VP of Tellus Small Business Solutions, Suzanne Trusdale had a chat with us to share her insights on how she got started with TELUS, the biggest challenges that business leaders are facing in 2019, and the beneficial services that TELUS offers to entrepreneurs.
Suzanne supports high performance and highly engaged teams nationally and internationally that support customers for small business solutions, including face-to-face, inside sales, outbound and retention. Suzanne also leads marketing functions including small business products, pricing, customer marketing and business intelligence.
With her results-driven and inclusive leadership style, Suzanne has a passion for seeing her teams succeed and seek out new opportunities for development. She is invested in TELUS recognition programs to develop talent that spreads throughout the organization.
She has an ongoing commitment to give back to the communities she is connected to. Suzanne has served as a board member on our Toronto Community Board for the past six years, and is actively involved in the Princess Margaret OneWalk and is passionate about the education of children and young women around the world. One of her greatest memories from a volunteer perspective was the opportunity she had to travel to Kenya with the WE organization to build a school in the Maasai Mara.” It will be an experience I will never forget.” She continues her support and commitment to diversity within our organization and has been the Global Executive Co- Chair for Connections for the past four years and also the GTA Executive Co-Chair for our Spectrum resource group.
Can you give us a brief background of your education, your career path, and how you started with TELUS?
I just celebrated 24 years as a member of the TELUS team. My educational background is not in telecommunications; it’s in business and hospitality management. I went to Ryerson University after high school. Growing up, I always wanted to have a restaurant of my own. So I went through an educational path towards that, and I went to work for one of the more prominent restaurant companies in Canada. Then, when the VP left to go work on his own, I followed him and helped him open up a couple of smaller upper-end restaurants in western Ontario. About four years later, I ended up buying one of them with a partner. By the time I was 27 years old, I had my own business and I expanded it from a restaurant into a big catering business. That was always my passion!
When the recession came in the early 90s, we made a couple of bad business decisions, and it didn’t take very long for us to spiral from great success down to having to sell the business about a year and a half later for pennies on the dollar. I was a huge believer in silver linings. As it turned out, I had the opportunity to move to Vancouver. My son had just been born, and I met someone who presented an opportunity to work at TELUS, and I took it. Originally, I never wanted to get into big corporate business; I always wanted to be my own business owner, but I really enjoy the various aspects of my role at TELUS today.
As a recipient of the TELUS CHLOE Leadership Excellence award, what do you think it takes to be an inspiring leader in the business world today?
I was much honored to be the recipient of the TELUS CHLOE award. Two years ago, I was also awarded the TELUS Champion of Diversity award and I think those two go very well together. One of the key aspects of being a successful business leader, even inside a big corporation, is to harness your entrepreneurial spirit and look for talent within and outside of the organization to bring in diverse thinking, diverse background, and diverse education. Once you combine that diversity with the passion of doing the right thing for the customer, there is unbelievable potential to achieve success.
What do you believe are the biggest challenges business leaders are facing in 2019?
A few years ago I would have said access to investment capital is the biggest challenge that leaders face.
However, today we are fortunate in Canada that access to capital is quite readily available. Now I think the biggest challenge is attracting and keeping talent. Retention, whether you are a small or big company, is very difficult. It’s essential to help employees with development, growth and progress within an organization.
How has your experience in direct sales earlier with TELUS impacted your level of success in your role with TELUS today as VP of Small Business Solutions?
It goes right back to customer experience and understanding. When you are in sales, the focus is on delivering what’s suitable for the customer at the right value (i.e. true value proposition at the right price). That idea is very clear when you are in a customer-facing role. Understanding how you take that to your team and making sure your team can articulate that to the market is critical. I still have responsibility for sales, but I also have responsibility within the rest of the value chain from product development to product marketing. We always put our customers first. As marketers and business leaders, we can make anything look great on a piece of paper, but it’s how that translates into execution for your customers.
What successful business strategies have TELUS accomplished in your 20+ year tenure with the company and how can small business owners apply those strategies to their businesses?
For the last twenty years, TELUS has had a single strategy that we’ve never veered from, and that’s bringing the best internet to Canadians at home, at work and on the go. Twenty years ago it was the move to high-speed internet – we all realized the benefit that high-speed internet brought to the consumer; and then to enable businesses. Our investments have continued to increase, especially in the West and in Quebec around our fibre footprint and the vast, substantial generational investment we’ve made in fibre. If you are a consumer, it’s going to bring the best TV to your home, the best WiFi coverage, the best wireless coverage, and the best security coverage to your home. And although the product has grown and our road to market has changed, fibre is absolutely core to our strategy and supported by providing the best possible customer experience.
Can you highlight some details about the TELUS Pitch program?
The TELUS Pitch is near and dear to my heart, and this year we’re excited to be offering a chance at $100,000 again to small businesses nationally. We assembled a great panel of judges from different parts of the industry who will help us narrow down entries to a handful of small businesses across the country. At the live finale event in Toronto on July 30, they will pitch their idea live and tell us the story of their company and what $100,000 would do to help them grow their business, either nationally or globally, like some of our past winners. I’m excited to see the ideas our contestants bring forward this year.
