Woman in yellow sweater working in front of open laptop, sitting in home office interior, drinking coffee

Want happier customers? How about more efficiency? Or more revenue? 

You don’t have to choose. Accomplish it all with virtual receptionists.

In this stress-free guide, you’ll learn how a virtual receptionist solution like Ruby makes it easy for you to…

  • Optimize your customers’ experiences
  • Streamline your business tools and systems
  • Master your sales funnel

We created this guide for organizations of all sizes, from large companies to small teams to one-person businesses. It’s flexible and adaptable—you can read it cover to cover, or pick and choose sections for the practical guidance and quick wins most relevant to your business.

Ruby Content

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Ruby customer feature: Craig Rashkis, Falwell Rashkis LLP

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A conversation with Ruby’s Chief Revenue Officer, Rebecca Grimes

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eBooks

Happy customers, efficient businesses: How to supercharge growth with virtual receptionists 

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Podcasts

Customer service tips and more from Ruby + SmallBizLady

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[Podcast] Marketing insights with Rebecca Grimes

lifelong customer podcast
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Ruby customer feature: Sam Hainey, Hilltop Law Firm

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Creativity, connections, and client relationships—with Nathan Wilson of The Narrative

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Ruby customer feature: Rebecca Flanagan, Flanagan Legal Services

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Webinars

Connection perfection: How to delight customers 24/7

Ruby workshop: Connection perfection: How to delight customers 24/7
Videos

Internal & external equity—with Michelle Ngome

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Ruby customer feature: Opportunity during crisis with Juan Huizar

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Ruby customer feature: New ways of legal work with Ashton Taylor

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Inclusive marketing—with Michelle Ngome

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High-end clients, projects, and service—with Melissa Barker

Infographics

Infographic: Beating healthcare burnout and delivering on patient expectations

Try Ruby Risk Free

Call to talk to a live virtual receptionist and hear why 10,000+ companies Ruby.

Call Ruby Sign Up
Help wanted sign hung in reflective window

Feeling the pinch of the 2021 labor shortage? You’re not alone. Everywhere we look, there’s another story detailing the difficulties businesses are having in hiring and retaining employees. It’s a challenge that extends across all industries and geographies, from restaurants unable to staff busy shifts to American Airlines’ recent cancellation of 950 flights due to limited staffing.

Due to capacity issues, many companies may not be able to handle the additional business that their marketing efforts deliver. To complicate the situation further, recruiting has become highly competitive. In these unusual times, it often takes more than posting an open position on job sites to find the perfect candidate. And while employers may be willing to pay a premium to attract new hires, recruitment budgets are not unlimited.

With that in mind, we wanted to share some under-the-radar tactics that businesses can deploy to help recruit talent. You might not immediately think of online listing platforms such as Google My Business and YP.com (AKA the Yellow Pages’ website) as recruitment tools, but these platforms can act as your digital “help wanted” sign for little or no cost.

Google My Business posts

Claiming and optimizing your Google My Business (GMB) profile is the first step towards securing your business’s online hyperlocal presence. Make sure you understand the importance of GMB and start the process of claiming your listing if you haven’t already. One easy way to capture the attention of your GMB profile visitors is through GMB posts. Posts appear on your profile, just below your core business information. Keep in mind that GMB profiles often get more traffic than a business’s website itself, so your profile is a great place to display that “help wanted” sign!

Google My Business recruitment post example 

Text: Hales Sand & Gravel, A CRH Company
Nov 23, 2020
WE'RE HIRING!
Join Our Team!
Nov 23 - Nov 30
Hales Sand & Gravel is looking for a Ready Mix Driver to JOIN OUR TEAM! To do this job, you will need to have excellent customer service skills and a Class A or Class B

Your GMB recruitment post can link back to your company’s career page (or any page you’d like) for application fulfillment, and can stay posted to your profile until the position is filled.

Online listings

There are many online listing platforms where you can further your recruitment efforts. YP.com, Bing, and Yahoo are just a few of the hundreds of sites that host your business information and are frequented by internet users. Many of these sites have an area to display a short “featured message,” which can be the perfect area to let visitors know you’re hiring.

Check out this online listing of ours, for example:

Google My Business recruitment post example

Text:
DSG 
Advertising Agency, Internet Marketing 
Website
You're unique and so are we. We're a team of creative thinkers who aren't afraid to break tradition and explore outside the box. Unique challenges demand unique solutions - and ours are built to scale. Authenticity and transparency are our guiding principles, which means complete focus on helping you make the right choices for your business. Our network of trusted partners has been rigorously vetted and stress tested. We're about working smart. And we're about getting things done. less
Website: dsgssi.com
Address: 255 Great Valley Pkwy, Ste 120, Malvern, PA 19355
Phone: (610) 640-1454
Hours: Open Now
Hours may change under current circumstances
Merchant Verified
We're hiring! Click to learn more.

You can update your online listings manually, or save time by updating them automatically through tools such as Yext. Yext is an online listing management platform that distributes your business information to Bing, Yahoo, YP, and over 150 other global digital search, directory, navigation, and voice platforms. When you edit your business information through Yext, the change is reflected across all your online listings. That means you can essentially post that digital help wanted sign across dozens of sites with a single click. Yext is available through certified partners at a competitive price.

Traditional recruitment sites

To complement these tactics, we recommend advertising your open positions through traditional job posting boards such as LinkedIn, Indeed, and ZipRecruiter, as well as any smaller hiring sites specific to your industry. These sites offer various pricing plans ranging from free to premium sponsored job listings, and they’re proven channels for bringing in steady flows of applicants.

