Donna Ahern talks to, Christine Cullen, managing director, CRIF Vision-net Ltd.
How would you describe your role?
CRIF Vision-net’s suite of services provides B2B and B2C checks on companies, sole traders and people, using a mix of deep data analysis, scoring and software.
This helps our customers to manage credit and compliance, while growing revenue and mitigating risk. More recently, we have taken the next step in our evolution, which is helping businesses to manage the emerging sustainability requirements.
As managing director, my job is to support and provide direction to our team across operations, sales, strategy and innovation.
I try to create an environment where people can achieve their maximum potential. If our team are engaged and fulfilled, they will help us to deliver value and excellence to our customers.
What was your first job, and what did you learn from it?
When I was in school, I worked in a garden centre at weekends.
The job involved hours transplanting tiny fragile seedlings into trays, which was very tedious and monotonous. On Sunday, we opened to the public and this is the part I really enjoyed.
I learned that it was important to look after the customer – to ensure they got the product that was the right fit for them and not just close the sale.
With this approach, we built trust, repeat business and referrals, which is what every business needs.
What do you enjoy most about your current job?
I enjoy working in a dynamic environment.
We have to continually evolve and re-shape our value proposition.
I love working with a great team of people in Vision-net. I also enjoy interacting with customers.
It helps me to understand what they need if I know the pain points in their business.
That aspect of the job is very energising, and it sparks ideas for future solutions.
Where do you see yourself in five years’ time?
I like working with businesses and people and implementing new business ideas and innovations, as well as bringing out a team’s full potential, so we shall see.
I am particularly interested in helping businesses become more sustainable and the wider area of ESG.
This is an important area that we will all hear a lot more about over the next five years.
What is your advice to people starting out in the industry?
My advice would be to absorb all you can and not be afraid to inject your own ideas.
Also, most jobs involve working with other people in some shape or form, so I think it is important to be self-aware and consider the impact that you make.
Keep an open mind. Things are always changing in business and in life, so we have to be ready to respond to new possibilities and opportunities.
What was your worst job, and what was so bad about it?
I worked for a fashion retailer in my late teens.
The shop was pretty chaotic in terms of the roster and stock, and the management team always seemed to be miserable. I noticed how toxic a negative environment can be for a business.
I didn’t stay long enough to find out what the issue was, but I always remembered the experience.
What do you think the government could do to help businesses in the current climate?
I think SMEs need more support, not just at start-up, but also in years three to five.
The research shows us that these are some of the most vulnerable years.
We know the multinational sector and our FDI is important, but we also need to support our SMEs across all sectors as they make up 80% of the companies operating in Ireland.
What three businesspeople do you most admire, and why?
Martina Fitzgerald of Scale Ireland: how she applies her decades of experience as a journalist at RTÉ to the start-up space is interesting to see; Aine Kerr of Kinzen, and formerly of Storyful: she has gone from strength to strength in the start-up space; and Breege O’Donoghue, who was with Primark for a long time and has had a great career.
What advertising campaign have you most enjoyed in recent months?
I like the Denny TV ‘Grand Dad’ advert where the couple are bringing home their new baby to the parents. The ad gives us the grandad perspective.
I like the subtle play on words, the authenticity and emotion. It hits all the right notes for me.
What was your favourite grocery brand when you were growing up?
Club Orange in the brown bottle or can – I loved the juicy bits lurking at the bottom!
Who would come to your ideal dinner party (living or dead)?
Leonardo Da Vinci – preferably alive!
What is the best piece of advice you’ve received?
Turnover for vanity, profit for sanity. My Dad was always an entrepreneur, and this was his mantra when we were growing up.
How much time do you spend on social media in an average week?
I read a lot online and on digital devices, but I don’t use social media other than LinkedIn.
I browse Instagram, but I don’t post or have an active profile.
When my kids are out, and I need to reach them, I use Snapchat.
Trying to reach them via SMS or WhatsApp is futile, but if I send a Snapchat message, I get an instant response.
With which fictional character do you most identify?
It would be the Looney Tunes Road Runner.
I always had a soft spot for the Incredible Hulk and Pink Panther too.
I’m not sure if I identify with them as such, but perhaps that’s another story.
Most likely to say ...
Least likely to say ...
Can I have that medium rare?