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Meet Cindy Roma – COVID-19 innovations and changing times

Today we have selected Cindy Roma to take her interviewShe is the Co-CEO Of Telelink. (Cindy on the right, Sydney on the left) Sydney is Also the Co-CEO Of Telelink.

First of all, how are you and your team doing in these COVID-19 times?

Our team is in good spirits, we have brought on a few projects that our team is really thriving with. When our team has a greater sense of purpose behind their work it makes a world of difference. There are two words, in particular, that stand out in my mind when I think about our team: grit and resilience. When times are tough, our team shines the brightest.

Tell us about you, your career, how you founded or joined this company?

I joined Telelink over 20 years ago and I share the CEO position with my partner in crime, Sydney Ryan. Syd is the daughter of the founder of Telelink, Tom Ryan. Together the two of us are like yin and yang, we complement each other’s strengths and cover some of each other’s weaknesses. It’s not every day you see Co-CEO titles; it’s fun to be a little different from everyone else. In my 20 years with Telelink we’ve seen ups and downs like any company, but one thing I think Telelink does extremely well is learning from our “downs”. We really make an effort to reflect on tough times and take lessons away from them.

How does your company innovate?

Innovation has been the name of the game for the past 12 months, hasn’t it? Innovation is so important to us, we actually have four core values at Telelink, one of them being Continuous Improvement & Innovation. We believe innovation comes in all shapes and sizes, we try to be innovative in the services we offer, for example, we had always been a traditional call center that offered traditional answering and message taking services; about 15 years ago, a customer of ours asked if we could help book journeys for their drivers and monitor their safety. We had never done Journey Management before, but we had the kind of character on our team that we knew we could learn it and pull it off. Fast forward to the current day and we are industry leaders in Journey Management and work alone monitoring.

Beyond service innovation, we are always seeking process-driven innovations internally. We are an ISO 9001:2015 certified organization and that helps instill the culture we have built of process improvement.

How the Coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?

Like many organizations, the COVID-19 pandemic threw us a pretty big curveball in the spring of 2020. We had to pivot, change plans – and do so quickly! To say COVID-19 has thrust us into a more technologically advanced company would be an understatement. Before the pandemic, we had about 100 employees working in our call center, within 72 hours of notice of regulations being enforced to help flatten the curve, we had everyone working from home, set up on laptops, and never skipped a beat. Our team is really proud of that.

Since then, it’s been a lot of ups and downs, but overall, we’re doing really well. We have a diverse customer base and that’s been a saving grace of sorts for us. While we’ve certainly had our share of cancellations we’ve also had a year we can be proud of in terms of professional growth and brought on some amazing customers during the past year as well. In the last month, we have added 40 new members to our team to keep up with customer demands, so for us, work is going in the right direction.

Mental health is one thing that’s on everybody’s mind and is something that as a leadership team, we have to be mindful of (pardon the pun). We don’t get the chance to “run into one another” at the office and have casual conversations so easily. It’s important for us to make sure nobody slips between the cracks. Supporting and caring for one another is another of our four core values at Telelink. Living our core values has been crucial to our connectivity to one another.

Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?

There have definitely been difficult choices along the way and many lessons learned. One of the biggest lessons learned for me and our leadership team is that in unprecedented times like this you have to move fast, and sometimes when you move fast you break things. For us, and many businesses, it’s better to be proactive and break a few things along the way than to be too slow and play catch up. Covid-19 has been yet another reminder of the importance of keeping cash reserves in your business. Nothing works without cash!

We’ve tried to communicate this to our team as best we can; we know that not every decision we make is an easy one, and not always going to be understood, but I believe our team knows that we have their best interests at heart and that’s something that we genuinely act upon.

What specific tools, software, and management skills are you using to navigate this crisis?

We’ve been using Microsoft teams a lot! We use teams and really encourage everyone to turn their video on. It’s been a truly effective way of staying connected with one another and not feeling so isolated. We have a daily huddle meeting where everyone hops on teams for 15 minutes, and about once a quarter, we’ve been doing virtual parties with a few games and activities for everyone to participate in virtually. Aside from that, we have a private Telelink Facebook group where we share funny memes and some contests for our team. It’s a good alternative to Microsoft teams because it’s a place for our team to share some light-hearted fun and get to know each other “outside” of work.

As far as management skills, communication has been the name of the game. Since we lose the “watercooler talk” it’s important to start a meeting off with 5-10 minutes of informal chit-chat and making time for each one. We’re doing our best to encourage a culture where people are comfortable to raise their hand and say “I need a break” or “I’m not doing well”. It’s a constant challenge, but we are doing what we can to make resources available to help deal with the challenges of remote work.

Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?

Our competitors are all around us – because we are both traditional call center and compete in the safety monitoring industry we have more competitors than normal, but it helps keep us on our toes. We have more competitors to “keep tabs on” but in a way, that helps us stay innovative. Innovation is the name of the game for staying in the game. It’s a fast-paced world and you’ve got to keep up if you want to stay relevant.

Your Final Thoughts

A few things stand out more than others, but these are 3 very important points that I think matter the most when trying to compete during such uncertain times.

  1. Listen to your customers internally and externally
  2. Make decisions quickly, execute and move on
  3. Cash is king

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