A Passion For Small Businesses

Small Business Canada


Roi Ross, VP of Small Business Mobility Solutions TELUS sat down with CanadianSME to talk about what makes someone a great leader and the impact a strong leader has a business, as well as his expert advice to entrepreneurs just starting in the business world. 

With more than 15 years of strategy consulting and industry leadership across telecommunications and technology, Roi’s global experience spans North American and Asian markets.

Known for building and leading highly-engaged entrepreneurial teams that consistently drive market growth, Roi is also passionate about how small business owners use innovative technology solutions to differentiate and scale their business.

Most recently, he was the executive sponsor of the TELUS Pitch, Canada’s largest small business contest, which is a powerful customer engagement platform designed to celebrate small business owners while investing and engaging in their future growth.

Roi lives in Toronto, ON with his wife and two sons.

Can you tell us some details about yourself, how you started with TELUS for our readers?

Over the past six years, I’ve held a number of roles at TELUS ranging from strategy, product management and marketing. Today, I lead TELUS’ Small Business Mobility Solutions group with responsibility for strategy, marketing and sales functions. Prior to that, I was a strategy consultant for more than six years in Asia, the U.S. and Canada.

Technology is quickly taking over the business industry and impacting the way entrepreneurs and employees work. What role does technology play in your daily tasks, and what impact does it have on the success of your task?

At TELUS, we believe that small businesses are a big deal. And we recognize the important role that small businesses make to the Canadian economy, and to society as a whole. And it’s because of this that we do our very best to serve and tailor our solutions to small businesses.

As it relates to technology, there’s never been a better time to start a business than today, and technology is the key enabler. It’s the great equalizer across all platforms to enable small business growth. And that’s why we fundamentally believe in the role of digital and mobility to build smart businesses. Forward-thinking business owners are building their businesses as digital and mobile-first, and TELUS wants to enable that as their technology partner.

You have more than 15 years of experience in leadership roles. In your expert opinion, what are some of the aspects and characteristics that a strong leader should have?

I think there are four key aspects and characteristics of a strong leader; number one is setting a clear vision and a strategy for the business. Number two is the intellectual curiosity to ask questions first; to challenge the status quo, and to always look for a way to do better.

Number three, which I think is really important, is the grit and the drive to carry on through the most difficult challenges. Small business is not easy, and it’s really important to have the grit to carry through despite adversity. And the last characteristic is authenticity and humility. Authenticity to be yourself, and humility to know when it’s time to change direction – this ability to change paths and not let your ego get in the way is crucial to high performance.

What do you believe is the impact of strong leadership on small businesses? How can strong leadership skills contribute to the success of a small business?

When you own a business, you are the business. A business owner is just as important as a business idea. So leadership is fundamental to the success of any business.

Setting a vision is critical; having the ability to pursue that vision is really important. And then the grit to carry through the difficult times is essential for success.

The Canadian workforce is changing, and companies are promoting new leadership skills. What do you say is the latest trend when it comes to leadership, and how do you believe it is impacting the success of Canadian SMEs?

Technology is increasingly important for the success of small businesses. While not necessarily the focal point; it’s the experience that technology enables small businesses to deliver a convenient, fast and rich customer experience to their customers. Technology really is the means to the end, and that end is being able to deliver a great customer experience. At TELUS we put the Customer First in everything we do, and we believe that we can play an essential role in helping small businesses do the same and shape their growth through the use of our mobility solutions.

How would you describe digital leadership? And do you believe it’s something that companies should be promoting?

Looking at this through a similar lens, it’s not necessarily the technology or digital leadership that small businesses should be promoting, but rather their focus on the customer and the thirst for figuring out how to create an amazing customer experience.

And that very much speaks to our approach at TELUS. Customer experience, and putting our customers first in everything we do is critical to our mission, and we believe the key to small businesses’ growth is no different, using technology to get there.

What can you tell us about TELUS pitch, and how it is helping young entrepreneurs on the path to success?

I was very excited to be the executive sponsor of the TELUS pitch this year. TELUS Pitch is Canada’s largest small business contest and I’m pleased to report that 2019 was an unbelievable success. We had nearly six thousand small businesses submit entries to participate – a significant increase over last year. Through the TELUS Pitch, we’ve been able to contribute more than$160,000 in cash and prizes to fuel the growth of Canada’s small business community.

