Filmmaker, chief creative officer, agency leader… Like many business owners, Nathan Wilson of Portland, Oregon-based creative studio The Narrative balances multiple roles and responsibilities on a daily basis.

We sat down with Nathan to find out how he manages all that while remaining creative and agile, keeping his team engaged, and ensuring clients are happy.

Read the interview

Matt Lurie: Hey everyone, I’m Matt Lurie, Content Strategist here at Ruby. And today I’m sitting down with Nathan Wilson of The Narrative. I’m looking forward to talking with you, Nathan.

Nathan Wilson:
I’m looking forward to talking with you too. Hi, Matt.

Matt Lurie:
Hey, so first things first, can you tell me a bit about yourself and what your business does?

Nathan Wilson:
Absolutely, so like you said, my name is Nathan Wilson and I am a founder and partner at The Narrative, which is a creative agency based here in Portland, Oregon. We mainly focus on video content and production. We have a dispersed model, I guess you would call it, where instead of having a bunch of creatives on staff full-time, we have a stable of freelancers that we regularly work with, so we can scale to kind of any project need. And also, that brings our overhead costs down significantly. And we’re able to achieve similar results to traditional agencies for like typically around half their cost.

Matt Lurie:
I think what’s interesting about this kind of model is that when you have full-time employees, it’s a little easier to, or it’s thought of as traditionally easier to grow your business. And to basically say like, you know, we’re going from three people, to 15 people, to a hundred people. And when you’re working with a group of people who have independent contractor status, it’s like this person’s going to work with us for a period of time, but then things might soften a little bit, you know, they might have other projects. What do you sort of think of as the trajectory of your business and how do you make sure that the people who are on your team really feel connected to that team?

Nathan Wilson:
Yeah, connecting with the team is really important, especially when most of our workforce are freelancers. So, many ways that we get them, and some ways that we get them involved would be just transparency, including them kind of in every step of the process from our pitch through to delivery, just kind of making sure that they’re looped in and, you know, the communication is open and a two-way street and they feel comfortable with that.

The other good thing about working with freelancers is that they have a number of other clients that they’re working for. We’re not the only agency that they’re working for. So, when things slack off from us, you know, they can go and pick it up at at other places and are able to supplement. And we found that we have this stable of freelancers that we work with that love working with us because they like what we work on, they know they trust us, they have the trust that we’ve built up over these years and they just know what they’re gonna get when they come and work for us. So, I think they enjoy that.

Matt Lurie:
Excellent. Let’s talk about your clients a bit, and managing those relationships, and also the uncertainty of, where the next project is coming from? Or, how long a relationship is going to last? I know clients often come with high expectations and dollar amounts, can you talk about developing and managing those relationships?

Nathan Wilson
As a creative, first and foremost, I would rather not deal with any of the business side of things, but I do have to say that developing and managing client relationships is the most important thing that we do. Finding and obtaining a new client is so much more expensive than maintaining an existing one, so we want to do everything that we can to ensure that our clients have the best experience possible working with us, especially with the plethora of excellent alternatives that they have the option of going to in our local market here.

For my partner and I, there have always been a few core values that guide us, right? First among those would be honesty, you know, telling the truth about our capabilities, about our experience, about our excitement for working for a particular brand. You know, when you’re not genuine, people can sniff that out right away.

Second is integrity. Just the vast majority of our new clients come through referrals. Our reputation is everything. Building trust with clients by doing what we said we would do, on time, on budget, the high level that they are expecting is incredibly important to us.

And then finally, transparency. That’s really key for our market. With our clients, with our contractors, it’s vitally important that we all feel that we are on the same team, like we were just talking about. So, when it comes to budgets, or setbacks, issues, whatever, we try and be a completely open book. We like to include everyone in those key discussions so that they feel empowered and listened to, and, you know, part of the process, so. That’s really important.

At the end of the day, I think the attitude that has carried us this far is that we care more about the satisfaction of our clients than we do about our bottom line. And because we believe that if we take care of our clients first, the bottom line takes care of itself.

Matt Lurie:
What kind of experience and service standards do your clients expect?

Nathan Wilson
Typically, our clients have very high standards for the level of service that they receive from us. They’re paying a premium for a premium service. Naturally there are expectations that go along with that. And so, we do our best to set the bar right from the get-go. Besides being able to craft next level products and having highly original and provocative ideas, communication is really where our service shines, I think. From being available by phone, email, or texts 24/7, our clients can expect an immediate response and action on any question, or feedback, or comment, or concern, or whatever they have. When that open and immediate dialogue is neglected, you know, that tension can definitely be felt and it tends to have a negative, cascading effect. We do everything in our power to avoid that.

Matt Lurie:
How do those relationships change over time as clients get to know you more?

