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Blood, Sweat And (Sometimes) Tears

Joanna Smiley

December 21, 2009

Ann Flynn, founder and president of IQ Telecom in downtown Hartford, often starts her day by repeating the words "information overload.''

IQ Telecom scrutinizes and manages the telecommunication expenses for nearly 30 other businesses.

Flynn typically begins her mornings with a two-hour conference call to the company’s 40 employees in India. Next, she responds to nearly 100 e-mails of which she receives daily.

IQ Telecom, launched in 2001, has a client list that includes corporate giant Coca-Cola. It just hit the $2 million mark on that account.

However, the company’s success didn’t happen overnight.

Flynn started IQ Telecom with savings and worked from her home for two years, until 2003. Regular revenues began funding the company in the third month of its operation, when word-of-mouth recommendations attracted physicians’ offices and the University of Hartford as customers.

“I’ve never had a sales team. All of our business has come through referrals,” Flynn said, noting that the Coca-Cola account came from a referral through her staff in India. About a year and a half later, she said she received a call from another client, Iron Mountain, telling her that if “she was good enough for Coke,” she was good enough for their company.

A defining moment for her business happened when IQ Telecom landed a Kodak account in the spring of 2002. That’s when Flynn hired her first employee.

“Sweat equity. That’s where my capital came from. You just roll up your sleeves and go,” Flynn said of how she “truly” got her business off the ground.

Flynn advises other small business owners to always watch their bottom lines and operating costs, never over promise and to make sure their company delivers.

To this day, Flynn never measures her success by big breaks. Instead, “consistent milestones” are how she sizes up her company’s growth.

And whenever her team is winding down on an assignment, she makes sure there are more projects in IQ Telecom’s pipeline.

Flynn’s career prior to IQ Telecom has taken many different routes, including heading up the switchboard operations at Saint Francis Hospital and Medical Center and working as a customer service representative for Southern New England Telephone Co.

Those experiences have contributed to Flynn’s success, she says, because they help her better understand the needs and challenges of her clients and of phone companies.

At Saint Francis, her customers were her employees and they were often so tied up doing their own jobs that they were unable to scrutinize phone bills. She saw how easy it was for mistakes to happen. From working at a phone company for 30 years, Flynn knows that there are many steps to the billing process. She has seen phone companies make errors.

“Obviously, a phone company like AT&T isn’t going to try to [annoy] a huge company like Coke. But if it’s a small customer, they’re not going to bend over backwards for you,” she said.

Honing in on the needs of smaller organizations to cut their telecommunications costs has helped grow Flynn’s business, but some top managers worry that if her business does too good a job of cost cutting, it will reflect poorly on their own performance.

“We almost worked with a very large nonprofit. Our work would have saved them 20 percent off their phone bills, but their staff member was worried. He said to us, ‘Wow, if I let you guys do this, my boss will think I’m not doing my job,’” she said.

But in recent months, with the recession taking a big bite out of revenues for small companies, cutting costs is necessary for their survival. Not long ago, an auto dealer was frantic about cutting his Internet costs. Flynn said she saved the dealer $500 a month by finding 40, dial-up modems employees were not using.

“I’m not sure if the money we save companies is saving someone’s job, unfortunately. Operating budgets and employee salaries usually come from different pools. But it’s always nice to know that you’re saving your customers money, that the blood, sweat and tears of what we do is worth it,” she said.

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Business Journal. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Business Journal Archives at http://www.hartfordbusiness.com/archives.php.
| Last update: September 25, 2012 |
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