TELUS will also provide the winners with access to incredible marketing, advertising and promotion talent that is typically very challenging for small businesses to afford on their own. Due to the national footprint TELUS has and our presence on social media, we are able to support winners with more than just funding.
What is one take away from your experience as a judge in TELUS Pitch that can inspire young business leaders to take action?
I think it goes back to the spirit of innovation and the courage to pitch your business. Many entrepreneurs have great business ideas, and TELUS has talked to thousands of them, some just starting, others on their second or third wave of growth, either way – their journeys are all inspiring and we would not have known about them without hearing their “pitch.” Anyone with a growing business that musters the courage to come and pitch it to us is very impressive.
What are your goals for helping small businesses grow in Canada?
TELUS is a huge supporter of small businesses. TELUS Pitch is just one piece of our investment. We are also very involved in local initiatives across the country and in the Chambers of Commerce. We also work with business associations broadly such as the Real Estate Association and the Doctor Association. It’s essential for us to be able to offer great bundles of products and services to these businesses and help to make using technology a lot easier for them. TELUS brings exceptional value in the products that we take to the market and we are leaders in providing support to our customers.
TELUS has taken the huge initiative as a leading business in Canada with the new Fibre Optics Network. How do you believe this project has given TELUS a competitive advantage in the telecom market?
Our fibre network is our most significant competitive advantage. Our fibre network is now well embedded into more than 110 communities across Alberta, BC and Quebec and we will continue to build and grow at an accelerated pace for 2019 and into 2020. Fibre will become the foundational service for both consumers and businesses because there is nothing faster, more superior, more ecological, or sustainable than fiber optics technology. The fiber network will support all new technologies that we know are coming in the next couple of years but more importantly, all the technology we don’t even know about yet.
TELUS offers several services to help business owners develop and grow their business. Can you talk about some of those services and how they can be beneficial for entrepreneurs?
Entrepreneurs need and value the flexibility to be able to work when, where and how they choose. Wireless and mobile services are incredibly important for entrepreneurs because most of them are not necessarily working out of a brick and mortar office, or if they do, it’s likely in a shared work environment. Smartphones are the ultimate tool to support everything that an entrepreneur does. We have some tremendous cloud-based voice applications which also allow small businesses and entrepreneurs to look bigger than they are, giving them the flexibility and capability of wired services but available on their smartphone. If you are in western Canada or Quebec, fibre-based services are an excellent feature, and wireless and voice applications are critical.
How is TELUS impacting and developing small businesses differently than their competition?
TELUS’ maniacal focus on customers and our core value of giving back are key. It has been and will continue to be, a real game changer for us because our team members, and our customers, expect us to do the right thing in the communities where we live, work and serve.
As the Global co-chair for Connections, the professional development group for women at TELUS, how have you seen women rise up into leadership roles and gain success in business development?
I’ve seen a tremendous amount of change over the last twenty years that I’ve been in corporate Canada. TELUS has done an excellent job to stand behind our belief and support of diversity. I have always been very passionate about the role and the impact that women make within an organization and I think that women walk the talk and bring a different perspective to the table. And while gender is part of diversity, we consider diversity a far bigger spectrum. At TELUS, we make sure that we reflect the customers that we serve and I’m incredibly proud of the work that we’ve done. It’s exciting to see how we leverage diversity and incorporate it into the absolute fabric of all of our decision making, and the way we behave as a team and interact with one another. We aspire to incorporate higher levels of diversity including more women’s voices within the organization.
What is your advice to women who want to be entrepreneurs?
Women entrepreneurs must have the courage to stand behind their beliefs, and have their voices heard. Don’t be afraid to ask for the help you need, you’d be incredibly surprised at how many people want to listen and help. It’s interesting to see the shift of women coming into small businesses; perhaps they are leaving corporate jobs and entering into something that allows them to get a better balance with family. Alternatively, maybe they have always had the dream of doing something on their own, and they are now at a different stage in their careers and they can take all their knowledge and experience, and go out and do something that they have always wanted to do. Both way, be courageous and stand behind your vision.
What continues to inspire you in your high-level leadership in business and community?
For me, my values and my corporate values are very much aligned and I feel fortunate to have a role that supports both. I’ve also been lucky in being able to take my experience and passion for small businesses, having been a small business owner myself, and translate that into leading teams that support our small business community across Canada. I also support teams globally, and we have a tremendous amount of work going on in communities especially in the Philippines, Guatemala, El Salvador, Ireland, etc. to support small businesses which is exciting.
What is a piece of advice that you would like to give to Canadian small business owners?
It is essential to understand your strategy, and laying down a plan to stays focused on that strategy. A small business owner is not just the owner, but quite often they take on many roles within their business. I always say “beware of the tyranny of the urgent.” Perhaps a fire comes up and they’re caught off guard, or the market dynamics shift, or maybe they see a competitor do something a little differently – the focus is drawn away from the core strategy. As a business owner, you must have a very clear vision of where you see your business moving forward in order to achieve success.