Nathan Wilson:
For us, most of our new clients are not familiar with the process of making high-end digital marketing content. Many times, it’s their first time, if not making video, then it’s their first time working on that kind of a level. Often, it’s much more expensive, and involved, and time-consuming than they originally anticipate so educating them on our process is a delicate, ongoing task. As we work together over multiple projects, we’re able to both acclimate to one another’s workflow, and each job becomes easier and more efficient, expectations are solidified. And, you know, the communication just comes naturally, as we gradually start speaking the same language. Then you can build that rapport and they know what they’re getting, you know what you’re getting, and it just becomes sort of a shorthand between you and it’s great.

Matt Lurie:
Totally, returning customers—and new friends!

Nathan Wilson:
Yeah, for sure.

Matt Lurie:
So, what do you wish people knew about the work that you do?

Nathan Wilson:
I guess I’d like the people to know that it takes a lot more time and effort than they might think it does. When that call or email comes through, I have to have the flexibility to drop whatever I’m doing, switch hats and give this person my undivided attention because that conversation might be the difference between landing a six-figure campaign or not. It can be a super high pressure job, but it’s also what makes it so interesting and rewarding.

Matt Lurie:
Well, Nathan, thank you so much for talking with me today. I really appreciate your time, where can people find you?

Nathan Wilson:
You can find us online at thenarrative.media, that’s our website. Also, Instagram, everywhere else @thenarrativeworkshop. You can find me personally, I sometimes post on Instagram @natecwilson. Those would be the places.

Matt Lurie:
Cool, well, thanks so much.

Nathan Wilson:
Of course, thank you.

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How to make your voice sound better

Reading time:
Illustration of a woman with a lovely voice speaking

I get a lot of compliments on my voice. People tell me it sounds warm and inviting, authoritative but not imposing. They say I have a voice for radio (hopefully that doesn’t mean I have a face for radio, too). As a matter of fact, I used to host a couple radio shows in college. So, I suppose I have some advice to offer about how to make your voice sound better.

Personally, though, I can’t stand the sound of my own voice. I cringe every time I hear a recording of it. I wonder if even someone like Viola Davis or Sam Elliott feels the same way about the million-dollar-worthy sounds that come out of their mouth. After all, humans seem to have a natural inclination to dislike our own voices.

There lies the first step to making your voice sound better: remember that it doesn’t sound as bad as you think. You’re the harshest critic of your own voice. Other people almost certainly like it more than you do, assuming they think about it at all (which they probably don’t).

But maybe acceptance doesn’t cut it for you. Maybe you’re interested in polishing those pipes; in making your voice sound more attractive, more commanding, more persuasive. Maybe you lead tons of meetings, give presentations often, need to record professional-sounding voiceover, or find yourself in conversations thinking, I wish this person was paying more attention to me.

Whatever the case, you’re here to learn how to make your voice sound better. And as a virtual receptionist company—a team of vocal experts who converse, comfort, and convince all day—we here at Ruby are happy to help.

Let’s get to it. Feel free to read this article top to bottom, or jump to a tip using the table of contents below.

Table of Contents

Why does the sound of your voice matter?

Your voice is like your physical appearance or, um, your odor: it’s intrinsic to other people’s immediate sensory perceptions of you. It’s a core element of who you are and how others experience your existence. Before people hear what you say, they hear how you say it.

And your voice might not just be a reflection of you. If you run a business, your voice is your business’s voice. It’s the voice people hear when they call your company, or the voice your team members may emulate when representing your brand. 

As the leader of your business, you use your voice to: 

  • Make decisions
  • Convert callers into buyers
  • Create trust with existing and potential customers or clients
  • Negotiate
  • Communicate expectations
  • Provide feedback
  • Exude positive energy
  • Teach others

…And so much more.

In short, the quality of your voice helps you communicate more effectively. No surprise there. But unfortunately, we’re not all born with the same vocal faculties. While some people possess powerful speaking voices with little training, others need to learn, practice, and overcome ingrained speaking habits to get there.

Developing a "business voice"

If you engage in public speaking events, interviews, videos, or podcasts, your voice quality is especially important to the success of your marketing, sales, and awareness efforts. It’s one reason many business leaders develop a business voice (not a brand voice, although the two can be related)—a different voice than the one they use at home.

Here are a few more reasons why you might want your voice to sound different in a business setting:

  • Sound more professional.
  • Protect your vocal cords (if you do a lot of talking).
  • Project your voice better in meetings and presentations.
  • Attract attention.
  • Exude confidence. 
  • Be heard more clearly. 

So, how do you develop that voice?

Before we jump into tips and tricks for improving your voice, remember that what makes for a good voice is truly, truly subjective. Everyone’s voice is different. Your speaking voice is your voice. These tips are meant to help you feel proud of that voice, own it, and make the most of it.

