Christine Telyan Of UENI On How To Use Digital Transformation To Take Your Company To The Next Level

An Interview With Cynthia Corsetti

Improve Online Visibility: Ensure your business is easily found online with SEO and local listings. For example, many of our clients have seen significant traffic increases just by optimizing their business information on different platforms online.

Digital transformation has become a crucial component for businesses striving to stay competitive and relevant in today’s rapidly evolving landscape. As technology continues to shape industries and redefine business models, companies must adapt and leverage digital tools and strategies to unlock new opportunities for growth and innovation. In this interview series, we aim to explore various aspects of digital transformation, including best practices, challenges, success stories, and expert insights. We are talking to thought leaders, industry experts, entrepreneurs, technology innovators, and executives who have firsthand experience in driving digital transformation initiatives within their organizations. As part of this series, we had the pleasure of interviewing Christine Telyan.

Previously an oil trader, Christine Telyan is a graduate of Harvard College, the London School of Economics, and Harvard Business School. She co-founded UENI to help millions of small businesses compete online. Her team gets solo entrepreneurs and micro businesses online quickly, easily, and at a low cost.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series. Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?

The idea for UENI came to life during a weekend in 2014 with my co-founder Anh. We got on the subject of how structured information online for practical, day-to-day needs is incredibly valuable but surprisingly rare. Common search queries for local services just weren’t coming up with many useful results. This idea struck home when I saw my physiotherapist still using a physical appointment book (she didn’t take bookings online), and Anh struggled to find a dentist open on a Monday. We realized that many small businesses were missing out on the benefits of being online, and that’s how UENI was born — to help these businesses get discovered.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘takeaways’ you learned from that?

One of the funniest mistakes we made early on was assuming that the number one thing small businesses wanted was “more clients.” We started delivering leads to local service providers but soon noticed that they weren’t picking up the phone. It was initially puzzling — here we were, sending them potential business, and they weren’t responding!

We quickly discovered that while these businesses did want more business, they were often overwhelmed by the sudden influx and didn’t have the systems in place to handle the leads effectively. They needed a more manageable way to receive and follow up on these leads.

The lesson? Understand your customer’s needs beyond the surface level. We realized we had to tweak our approach to deliver value in a way that was practical and useful for these small businesses. We started offering tools and support to help them manage their leads, ensuring they could convert these opportunities into actual clients.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful for who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

Absolutely, I owe a lot to my co-founder Anh. His relentless passion for how technology can positively impact lives and businesses was the spark that ignited UENI. He also gave me that confidence that because I was not an engineer, I could use that to my advantage to focus on customer needs and drive simplified technological solutions. Without his initial inspiration and ongoing support, UENI wouldn’t be what it is today.

Is there a particular book, podcast, or film that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

One book that impacted me early on is “Zero to One” by Peter Thiel. The concept of creating something fundamentally new, rather than just improving on existing ideas, resonated deeply with me. It inspired me to think differently about how we could address the visibility issues small businesses face. Tech companies typically build purely technical solutions and scale those. Because we wanted to serve the smallest businesses, we set out to be a tech platform to scale our service while charging a price any small business could afford. We wouldn’t just create a website toolkit; we’d build the website, manage the website, and provide a hands-on, tailored growth marketing program for a small fraction of the price business owners usually pay. And we’d organize our technology and processes to be able to serve hundreds of thousands of business owners. Instead of giving them a self-serve platform and leaving them to figure it out, we would help ensure their digital success. It was a radical departure from the low-touch Saas world.

Are you working on any new, exciting projects now? How do you think that might help people?

Yes, we’re excited to announce a new feature aimed at helping small businesses manage their calendar and appointments more effectively. Based on a study UENI recently released, we found that microbusiness owners spend a significant amount of their time on administrative tasks, which can be a major drain on their productivity. Our enhanced calendar and appointment management system will help businesses streamline these tasks, allowing them to book, reschedule, and manage appointments more seamlessly. We also have some new content-generation tools nearly ready for launch that will enable us to provide even more rich, relevant SEO copy for our customer websites — improving the sites’ performance on search results and also providing more value to website visitors. Our customers are experts in their fields; we want the websites to do the best job possible showcasing that knowledge.

Thank you for all that. Let’s now turn to the main focus of our discussion about Digital Transformation. Digital transformation can mean many things to many people, from your perspective, how do you define digital transformation in your industry?

