From Customer Service to Successful Girl Boss: Mary Rose Cadiente on Starting Her Own BPO Firm

Mary Rose Cadiente, the owner of Coefficients, shares her journey from starting out as a customer service representative to owning her own successful BPO firm.

The business process outsourcing (BPO) industry is seen as one of the fastest-growing industries here in the Philippines. From only contributing 0.075% to the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) in the year 2000, it now contributes at least 7% to our GDP

Given these numbers, many Filipinos aspire to start and build a career in the BPO industry—at times even straight out of college. Mary Rose Cadiente is one of those Filipinos. Now the owner of Coefficients, Mary Rose had to grow and build her career, rising through the ranks before a golden opportunity allowed her to transition from employee to employer.

In this exclusive interview with The Business Manual, she shares her career journey—from being a customer service representative to starting her own business, and how she did all that.

From Law to BPO

“I never imagined myself as a business owner because my dream has always been to become a lawyer,” Mary Rose admits. “But because I wasn’t born with a silver spoon, I had to take a different trajectory in life.”

Knowing that she always wanted to establish a BPO career, she eagerly entered the industry after graduating from the University of the Philippines Los Baños. Her career began as a corporate service representative before she transitioned to corporate training, leadership, and quality assurance. 

It was during the time that she was working as a Process Trainer for a Makati-based company that she saw an internal ad post that piqued her interest and served as the catalyst for her decision.

“I applied for the position of Marketing Specialist [as a business development officer], which I did not get,” Mary Rose recounts. “But the experience fired up my journey and made me realize that business development is something that I am passionate about.” 

Mary Rose Cadiente, founder of Coefficients, in business attire
When one door closes, another one opens. Despite not getting the job she wanted, Mary Rose Cadiente discovered her true calling: business development.

Opportunity in Singapore

Not getting the Marketing Specialist job only fired up Mary Rose’s hunger for growth, which led her to set her sights on Singapore—driven by her intention of trying her luck there. However, despite having the opportunity to be hired as a Client Relationship and Training Manager for a financial firm there, things did not go her way.

Why? Because her employment pass was repeatedly denied. 

All hope was not lost thanks to her sister, an engineer working in Singapore, who introduced her to the owner of an interior design company. The owner then offered Mary Rose the opportunity to start her own business with him as her first client. 

“So starting my own business was not something I had planned on doing,” she reiterates. “But opportunity knocked and I seized it to transition to entrepreneurship, form my own company, and use my experience and expertise to organically grow my own business.”

From there, Coefficients was born. 

The Start of Coefficients

Mary Rose points out that she and her husband—who is also her business partner—started with very limited capital. The couple had to pool their savings from their previous jobs, as well as what they earned from their first client in Singapore. Thankfully, her parents also helped them out by allowing them to use one of the rooms in the house to save on office rental costs. 

Coefficients initially focused on providing customer support as well as telemarketing services. “When Coefficients first began, there weren’t many BPO firms that could meet the demands of startups, who just needed one or two people to handle their work,” says Mary Rose. “Most of these clients had no choice but to work with independent contractors. It wasn’t easy to manage freelancers in the past because there weren’t many tools available to effectively oversee remote work.”

“Coefficients targeted these clients, which we call the ‘low-hanging fruits’ since we knew that approaching them has a significantly higher likelihood of success [rather] than approaching companies or other enterprises,” she adds. “With the intention of eventually converting them to long-term clients for bigger projects, we gave them a brief opportunity to try us out.”

Building relationships with her clients soon made her realize that they eventually wanted higher levels of service at cheaper costs, which led her to look for ways to make Coefficients stand out from competitors. Because of this, the company had to diversify its services.

Mary Rose Cadiente on Evolving Coefficients

“We came to understand that it’s easy to develop tunnel vision when focusing on just one or two services,” Mary Rose says of the decision to expand Coefficients’ offerings. “But in doing so, it’s easy to lose sight of what our clients really want from us: the ability to overcome obstacles and revolutionize their operations through the implementation of game-changing processes and technologies.”

“Having multiple offerings has helped us expand and reduce vulnerability. Moreover, this boosts our ability to compete more strongly in the industry,” she continues.

To date, Coefficients provides inbound and outbound voice-based services, web-based and email-based services, back-office services, website design and development, graphic designs, video editing, content creation, project management, and services related to data processing and data analytics.

Moreover, Coefficients’ evolution into a multifaceted company is not limited to expanding the list of services offered to clients. It also meant investing more resources in the company to help its growth. 

“We were buying computers and other office equipment as needed. So we were merely using what we were earning then as our working capital,” Mary Rose recounts of the early days of the company. “It was after four years that we started taking out loans to have our own office building since the team was growing then.” 

As the company grew, investments in the form of desktops, software, cloud-based tools, and other equipment were made as needed. “We make sure that we are getting the most cost-efficient ones that are right for our needs,” she adds. 

From customer sales rep to business owner: Mary Rose Cadiente, founder of Coefficients
Faced with limited working capital, Mary Rose Cadiente had to make every peso count when it came to investing in her company’s equipment. “We make sure that we are getting the most cost-efficient ones that are right for our needs,” she explains.

Of Challenges Faced and Insights Learned

Expanding their services had its fair share of challenges for Mary Rose and the rest of the company. “Offering more than one service to a client can be beneficial, but we found that doing so led to decreased productivity and quality as a result of having to spread our limited resources too thinly,” she acknowledges.