Alright, enough preamble. Here are some practical ways to make your voice sound better:

Tips for making your voice sound better

1. Get to know your voice by listening to recordings of yourself.

Again, keep in mind it’s normal to dislike the sound of your own voice. The way a voice sounds in the speaker’s ear is always different from the way a recording picks up that voice—it’s a consequence of biology.

To improve the sound of your voice, you’ll need to face the displeasure head-on and listen to a recording (or several) of yourself. What you’ll hear will likely surprise or upset you. You might grimace and feel the need to turn off the recording.

Don’t turn it off. Keep listening. Listen all the way through. Then listen to it again. And again. Play it until you get used to it, until you can lip-sync to yourself.

We’re talking about exposure therapy, and it’s the only way to get over the aversion of listening to your own voice—which is the first step to understanding, and thereby improving, your voice. (It helps to keep your mind occupied while you do this, so you’re not focusing entirely on how uncomfortable you feel. Talk a walk, clean your bathroom, or do a crossword puzzle.)

I have personal experience here. I’ve had to record voiceover for videos and then listen to those recordings for hours as I edited the videos together. Many content creators have dealt with the same agony. It’s a trial by pitchy, awkward, voice-cracking fire, but after the first few listening rounds, you get used to it. And that’s when you can start hearing your voice from a more objective position.

2. Note what you do and don’t like about your voice.

Once you’ve become inured to the sound of your own voice, start thinking about what you do well and where you feel you could improve.

Take note of your tone and delivery. What emotions does your voice convey? How understandable are you?

A few qualities to listen for when listening to your voice:

  • Your enunciation: Do you finish all of your words and pronounce all of your letter sounds? 
  • Your speaking tempo: Do you talk too fast or too slow?
  • What happens when you try to project your voice: Does your voice falter or suddenly transition to a higher or lower vocal register? This could be a sign you’re not using the right muscles to speak, and you should practice speaking from your diaphragm.
  • Your auditory tone: Is your voice high, low, or in the middle? Does it change and fluctuate as you speak? Is it even, all over the place, or—dare I say—monotone?
  • Your emotional tone: Does the pitch of your voice match the content of your words? Does it seem authentic? Do you sound friendly, cheery, and upbeat? How about fearful and unsure? Or angry, or overconfident, or sarcastic?

To broaden your understanding even further, play the recording at different speeds, such as 1.25x and 0.75x, and evaluate whether the same tone and vocal phenomena come through. Play it quietly and loudly. The most effective voices are comprehensible and emotionally resonant at different speeds and volumes.

3. Slow down and speak deliberately.

Many of us—particularly those of us sensitive about our voices—tend to speak too quickly. This only makes us feel more self-conscious, however, and hinders others’ understanding of and engagement with what we’re trying to say.

If you’re not sure if you talk too fast, pay attention to other people’s reactions. If people ask you to repeat yourself often, you might need to slow down. 

In any case, anyone who wants to make their voice sound better can improve by practicing speaking slower. Slowing down helps you breathe deeply, enunciate, and more thoughtfully consider what you’re trying to say.

Note that “slow” doesn’t mean plodding and tedious, t a l k i n g  l i k e  t h i s or liiiike thiiiiiisss. Think of it as talking deliberately, using the sound and rhythm of language to communicate better.

As a matter of fact, one powerful—and fun—way to practice enunciation and modulation is to learn a hip-hop verse and rap along to it. (I like the old-school jams, myself.) You’ll find that a typical verse is carefully constructed and delivered—it forces you to use all of your mouth muscles and enunciate all your words and letter sounds.

Try taking these four lines for a spin—go ahead, say them out loud:

I want to rock right now
I'm Rob Base and I came to get down
I'm not internationally known
But I'm known to rock the microphone

Feels a little like a workout, doesn’t it? Like any form of exercise, it can hard at first, but eventually you’ll build up endurance and deliberate speaking will come more automatically, especially in professional contexts. 

4. Drink water.

As if you needed another reason to hydrate, water keeps your throat and vocal cords nice and lubricated. That means a smoother sound and easier speaking experience. Make sure to eat well and keep your electrolytes up, too, for maximum energy and endurance.

5. Be mindful of your body.

Your voice arises from your entire body, not just your mouth or throat. I’m talking about your diaphragm, your stomach, your spine, your nose, and—perhaps most importantly—your brain. Be mindful of your posture, breathing, eating habits, and emotional state, as all factors influence how your voice sounds.

