Jill Nelson founded Ruby Receptionists in 2003 after realizing that business owners and callers alike were longing for a personal connection in a desert of impersonal customer service and robotic answering machines. The voice of small businesses, Ruby Receptionists provides personalized, live virtual receptionist services to more than 2,600 small businesses throughout North America. Serving industries from legal to technology, financial, creative services and beyond, Ruby provides its clients with exceptional “knock-your-socks-off” customer service and peace of mind that their calls are being handled promptly, professionally, and courteously.
Currently celebrating its tenth year in business, Ruby has enjoyed double-digit growth annually since it was founded, ranked as a Fastest Growing Private Company in Oregon for the past six years, and was named Fortune magazine’s #1 Best Small Company to Work for in the U.S. in 2012.
BusinessInterviews.com: How did your experience and background inspire or prepare you to launch Ruby Receptionists?
Jill: My business degree helped a lot with the nuts and bolts of starting a company, and before founding Ruby, I was a business broker and got to see what types of companies I thought worked. But most importantly, my experience as a receptionist showed me how crucial that role is in setting the tone of business relationships, and how that first impression could, when it comes down to it, win new clients.
BusinessInterviews.com: Can you talk a bit about the inspiration behind your unique “Ruby University” training program and how it helps separate you from the competition?
Jill: While of course we train new employees on how to answer the phone and use our one-of-a-kind software, we realized that the real, meaningful connections we make are what really set us apart. So when someone starts Ruby University, we don’t just dive into the mechanics of what we do. New Rubys meet in a beautiful room that personifies what Ruby’s all about; it’s filled with photos of internal parties and events we’ve had with clients, “WOW stories” – examples of ways we’ve interacted with clients that have impacted them in a meaningful way – and introduces them to our core values and their ultimate goal. Typical customer service standards simply satisfy the customer. We want to make that person’s day and hear them say, “Wow!”
BusinessInterviews.com: Can you elaborate on how Ruby can provide a great virtual service for small businesses looking to do more with less?
Jill: One of our clients described Ruby as the “gold standard,” and another said we’re the “Navy SEALs of receptionists.” We make exceptional first impressions, and clients have told us that callers have specifically hired them because their receptionist was so nice. And they had no idea that friendly receptionist wasn’t in the office! Plus, we do it all at a fraction of the cost of hiring an in-house employee.
BusinessInterviews.com: Did you set out to make Ruby Receptionists and fun and unique place to work from the start or was the culture something that evolved organically as the business grew?
Jill: The culture evolved over time; we weren’t even Ruby Receptionists when we started. We were “Worksource, Inc.,” designed to make businesses more efficient. But we were small, and we were all good friends having fun and getting through the day together. It wasn’t until later that we realized that’s actually what’s unique and special about us. Once we figured that out, we worked really hard to protect our culture and feed the fire, so to speak.
BusinessInterviews.com: When did you know it was the right time to expand?
Jill: We’ve grown every year since we opened in 2003. There was one year where we deliberately tried not to grow. We took a breather, turned off our advertising – and it resulted in our lowest growth year of 15%. No one got promoted, we didn’t get any new technology, and it was kind of stale. At that point, we knew we are a business of change. We’d rather learning, investing in technology, and improving our service for our clients. We added “Grow” as our fifth core value and never looked back.
BusinessInterviews.com: How do you plan to keep the momentum going?
Jill: We’ll keep it going through our grassroots culture: communicating to employees, “This is yours! You guys make it happen; you’re keeping us going as we get bigger. Make judgment calls, try new ideas!” We share the ultimate goal of what we’re trying to do here, and incent, inspire, and empower them to make it happen – and then my job is to get out of the way.
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