In our industry, digital transformation means empowering small businesses to fully leverage the internet to reach their customers. It’s about more than just having a website; it involves using digital tools and platforms to enhance visibility, streamline operations, and provide a seamless customer experience.

Which companies can most benefit from a Digital Transformation?

Small and micro businesses stand to benefit the most from digital transformation. These businesses often lack the resources and expertise to compete online. By adopting digital tools, they can improve their visibility, engage more effectively with customers, and operate more efficiently.

Has integrating Digital Transformation been a challenging process for some companies? What are the challenges? How do you help resolve them?

Absolutely, integrating Digital Transformation can be challenging for many small businesses. The biggest hurdle is often the initial learning curve and the perceived complexity of digital tools. Many small business owners are experts in their field but not necessarily in digital technology. Unlike the usual DIY platforms that are complex and leave you to do all the work, UENI is a “done for you” service. We build the website, set up their online presence, and provide ongoing marketing support. This comprehensive approach ensures that businesses don’t just get online but thrive online. We take care of the technical details, allowing business owners to focus on what they do best — running their business. Our personalized support and easy-to-use tools make the digital transformation process smooth and accessible.

Based on your experience and success, what are “Five Ways a Company Can Use Digital Transformation To Take It To The Next Level”?

  1. Improve Online Visibility: Ensure your business is easily found online with SEO and local listings. For example, many of our clients have seen significant traffic increases just by optimizing their business information on different platforms online.
  2. Streamline Operations: Use digital tools to automate repetitive tasks. For example, switching to an online booking system can save dozens of hours every week.
  3. Enhance Customer Experience: Implement features like live chat and mobile optimization to make it easy for customers to interact with you. A restaurant we worked with saw a 20% increase in reservations after adding online booking.
  4. Leverage Data: Use analytics to understand customer behavior and preferences. This helps in making informed decisions. A retail client used our analytics tools to identify best-selling products and adjust their inventory accordingly, reducing waste and managing working capital more efficiently.
  5. Combine Online & Offline Marketing Efforts: Local businesses can partner up with complementary local businesses to create cross-promotional offers and grow their customer base together online and offline. We had a great example of this with a local pilates studio and a nearby spa that promoted each other on Instagram. They engaged a local beauty influencer by offering her complementary services, and she created a buzz about both businesses, which eventually led to local news coverage. Both businesses used email marketing to cultivate the leads that they received on their websites and social media, ultimately driving 30–50% new customer acquisition and sustained repeat business. They use their websites to efficiently capture new customer inquiries and bookings 24/7.

In your opinion, how can companies best create a “culture of innovation” in order to create new competitive advantages?

I really like one idea that Will Guidara talks about in his fantastic book, Unreasonable Hospitality. You need to empower your people by making them owners. Not just making them “go-to people”, but ultimately the people responsible for specific parts of the business where they can be mini CEOs and drive outcomes. “Management” always has too much on their plate; there are so many areas for value creation, and middle and senior managers must be ruthlessly selective in their priorities. But what about the rest of the organization? Maybe you have some more junior employees who traditionally would not rise to a leadership or management role for a couple of years or more. But these same people often have boundless energy and individual strengths that make them ripe for tackling a specific opportunity or challenge that their skills might be well suited to handle. Make these motivated team members owners and see how much more quickly your business can improve. Ownership means you need to think end-to-end about a subject and be responsible for results. Doing this removes sacred cows in the business and clears the deck for proper innovation. It also has the tremendous benefit of cultivating leaders faster and more prominently than you otherwise would.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: It is the courage to continue that counts.” — Winston Churchill. This quote resonates with me because the journey of building anything great, and UENI continues to be a great project, is filled with ups and downs. It’s the persistence and determination to keep moving forward that ultimately decides how much impact UENI will have on small businesses.

How can our readers further follow your work?

I’d love to chat and exchange ideas on how to help small businesses thrive.

LinkedIn: @Christine Telyan

UENI LinkedIn: @UENI

UENI Website:

Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!

About the Interviewer: Cynthia Corsetti is an esteemed executive coach with over two decades in corporate leadership and 11 years in executive coaching. Author of the upcoming book, “Dark Drivers,” she guides high-performing professionals and Fortune 500 firms to recognize and manage underlying influences affecting their leadership. Beyond individual coaching, Cynthia offers a 6-month executive transition program and partners with organizations to nurture the next wave of leadership excellence.