To optimize the sound of your voice through physical means, do the following:

  • Breathe from your diaphragm. Breathing more deeply while speaking can help you protect your vocal cords from strain and embody a richer, more consistent speaking tone. An easy way to practice breathing from your diaphragm is to practice breathing from your belly rather than your chest or nose. The trick is to try and not to move your chest muscles too much while breathing.
  • Sit or stand up straight. Poor posture affects your voice in numerous ways, such as putting strain on your larynx and throat muscles, constricting your jaw, and causing breathing difficulties that reduce your vocal endurance. Engaging your core, extending your neck, and relaxing your shoulders can fix posture-related speaking problems—and make you feel (and sound) more confident.
  • Think about what you ingest. What you eat, drink, and breathe in matters. Smoking can negatively affect your voice, and believe it or not, so can digestive problems such as acid reflux. According to WebMD: “Stomach acid can irritate your vocal cords, throat, and esophagus. This leads to a hoarse voice, wheezing, and too much mucus in your throat.”

Record yourself speaking normally (“Hi, my name is…”), then record yourself saying the same words with a big smile (think 😃 big, not 🤡 big) on your face. Listen to the recordings back-to-back. Notice anything? Your smile comes through in how your voice sounds!

Remember that you have to use muscles to use your voice, and exerting those muscles too hard can lead to injuries. Take breaks and don’t overdo it.

6. Listen carefully to other voices you like.

Where better to get some inspiration for creating your business voice than to listen to your favorite voices?

Podcasts, books on tape, and even TikTok are great opportunities to listen to and learn from people using their professional voices. Listen to how Phoebe Judge says, “this is Criminal,” or how an audiobook narrator says, “Call me Ishmael.” People stretch, twist, clip, raise, and lower their voices, often in unexpected ways.

Music is bursting with examples, too. You probably can’t match Freddie Mercury’s vocal chops (and if you can, you probably aren’t reading this article), but listen to his choices: when he decides to belt versus when he sings softly and intimately. That kind of control is a skill anyone can practice and master.

Try mimicking the voices you like. Work on an impression or two—push your voice to take on a tone, volume, or accent you normally wouldn’t use. Have fun with it. You’ll start adding new devices to your vocal toolbelt.

7. Invest in high-quality equipment.

The equipment you use to make your voice heard makes a serious difference. From your phone to your computer microphone, the devices picking up your voice can vary significantly in terms of quality. 

If you engage in video meetings, phone calls, or record yourself for social media, having high-quality equipment will make your voice sound better to your customers. Spending a bit of extra money on audio equipment for your business will help you project the most professional voice possible. 

If you spend a lot of time on the road, make sure you have a working cell phone and earbuds or a headset with a decent microphone, so nobody misses anything you say during your calls. 

8. Warm up your mouth and vocal cords.

Red leather, yellow leather.
Unique New York. 
Betty Botter bought a bit of butter.

Professional actors and vocal artists practice those silly phrases for a reason. Warm-ups are an essential step in speaking well and sounding good. You spend hours preparing for an important meeting or presentation, so don’t let a tired, squeaky voice ruin the show.

Give yourself a few minutes to warm up your voice before getting to your appointment. Singing in the car on your way to work is a great way to accomplish voice warm-ups and reduce those pre-meeting jitters simultaneously. Don’t forget to remind yourself of all of the voice tips you’ve been practicing. 

9. Practice your timing.

There are a lot of things going on in your head during a public speaking event. Wait time, or adding pauses to what you’re saying, can help you and your listeners whether you’re in a small five-person meeting or presenting to a larger group. Pausing between ideas can help you slow down your train of thought and help others process what you’re saying. 

Well-placed breaks can also help you add to your presentation. Pausing in the middle of a sentence can help you emphasize what you are about to say by getting people’s attention. During your practice sessions, play around with pauses while speaking and see how it feels. Just be sure not to wait too much. Overusing any of these techniques might make you sound robotic or inauthentic. 

10. Ask for help and feedback.

If you find that you’re struggling with your speaking voice, there is nothing wrong with enlisting the help of a voice coach. Just because you aren’t a paid actor or singer doesn’t mean you can’t benefit from training. 

A voice coach can give you actionable tips and practice sessions to help you create the perfect business voice. (And who knows, those lessons could also give you an edge the next time you join your friends for karaoke night.)

Speaking of friends, your friends and family are also great resources you can turn to when creating your business voice. If you have any teachers or parents in your inner circle, ask them how they developed their “teacher voice” or “parent voice.” You might be surprised to find that teachers and parents both work to create a voice that gives them authority and allows them to project without yelling. Don’t be afraid to ask people for feedback, as well!

11. Be kind to yourself.

This is the most important step. You can practice and hone your voice, but you can’t fundamentally transform who you are or what you sound like. Nor should you. Your voice is part of what makes you, you.

Remind yourself you’re worthy of love. Your voice, however “imperfect,” is beautiful. Try to let go of your insecurities and step into your voice from a place of kindness and curiosity.

Keep in mind that you’re not trying to change your voice completely. Instead, think of it as improving your natural speaking voice to help you communicate more effectively. The bottom line here is you are looking for a way to communicate better and be heard more clearly in a business context. Fortunately, you don’t need the speaking voice of James Earl Jones or Meryl Streep to accomplish that. 

