The best advice I every got: Cindy Roma

Written by Susanne Ruder
Cindy Roma

CEO, Telelink, The Call Centre Inc.
Calgary, AB

Xchange asks Canada’s leading businesswomen to share their most meaningful business lessons. Each issue brings you the advice that has helped shape the lives and companies of these winning businesswomen.

Cindy Roma is CEO of Telelink, The Call Centre Inc., a St. John’s, Nfld.-based call-centre service. Founded in 1966 as a traditional answering service, Telelink has grown to include multi-media call-centre communications services ranging from telephone-based customer-support services to web-based customer care. Roma and her firm have been the recipients of numerous industry and business achievement awards, including the 2002 Newfoundland and Labrador Organization of Women Entrepreneurs (NLOWE) Entrepreneur Of The Year Award, 2004 ATSI Award of Excellence and the 2004 Hospitality Newfoundland & Labrador Quality Award.

BEST ADVICE: Educate yourself about the benefits of export insurance and government trade missions.

Five years ago, Roma got a hot tip. As a newbie to exporting, she wanted to learn more about how to structure deals with U.S. customers. “Someone advised me to call Export Development Canada (EDC),” she recalls. “It was really one of the best things that ever happened to us.” Today, 40% of Telelink’s revenue comes from exports, mostly to the U.S., and Roma credits export markets for most of the company’s growth in recent years.

That first call to the EDC led to her discovery of export insurance on receivables, “a real jewel that a lot of people really aren’t educated about.” If you’re going to sell to export markets, says Roma, “you have to do due diligence on the people that you do business with, but [export insurance provides] an added sense of security in terms of getting your money and working with [foreign customers]. And the bank is thrilled that you have it, because that means if someone goes under, EDC export insurance will pay 90% of your outstanding invoices. You pay a very small premium for that kind of support.” Says Roma: “We’ve actually had to rely on it a couple of times, so it really allows us to sleep at night.”

“The other treasure that helps us export is attending trade missions,” says Roma. Since 2000, Roma has participated in four federal and provincial trade missions to the U.S. “They really give you a sense of U.S. market, a sense of self and how strong you are at selling in other markets, and how ready your product is. It’s a very small investment for a really nice test ground,” she says. Not only have the missions helped Roma nail down contracts, “They’ve helped us define where we want to sell, what strengths we bring to the U.S. market, and what we have that they’re looking for. I strongly recommend it as a way to get into exporting.”

© 2005 Susanne Ruder

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