Thursday 15 Dec 2016 09:00

Meet the MD: Erica Lewis of Diva Telecom

The telecoms industry has changed a lot over the years and that brings huge challenges for companies like Diva Telecom. MD Erica Lewis tells BQ how she relishes those challenges and then alleviates stress by renovating an old house in North Yorkshire...

Erica Lewis from Diva Telecom

Erica Lewis from Diva Telecom

Describe your role in no more than 100 words

In all honesty, no two days are ever the same. My week usually involves executing commercials, forming proposals with the sales team, managing supplier relationships and coordinating with each department to ensure there’s consistency and exceptional quality being executed across the entire business. Providing unrivaled, personable customer service is absolutely essential so in this I certainly take a hands on approach. Therefore, aside from managing international number accounts which is my area of expertise, I’ll be working alongside my customer service team.

What is it your company does?

Diva Telecom are experts in bespoke B2B telecoms solutions and are based in Leeds. When I first started Diva in 2006, our key offering was inbound business numbers from the UK and abroad, which come with powerful call handling solutions such as call recording, call queueing, disaster recovery and interactive voice response.

Our USP is our ability to provide international business numbers from over 100 countries globally. We also offer DivaTxt SMS which is a unique, flexible and cost-effective business tool we’ve developed in-house along with our conferencing solution, which is another core area of expertise for us.

Recently, Diva Telecom became CityFibre’s chosen Leeds service provider of Gigabit fibre business broadband. It’s been a fantastic opportunity for us given the poor connectivity options available in Leeds and the scope this offers the Leeds business community is immense.

What do you believe makes a great leader?

Ultimately, I think bravery makes a great leader. Not being afraid to make those tough decisions alone. Sometimes the judgement call rests solely on your shoulders but in my opinion there’s only one thing worse than making a potentially ‘wrong’ decision and that’s making no decision at all. I also think it’s critical to listen, get staff involved and get their opinions.

What has been your biggest challenge in your current position?

Diva reached its 10 year business anniversary in July 2016 and as soon as this benchmark arose, we witnessed massive changes. It’s been an incredibly exciting time for us but also the most challenging in terms of growing pains. Having said that, it’s an inevitable part of expansion so we must be doing something right!

How do you alleviate the stress that comes with your job?

I’ve always been keen on interior design and bought a lovely old renovation project in North Yorkshire a few years ago, which has taken up much of my spare time ever since. It also came with a very large, overgrown garden which, at first, seemed a bit overwhelming but I rose to the challenge. As a result, I now consider myself a keen gardener! I also love nothing more than spending time with family and friends.

What did you want to be when you grew up?

I always wanted to be a fashion designer – that later evolved into wanting to be an interior designer but then I realised that sometimes it’s nicer to keep some things for yourself! I’m still interested in the fashion industry and any chance I get, I’ll be getting stuck into an interior décor project whether at home or around the office. Actually, that was almost the best part of Diva moving offices – getting to decide how it should look!

Any pet hates in the work place?

Lack of passion – it’s something I just can’t abide. Enthusiasm for what you do is incredibly contagious and makes for a much more productive and fulfilling work environment. Aside from that, just the usual housekeeping lapses.

Where do you see the company in 5 years?

I don’t know – because you don’t know. The evolution of telecoms technology is so rapid that it’s impossible to say what’s going to be accessible next and when. Just take Gigabit Fibre for example, had somebody told me – five years ago – that we’d be Gigabit City Leeds’s main B2B service provider, I’d never have believed it but look at us now.

That being said, my ultimate goal for Diva Telecom is to reach top-of-mind level status across all Leeds businesses while still retaining our core values.

What advice would you give to an aspiring business leader?

Never underestimate the power of observation, don’t rush to be the first to fly. I’d much rather be the best at something than the first but being the greatest requires scrutiny, hindsight and fortitude. I can’t tell you how important that slight shift in mentality is, all of a sudden you’ll see that there is no glass ceiling and you’ll find the courage and inspiration you need to persist. Also, don’t be afraid to seek advice from experienced professionals. If you listen closely you’ll tap into a wealth of knowledge and expertise that is truly invaluable.  

Where did you start your career?

Let’s just say I’ve been in the telecoms industry for a very long time! In fact, it was so long ago that I actually started work at Post Office Telecom – before it became BT – and was there for 20 years to the day! As you can imagine, I witnessed many major changes over those years from the demise of telex, the rise and fall of fax machines, and the rise and rise of mobile communications. My first mobile was actually a transportable and the size of a briefcase… and twice as heavy!

Give us a brief timeline of your career so far

During the 20 years I spent at BT, I encountered every major change possible but none more significant than BT’s privatisation, which allowed BT to invest in its networks, products and services and really modernise the industry. I then became account manager at Kingston Communications and stayed for three years before working for COLT Telecom. I moved out of corporate when I invested in one of the UK’s first IP telephony providers. We sold the company to a major telco in 2006 and in July that year I went on to launch my own business – Diva Telecom – it’s certainly been an interesting journey so far! 

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