After you’ve keyed in on some ways to improve your voice, make sure you re-record yourself after practicing. Hearing your voice improve with practice can go a long way in boosting your self-confidence. 

Finally, remember that listening is the most important skill you can have when communicating with a customer, client, employee, or any audience member. People don’t really care what you sound like—but they do care about being heard.

For more communication tips and ideas to make better connections with the people you serve, check out our Small Business Hub.

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Rebecca Flanagan gets a lot of calls. As a sought-after estate administration attorney—someone who helps people manage legal affairs after a loved one’s death—she has to balance multiple (often emotionally intense) conversations at any given time. With Ruby, Rebecca can rest easy knowing the people who contact her law firm, Flanagan Legal Services, are receiving the same kind of responsive, compassionate care she’s built her business delivering.

Learn how Ruby serves as an extension of Rebecca’s firm, letting her focus on her work when she’s on the clock—and enjoy her time with her family when she logs off.

Ready to take your law firm to the next level? Learn about Ruby’s legal virtual receptionist solutions and answering services.

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Coopetition is one of those business concepts that seems a little absurd at first glance.

“Partner with a competitor? Why—so I can lose my business?”

That’s an understandable first reaction. But hear me out: coopetition can work to your advantage. It can…

  • boost your business
  • lower your costs
  • increase your organizational resources
  • expand your network
    and
  • make your customers’ or clients’ lives easier.

It can even be kinda, sorta… fun. Really.

Whether you’ve been considering partnering with a competitor or are new to the idea (in which case you probably look like this), here’s everything you need to know about coopetition.

Coopetition definition and examples

First of all: What, exactly, is coopetition?

Coopetition refers to any collaboration between two or more similar business entities—typically competitors or seeming competitors. What makes coopetition different from conventional cooperation is the fact that the organizations working together are selling products or services to the same audience.

The term coopetition is a mashup (or portmanteau, if you’re feeling French) of competition and cooperation. It originated in the work of Barry Nalebuff, a professor at Yale School of Management, and Adam M. Brandenburger, a professor at NYU Stern School of Business. The two observed the trend in the 1990s, and noticed it was especially prominent among tech companies. Two businesses—often a hardware company and software company—would team up to create a product that appealed to consumers and expanded the market share of both companies. After studying multiple examples, Nalebuff and Brandenburger wrote a book entitled Co-opetition in 1996. The book details these types of partnerships between businesses in a variety of sectors, from car manufacturers to software and hardware designers. 

You don’t need to look far for examples of coopetition in action. In fact, you might be holding one in your hand right now. For years, Samsung has manufactured screens for Apple’s iPhones.

Then there’s Ford and Toyota, which worked together on the hybrid Atlas Ford F-150. And the well-known YouTube channels that have teamed up to promote fundraisers for St. Jude Hospital, the children’s cancer research hospital. Or, how about the many coffee shops and pharmacies located inside supermarkets? Examples of coopetition are everywhere

The benefits of coopetition for your business

As Samsung, Apple, Ford, Toyota, and many other companies know, one of the most effective ways to grow a business is by partnering with another business.

And yet many business owners never consider the idea. Others assume partnering isn’t worth the time, risk, or effort. Instead, these business owners try to do everything themselves and regard their companies as the only worthwhile options on the market. They write off their competitors’ offerings as poor quality, inferior, overly expensive (or deceptively cheap) substitutions of the real thing. This is the assumption behind most competition: “We’re the best—and if people knew we were the best, we’d own 100% of our market.”

I’m about to lay down some truth, right here, right now, so fair warning…

Your business might not be the best option for everyone in your market. In fact, there’s probably no such thing as “the best”—different people choose different providers for different reasons. Substantive reasons. Valid reasons.

What’s more, this kind of all-out competitive mindset tends to keep small businesses small. They focus on competing with other small companies—frequently over price, because it’s the easiest thing to change—creating a race to the bottom that hurts everyone.

I’m not suggesting competition is a bad thing. All I’m saying is that instead of competing with Joe down the street, what if you teamed up with Joe to outperform Martha in another city? Or what if you, Joe, and Martha worked together to take down Giganto-Corp Global? Coopetition makes it possible.

By partnering, similar businesses can achieve numerous mutual benefits for themselves and their customers, clients, and communities. We see it in practice every day:

  • Small health food stores order goods together. This allows them to benefit from bulk pricing, which keeps their prices comparable to large chains.
  • Book stores pool their funds to bring in guest authors or artists they couldn’t afford otherwise, with one location hosting the event and another taking on advertising, for instance.
  • Competing businesses of all kinds co-sponsor fundraisers, sports teams, and other initiatives to make differences in the communities they serve.

