q&A: Dobson Technologies chief Frank Franzese, a New Jersey native, worked in New England, Chicago and D.C. before moving to Oklahoma in 2005.
Oklahoman Modified: March 2, 2014 at 3:00 pm •  Published: March 2, 2014

Frank Franzese gets excited when he talks about what his company — Dobson Technologies — can do for budding businesses in rural Oklahoma.

“Take Elk City, for example,” Franzese said. “Elk City is a crown jewel for us.”

With some 1,500 miles of buried fiber optic cable running through Oklahoma, Dobson, he said, can offer companies in any town it touches a suite of services — from high-speed Internet to advanced telephone products to outsourced information technology (IT) services and a hosted data center with backup and recovery.

“We cover the expense of operation and maintenance, scaling our investment over multiple companies,” he said. “Meanwhile, rural businesses get all the benefits that a large company has, but that they can’t afford.”

Dobson’s target market are firms with 10 to 75 desktops, who pay a monthly rate based on the number of computers they use.

Franzese joined Dobson eight years ago, moving from the D.C. area to lead the company’s Cellular One wireless division, which it subsequently sold to ATT in 2007.

After a few years working as a consultant for Cincinnati Bell and others, Franzese rejoined Dobson three years ago to help with the rebranding and marketing effort of its various service divisions into one technology company. In addition to commercial telephone and managed IT services, the 76-year-old, privately-held Dobson still provides landline phone service to residents of Cheyenne and McLoud and surrounding areas. The company employs roughly 100.

From his offices at 13900 N Portland, Franzese, 51, sat down with The Oklahoman on Monday to talk about his professional and personal life. This is an edited transcript:

Q. Tell us about your childhood.

A. I grew up in Morristown, N.J., where my father was a dermatologist and mom was a homemaker. I have a brother, 11/2 years older, who is a gastroenterologist and still lives in New Jersey near my parents, who are retired. I had a sister, who was seven years younger, and died of cystic fibrosis in 1990 at age 22. Her courage, fortitude and positive outlook taught me so much; namely to keep things in perspective. Growing up, I played baseball, golf and other sports, but mainly for recreation. As soon as I could, I worked — at a gas station and digging ditches to control water flow and mosquitoes. My strong work ethic comes from my dad, who didn’t get home until 7 or 7:30 every night. We waited dinner for him and ate as a family.

Q. Were your plans always to go into business and sales?

A. I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I chose Muhlenberg College in Allentown, Pa., because it was a little more than an hour away from home. When I first got out of school, I sold mutual funds for a small broker-dealer who was a friend of my father. But I was unconsciously incompetent; they don’t teach selling in school. Then, I lucked into the high-growth telecommunications industry, when Bell Atlantic Mobile Systems hired me in 1989 to sell mobile phones to small businesses in Newark and Hoboken, N.J. Then, mobile phones typically were mounted in a car or came in what looked like a brief case. When flip phones later came out, they cost $2,500 and the service ran a couple hundred or more a month, depending on use. I’d pound on doors, or take down phone numbers off the sides of vans or trucks and cold-call them later. Over the next several years, I moved from salesman to sales manager to director, based lastly in Cheshire, Conn.

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by Paula Burkes
A 1981 journalism graduate of Oklahoma State University, Paula Burkes has more than 30 years experience writing and editing award-winning material for newspapers and healthcare, educational and telecommunications institutions in Tulsa, Oklahoma...
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