“We face difficulties in keeping up with the volume of work that has to be done, but we’ve found that investing in the training and upskilling of our employees, as well as implementing the out rotation/backfill method, has helped us manage this burden,” she adds. 

Another challenge that comes with growing the company is employee turnover, which is a result of different factors—including the maturity turnover factor. Mary Rose defines this as the time “wherein once the employees have been trained by the company, they then realize the increase in their marketability and that they can offer their services to a competitor and so, they start demanding for a higher wage.” 

To solve this, Mary Rose and her team commit to “developing proactive strategies such as creating a flexible working environment for some of them, providing them opportunities for career growth like exposing, or assigning them to other projects other than the ones that they currently handle and developing individual roadmaps for their career development.” 

“We also make sure that they are entitled to progressive and competitive basic benefits and salary,” she adds. 

How Her BPO Experience Helped Her as an Entrepreneur

One of the things that has undoubtedly helped Mary Rose weather the challenges of running a business is her experience as a BPO employee. In fact, she had learned four main takeaways that have been particularly helpful to her as she runs Coefficients. 

First of which is foresight. “This skill sets a business owner apart from an employee,” Mary Rose explains. “As the industry trains people to ensure the seamless operation of the business from our end of the world around the clock, working for the BPO industry made me develop the skill of approaching problems with an entrepreneur’s mindset and taking ownership of whatever task is given to me.”

The second is problem-solving. “A major focus of business process outsourcing is the resolution of issues,” she says. “The BPO profession was a great fit for me since it allows me to put my problem-solving skills to use while helping clients concentrate on what is really important to them—which is their business’s goal.” 

Her BPO experience also taught her to find ways to get around her weak points. “The difficulties we face individually do not, however, have to define us,” the Coefficients owner says. “We can always build a system that would make sure that you don’t cave into your weakness. My experience working for several BPOs has taught me that despite the difficulties posed by geographic and cultural barriers, we can overcome them with the use of technological solutions.”

Lastly, she also learned to take risks and adopt a growth mentality. “From my perspective as a leader, the key was resisting the urge to prove oneself right at all times. The ego is a powerful motivator, but one must be prepared to set it aside in order to make room for development.”

Advice for Aspiring Female Entrepreneurs 

Becoming an entrepreneur is easier said than done and, for women, it can be much harder due to different barriers that may deter women from advancing in their careers

“I’ve learned a lot about perseverance and growth as a female entrepreneur over the years, and there are many things I wish I’d known when I was first starting out that I can share with others,” Mary Rose shares of her experience building her career as a female entrepreneur. “Now, I’d like to pass along a few nuggets of wisdom to other female business owners, with an emphasis on those who are just getting started.”

Her first advice is to empathize with others and yourself in order to control your own and others’ feelings. “I have to admit I also made a lot of mistakes when I was starting out as an entrepreneur. I was afraid that being empathetic would be seen as my weakness,” she reveals. “But experiences taught me that compassion cannot reduce my ability to lead and be an effective leader. Instead, being an empathetic leader helps in fostering a stronger bond with my employees and the people around me.”

Next, she advises female entrepreneurs to be their own best advocates. “There will be moments in your professional life when you feel like you are fighting the good fight alone,” the Coefficients owner says. “Keeping this in mind, it’s best to tell your story the way you’d like it to be read. While honesty and modesty are essential to the finely honed art of perception, knowing how to own your story can mean the difference between surviving adversity and succumbing to it.”

Mary Rose also reminds aspiring female entrepreneurs to take care of themselves by not neglecting their own needs in favor of the needs of the company. “When I lost my first son in 2017 due to a pregnancy complication, I realized that taking care of oneself is very important,” she recalls. “When we’re healthy, everything runs more smoothly: our personal lives, those of our loved ones, and our professional endeavors. Put in some effort to keep yourself in tip-top shape physically and mentally so that you can become the best version of yourself.”

Lastly, she advises to “acknowledge your strengths and make the table better by collaborating with other women rather than competing with them.”

“The advancement of women in positions of power is hampered by unconscious bias and other cultural and systemic barriers,” she points out. “One way to overcome these challenges is to build strong relationships with other women, who can offer advice on everything from how to negotiate your worth to how to best showcase your individual strengths in a leadership role.”

What’s Next for Mary Rose and Coefficients

Armed with all the learnings and experiences from her career and journey as an entrepreneur, Mary Rose is keeping her sights firmly set ahead. In fact, she’s already looking at how a particular kind of evolving technology may impact the industry she built a career and business, such as artificial intelligence (AI)

“The BPO and service industries may be impacted by AI’s future development. Though the effects can be intimidating, I believe that human interaction is still the lifeblood of any successful enterprise,” she explains. 

“Despite the benefits that AI can provide, many people still favor a hands-on strategy,” the Coefficients owner adds. “And to remain competitive, the best way for Coefficients to adapt to the wave of ongoing change is to ensure that our team becomes more skillful and works in tandem with AI to provide better  services to our clients.” 

She may have big plans for Coefficients, but Mary Rose hasn’t forgotten to make plans and set goals for herself. “As for myself, my personal goal is to become a business coach, especially for women entrepreneurs,” Mary Rose shares. “I usually get invited to speak about entrepreneurship and I realized that aside from managing Coefficients, this is something I am passionate about—helping aspiring entrepreneurs make a difference in their lives and attain their full potential.”