Strategic alliances with competitors also help you to broaden your market. Maybe you’ll have more local customers for your brick-and-mortar business, or you’ll be able to expand into ecommerce. If you do business primarily online, you could gain the resources to bring your product or service to customers throughout the US, as well as abroad. Bonjour, new customers (again, if you’re feeling French)!

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Is coopetition a smart move for your business? 5 questions to ask

Note that the keyword here is “strategic.” Just as ruthless competition isn’t always the best move, neither is ruthless hugging it out. Let’s explore a few considerations to think about before you coopete.

1. “What can we do that no one else can?”

As you consider what sort of partnership might work for your business, think carefully about what makes your business unique. As a lawyer or doctor, this would be your area of expertise in law or medicine. A real estate agent might specialize in a particular type of transaction or certain neighborhoods. If you run a tech business, what do you do that no one else does? Whatever your answer to this question, this is the area of your business that you protect and don’t invite competitors into. 

2. “What don’t we do so well?”

The next question to consider is where you feel you struggle as a business. Maybe you need a better network of referrals when issues crop up that aren’t in your area of specialty. Perhaps there’s a service you’ve wanted to offer but don’t have the capacity for it as your business is currently constituted. What kind of expertise do you need to bring the project to fruition? Do you know of another company that has the skills you need? It’s much more efficient to team up with another expert than to try to learn from the ground up. 

3. “What’s practical?”

Consider practical factors such as location and time commitment. Are face-to-face meetings with the other business(es) feasible? Are you in the same time zone? Do you all speak the same language—figuratively and literally? How will the location of your partner company affect your ability to communicate and collaborate effectively? 

4. “How will this make our customers’ or clients’ lives easier?”

The more sense a collaboration makes for the people you serve, the better idea it is for your business and collaborator(s). Maybe a website tool that one business’s customers love using is too expensive for that business, but by sharing the cost with a competitor, the businesses can ensure customers can keep using it—and new customers can access it, too. Or maybe you can gain valuable word-of-mouth by helping would-be clients you can’t serve connect with a local professional who has capacity for them.

5. “What’s in our shared DNA?”

Finally, think about your company’s values. If you value empowering employees, for example, look for a partner company that does the same. If you want to become a more equitable and inclusive organization, look for potential partners who have achieved that goal. In any case, be sure to work with people you trust, can rely on, and enjoy working with.

Ingredients for successful coopetition between two companies:

  • Shared values and goals
  • Business and cultural alignment
  • Sustainable time and energy commitment
  • Mutual ability to meet deliverables
  • Proximity
  • Customer crossover
  • Product reciprocity
  • Enthusiasm to create together

Next steps for diving into coopetition

Coopetition takes all forms. It can last weeks, months, or years. It can involve two, three, four, five partners or more. And it can be breezy and simple or the kind of arrangement so legally byzantine your attorney would need to consult their attorney.

Some coopetitors (we really need better words here) negotiate complex agreements and launch joint ventures together. Others enter into verbal contracts—little more than a handshake and an “okay, let’s do this.”

I won’t tell you what’s best for you because your business is unique. Also, I’m not your attorney—and definitely not your attorney’s attorney. But I don’t want to leave you without a few practical next steps.

Before approaching another business with a partnership idea, put together a clear proposal. Be forthright and transparent about what you want to collaborate on. List what you bring to the project and what you need from the other party. Having clearly defined roles and agreed-upon methods of communication are keys to success. Be clear about how you’ll exchange information and what kinds of information will remain private in each company. 

You could also define how long the partnership is expected to last. A study published in the journal Sustainability looked at 210 high-tech companies in Portland, Oregon. It found that the most successful coopetition arrangements lasted three to five years. Take into account how long it will take to develop, test, and market your joint product or service. Depending on your business, you might want to consider a longer-term relationship. Examples could include setting up a medical practice of several different specialists to better serve patients. A real estate agent could have a referral agreement with a contractor. 

Depending on the size of your business, you might have to convince partners and employees that this whole coopetition idea is a good one. Take the time to make sure you have everyone on board. These partnerships hinge on trust and transparency. Make sure all of your people are clear on the scope of the project, who’s responsible for what, and how various parties will communicate. 

Last, challenge your own assumptions. Remember that coopetition can be good for your customers or clients, your employees, and yourself. A careful coopetition partnership allows you to pool resources and expand your business while guarding against some of the risk. This in turn protects you, to some extent, from the unexpected.

In our ever-changing business landscape, it’s imperative for business owners to think big and think strategically. By changing your mindset from “zero-sum” or “winner-take-all” to a plus-sum mindset, you broaden your horizons and embrace your role as a leader in your market. 

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Ruby partners with Scorpion

Scorpion, a leading provider of technology and services helping local businesses thrive, and Ruby®, the premier provider of live virtual receptionist and chat services for 13,000+ businesses, today announced a new partnership to help law firms, medical practices, and home service providers better manage the inbound leads generated by their digital marketing efforts with customized virtual customer service.