We’ve been running this program for more than eight years, and each year our impact is greater. As Arlene Dickinson says, “winning $100,000 for a small business is like winning the lottery.”The TELUS Pitch is our platform to celebrate small businesses in Canada. It’s also a great way to play a role in their success as we get to know them better and support them through the growth of their businesses.

What would you say is the biggest struggle that SME owners face? And what are some of the programs and resources that TELUS has to help entrepreneurs overcome these challenges?

In terms of the biggest challenges SME owners have, our research suggests that access to capital takes the top spot. Capital is the fuel for a small business to propel them into growth mode. I’d add that having a support network is also really important for small business owners as they navigate through the difficulties of running a small business.

A few other challenges we’ve seen include the ability to get the word out to acquire new customers and the ability to scale and differentiate their business. At TELUS, we support many of these challenges by providing services and technology solutions but also through initiatives like the TELUS Pitch competition. Our ability to give back to this really critical community, in the form of cash prizes, mentorship and national exposure, is important not only for TELUS but also for Canada’s economy as a whole.

What advice can you give to entrepreneurs who are just starting out?

I really like a famous quote by Wayne Gretzky. He said, “You miss 100 per cent of the shots you don’t take.” So my advice is – take the shot, go for it, and put yourself out there with your new business idea. That’s one of the hardest things for a start-up – to finally make the decision to start a new business; but once they’ve taken that step forward, there is a lot of support within the SME community.

By building a network of people who can help you along the way, and putting your name and business forward for contests like the TELUS Pitch, it will enable you to hone your business pitch and value proposition. The last thing I would add is to ensure you focus on your customers, as I mentioned previously, this is something that is true to TELUS, and we believe that it should be true to every business.

Any leadership books you would like to recommend to business owners?

There are many. One that comes to mind is a book by Ram Charan called Execution: The Discipline of Getting Things Done. He talks about the role of execution but how too often we talk about big strategy, and we don’t often talk enough about the role that execution has in taking an idea and bringing it to market.

What’s your vision for Canadian SMEs? How would you describe the future of Canada’s small and medium-sized business industry? And what changes are you hoping to see implemented?

At TELUS, we recognize the important role small businesses are playing in our thriving Canadian economy. For instance, 70 per cent of all new jobs created in the private sector, over the past five years, have come from small businesses. And it’s not just that there are many of them, it’s also that these SMEs represent the diversity of our society.

We’ve seen firsthand that SMEs are not homogeneous; they are unique. One in five new immigrants is self-employed; 33 per cent of the growth in small business is from female entrepreneurs, and further, one-third of all new entrepreneurs are from the millennials generation. Small business is very representative of our demography and our future economy. In short – they’re a big deal, and small business owners deserve better. We need to recognize and celebrate them for the role that they play in the Canadian economy but also in our local communities.

We understand that if we tailor our solutions to the unique needs of small businesses, and speak to them in the language small business owners understand we differentiate ourselves in the market.

We’re continually evolving to create simple and thoughtful experiences that save entrepreneurs time and money. For example, in July, we launched three new service offerings tailored to small businesses to help simplify the experience of buying and using mobility solutions.

First, our Peace of Mind plans which provide endless data, and the peace of mind of knowing that you’ll never go into overage. They give small businesses comfort knowing what to expect on their bill every single month.

Second, we launched Easy Payment, which clearly and transparently separates the cost of the device from the mobility service cost.

We have given business owners the flexibility to decide how much they want to pay up front and how much they want to pay on a monthly basis. That flexibility is really important when managing tight budgets in a new startup.

Finally, the third, and perhaps the most important, is we’re providing multi-unit discounts to help small business owners save as they grow. We are essentially passing on the scale benefits as a small business owner grows their mobility portfolio with TELUS, while giving them more and more services along the way as they need them.

What differentiates TELUS from its competitors?

TELUS is relentlessly focused on our customers. We know that if we deliver great customer experiences, the likelihood of a small business owner to recommend us to their peers, and to their family members, is much higher. So, it’s good for business.

Also, our constant pursuit to tailor our offerings. Again, small business owners are unique, they’re not large enterprises, and they’re not consumers, so they deserve to have solutions that fit their needs. We try to leverage every opportunity to acknowledge the critical role that owners and entrepreneurs play in our economy and local communities so when we have opportunities like Small Business Month in October, we create custom deals just for them.

Finally, I’d say we are persistent in our focus on simplifying our customer’s experience. We understand that when you’re starting or building your business, you need to focus on your core business and not worry about mobility bills.

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