With Ruby as a trusted partner, Scorpion customers now have access to premium virtual receptionist services, which enable them to focus on their businesses without missing a call, resulting in higher ROI on Scorpion’s paid and organic marketing services. Additionally, Scorpion customers have access to Ruby’s professional mobile solution, which helps customers manage their client communications from anywhere, including setting status on where and when to take calls, who to take calls from, call forwarding, and more.

“Ruby is proud to work together with Scorpion to help business owners make the most of their marketing investments by delivering a professional, consistent experience for all call-in leads,” said Michelle Winnett, Vice President of Partner & Strategic Marketing at Ruby. “With Scorpion helping to drive leads, Ruby’s team of highly trained virtual receptionists build trust with those customers, creating long-term relationships that help businesses grow without taking time out of their day.”

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Headsets hang on two powered-off desktop monitors in an occupied office space illuminated by bright, natural light

You know the phrase, “good help is so hard to find these days?”

Yeah, whoever came up with that had it easy.

These days—the Zoom-fatigue days, the not-quite-post-pandemic days, the how-is-2021-already-halfway-over days—good help is harder to find than ever. And as for retaining and engaging that help, well…  I’ll be blunt: we’re facing a historic worker shortage.

Overcoming the worker shortage is not just a matter of finding the best employees, but keeping them happy and working to the best of their abilities:

  • As a survey conducted by the Manpower Group recently revealed, 32% of US-based companies are struggling to find the talent to fill open positions. Globally, that number rises to 69%.
  • Korn Ferry estimates that by 2030, the current talent shortage “could result in about $8.5 trillion in unrealized annual revenues” if left unchecked.
  • Roughly one-third of workers report struggling to stay motivated, according to a report from the Pew Research Center.

Employers of all kinds are encountering the same challenges. The shortage includes a dearth of candidates for highly technical positions in the fields of operations/logistics and manufacturing/production as well as countless unfilled roles that emphasize communication—jobs in areas such as customer service, office administration, and sales/marketing.

Here are the top five in-demand roles:

Soft skills, which are centered on resilience and collaboration, are particularly in demand at the moment. Specifically, business owners are seeking employees who demonstrate…

  • Stress tolerance
  • Adaptability
  • Critical thinking
  • Creativity
  • Reasoning
  • Problem-solving

How can employers navigate this historic moment? Optimizing employee experience is a great first step. While the majority of employees surveyed (roughly 90%) told Manpower they would like to stay in their current positions, 8 in 10 wish for a better work-life balance in the future.

For employees, a better work-life balance may mean more flexible scheduling and working options.

Employees have also reported a desire for better mental health resources from their employers to assuage the feelings of intense stress, anxiety, and burnout that so many of us grapple with.

For more information, read the ManpowerGroup Talent Shortage Survey.

Remember those soft skills we mentioned earlier? And the fact that customer-facing and office support are two of the most in-demand jobs?  If you’re looking for communicative, adaptable, motivated critical thinkers to fill those roles, you’ve come to the right website.

Headshot: Joanna Myers, Ruby

Ruby elevates your business with friendly, professional, and highly-trained virtual receptionists. We’ve got you covered if—like so many organizations right now—you’re finding it challenging to hire for customer-facing and front office positions. Our virtual receptionists answer all your calls and website chats live, creating meaningful connections and unforgettable customer service experiences. And that’s just the beginning.

Did I mention our award-winning training? I should probably mention our award-winning training. Ruby provides receptionists with award-winning training designed for maximum engagement, retention of information, and on-the-job adaptability. It’s a key component of how we’re able to sound like a seamless extension of your business. Learn more.

The bottom line: there’s no need for this talent shortage to impact your business. Save time and money by letting us take care of customer service staffing for you. Good help is easy to find at Ruby.

(By the way, we’re hiring!)

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Getting real about climate change

Reading time:
A traffic light sign is nearly submerged by a massive flood—one example of extreme weather events caused by climate change

Hurricanes. Wildfires. Tornadoes. Droughts. Blizzards. Heat waves. These and other forms of extreme weather have always been facts of life on Earth. But until relatively recently, they were facts many of us read about or experienced once in a blue moon—not something we faced multiple times a year, with increasing intensity.

We’re talking about stronger and stronger hurricanes, wildfire seasons that get longer and more dangerous, hotter summers and colder winters—weather events that break records year after year.

The effects of climate change are facts of life for people throughout the world, affecting all sorts of businesses and communities.

Even the glass of Cabernet you enjoy in the evening to unwind isn’t climate change-proof. Take what happened to historic winery Napa Valley winery Chateau Boswell in 2020. Owner Susan Boswell dealt with unimaginable personal trauma and the devastating loss of revenue when the Glass Fire damaged her wine and grapes. Boswell lost the first vintages her late husband ever bottled and historical family letters dating back to the American Revolution. On top of everything, Susan had to work to rebuild her winery after the wildfire.

Sadly, countless businesses have similar stories, and the impact on our economy is impossible to ignore. Climate experts estimate that natural disasters cause more than $80 billion in damage annually. Like climate change itself, that impact is expected to worsen each year.

It’s time to get real about climate change. Here’s what to know about climate change and how to prepare your business and community for extreme weather events.

Climate change and your business

Napa Valley’s wineries are just one illustration of how climate change can negatively affect businesses. For another example, look to Texas. After a historically cold winter that shut down the power grid for days, the state and its communities took months to recover. The outages had affected everything from the state’s water supply to train lines to manufacturing. 

Around the world, climate change is accelerating the rate at which we see unprecedented storms and record-breaking temperatures. Seven out of the ten most expensive natural disasters since 1980 have occurred in the last 16 years. There’s a high probability your business will feel that impact in the future if it hasn’t already.

Even if your business isn’t located in an area at risk of fires or flooding, your business is often indirectly affected. A wildfire razing California’s farmland means higher produce prices for food suppliers, restaurants, and catering businesses. A statewide power outage disrupts manufacturing and transportation lines, causing shipping delays. These types of disruptions create a ripple effect that is often felt most acutely by small businesses that don’t keep a large inventory. 

As concerning as these trends are, they pale in comparison to the acute effects of a natural disaster. A catastrophe in your area can wreak untold havoc on your business and the people you serve.

Climate change and your community

A significant challenge for business owners dealing with climate-related disasters is concurrent business and personal losses.

Local businesses are crucial to recovery efforts. When a disaster strikes, people count on their insurance agents, contractors, plumbers, electricians, restaurants, and more to aid in picking up the pieces. Consequently, many business owners in disaster-prone areas find themselves aiding in the recovery efforts in their communities while rebuilding their homes and offices themselves.

It’s a special kind of stress: getting your customers’ heat up and running while your home is missing its roof.

One way businesses can navigate these challenges is good communication. If you have to close your doors for a few days or even a few weeks, make sure your people know that you have plans to reopen. Keeping your community aware of your efforts to rebuild and recover will go a long way for your business and community morale.

A disaster will change your business. A new office space, new working arrangements, or even finding new suppliers will be challenging. But not all recovery efforts are a loss, and not all changes are entirely negative. Some businesses facing down climate crises have even found new ways to help their communities and new angles for generating revenue.

How can you prepare?

Recognizing that climate change is a problem that will impact our world is an excellent first step. Here are a few more actionable ways you and your business can make a difference:

  • Make efforts to reduce your carbon footprint. Find a local agency to help you assess areas in which you can improve your carbon emissions.
  • Reduce your energy consumption by turning off your lights and unplugging unnecessary electronics. Consider turning your heat down in the winter and turning your AC up in the summer.
  • Consider switching to renewable energy sources such as solar panels for your office space.
  • Reduce company waste. Switch to paperless, opt for reusable cups and silverware for your office space, and place recycling bins around your space.
  • Repair broken electronics rather than replace them.
  • Search for greener infrastructure and suppliers. Switch to electric vehicles, energy-efficient appliances, and choose suppliers that share your climate values.

Making one or two seemingly minor changes at first and sharing your values with your team is a great way to start making business decisions that are better for the environment and the people you serve.

That’s one piece of the puzzle. How about natural disasters? How do you prepare for a possible climate hazard?

Start by reviewing your business continuity plan.

By now, it should be clear that we all need to prepare for just about anything when it comes to keeping our businesses running during hardships. Climate change and natural hazards should be a part of your business continuity plan.

For a deeper dive into preparing your business for the unexpected, read about business continuity planning here.

Suppose you find yourself amid a climate emergency. In that case, communication is key. Help your customers or clients set the right expectations. If you’re open, make sure they know they can call on you to help in an emergency. If you’re not open, let the people you serve know your plans to reopen, and reassure your community that you’re sticking around for the recovery.

In either case, optimal communication and customer experience are essential. You might not be able to provide the people you serve with the solutions they need, but you can invest in effective communication tools to keep people safe and informed.

Finally, lead by example. Commit to taking action to reduce climate change and positively impact the community and customers you serve.

Remember: we’re all in this together. Help out how, when, and where you can, and you’ll contribute to a more resilient economy where everyone has the greatest opportunity to thrive. And if your business or your community has experienced a disaster, help is available.

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*Ruby is delighted to offer a money-back guarantee to first time users of both our virtual receptionist service and our chat service. To cancel your service and obtain a full refund for the canceled service (less any multi-service discount), please notify us of the service you wish to cancel either within 21 days of your purchase of that service or before your usage exceeds 500 receptionist minutes/50 billable chats, as applicable, whichever occurs sooner. Some restrictions may apply.