Leveraging your online presence platforms for recruitment purposes extends your reach beyond traditional job sites and hiring outreach methods. By extending your recruiting efforts to your online listings, you can ensure that you find the perfect person for the job, every time—in 2021 and beyond.

Learn more about the 2021 labor shortage in Ruby’s infographic.


DSG is a Marketing Agency in Malvern, PA.

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A man in silhouette looks out over a foggy mountain range

Do you check the news (or worse, Twitter) every morning? Many of us have developed that unfortunate habit over the last few years—reflexively scrolling through the latest doom-laden headlines before rolling out of bed. And these days, sometimes what shows up on the screen can make someone want to stay in bed indefinitely.

Yet we all have a duty to keep going—despite the problems people are currently facing across the world. (Odds are you don’t need to be reminded of which problems I’m referring to.)

Now is not the time to give in to despair. Now is the time to stay engaged, informed, and prepared for what’s happening now and what’s on the horizon—not just for our own sake, but for the sake of those we’re responsible for, and for those who look to us to set an example.

I’m talking about our loved ones, children, and grandchildren—and for the business owners reading, our customers, clients, communities, and employees. 

It’s that last group I’d like to focus on in this article. Your employees are counting on you for clear-eyed leadership and guidance during difficult times. Remember: you not only serve as chief executive or chief decision-maker, but chief communicator as well.

Nobody expects you to have all the answers. No expert or team of experts has all the answers. But that shouldn’t stop you from communicating authentically, openly, and pragmatically with the people you lead. Here’s how to communicate with employees during times of tension.

Handling different kinds of crises

From wildfires to public health emergencies, cyberattacks to traumatic personal events, different crises require different communication strategies and approaches. Regardless of the source of tension your team faces, however, there are a few general steps you can take to keep people safe, informed, and united.

It starts with recognizing the potential crises your team may face. Here are a few examples of common sources of tension any business owner should prepare a communication plan for:

Employee communication during extreme weather events

The climate crisis is a very real problem that we all must work toward addressing. Between a higher number of superstorms, major temperature fluctuations, and a string of massive wildfires, vulnerable communities across the globe have been devastated by extreme weather.

Just as critical as enacting a business continuity plan is providing support and relief for employees who may be impacted by extreme weather. A hurricane, fire, flood, earthquake, drought, or other extreme event can cause someone to lose their home, possessions, vehicle, or loved ones. Be sensitive to the needs of your employees and consider ways you can support them before, during, and after a natural disaster

Learn what you can do about climate change.

Employee communication during cyberattacks

Cybercrime is currently on the rise across the US, and around the world. Cyber criminals can target anyone, and anyone (even top-level executives) can fall for a phishing attack, scam, or another form of fraud.

Has your IT department developed the proper tools and resources for your employees to prepare for a potential attack? The tactics cybercriminals use are constantly evolving and adapting, which makes continued communication between all departments critical.

Get practical cybersecurity tips.

Employee communication during times of political division

It seems the one thing we can all agree on these days is that politically, we’re more divided than ever. Among members of your team, political polarization may threaten to fracture working relationships. However, a ban on political talk can leave employees feeling as though their voices are being silenced.  

As chief communicator, you have a responsibility to set a tone and define the culture of your workplace. Respect, empathy, and free expression can’t necessarily be taught, but you can find ways to encourage those values in the workplace while discouraging cruelty and bullying.

Read HR perspectives about managing political discussions in the workplace.

Employee communication during times of community unrest

Civil protests are woven into the fabric of the United States—we’re a land of free expression and grassroots political action. And protests have happened more frequently in recent years as people throughout the country have reckoned with marginalized communities’ experiences throughout history.

These events can bring people together and serve as fulcrums of growth and healing. Unfortunately, they can also sometimes result in feelings of insecurity or uncertainty, or even erupt in violence. HR expert and consultant Kimberly Prescott recommends that employers do the following to “responsibly navigate these situations” and “ensure employee concerns are acknowledged without evolving into open conflict or internal disruption”:

  • Set the tone for appropriate behavior in the workplace.
  • Communicate and acknowledge the unrest and communicate the organization’s position.
  • Communicate policy and process for conflict resolution and problem solving amongst employees.
  • Visit your business continuity plan for civil unrest.
  • Partner with an Employee Assistance Program (EAP).

Read “Civil Unrest and Employees: How to Manage During Difficult Times.”

Employee communication amid threats of violence

Unexpected threats of violence, such as active shooter events, are scenarios most of us would rather not think about. Unfortunately, these nightmares do happen, and all businesses need to take steps to prepare their employees. Your staff may groan at regular drills and training seminars, but the lessons they learn could save their lives. Domestic violence support for employees is equally important. 

Keep in mind that instances of violence in the news, particularly when it’s localized to your region, may result in employees experiencing heightened levels of stress and fear. Make sure you have employee assistance resources available for those who may need them.

Explore the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s resources for preventing workplace violence

Employee communication about discrimination

Discrimination of any kind has no place in any business. Again, however, that doesn’t mean total silence is the best policy.  Make sure employees understand it’s important to report instances of discrimination they experience or witness, and feel comfortable raising their concerns. Check in with your employees regularly and remind them of your company’s values and anti-discrimination policies, and make sure everyone feels safe and empowered to ensure they and their teammates receive the respect all of us deserve.

Learn a few of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s tips for preventing discrimination in the workplace.

Employee communication concerning mental health struggles and trauma

Millions of people live with mental conditions that interfere with their ability to live and work the way they want to. These issues range from stress-related burnout to anxiety, depression, addiction and substance abuse, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and other disorders. Mental health conditions can affect anyone. Those who seek respite and recovery require assistance and support from the most important people in their lives, which often include co-workers and supervisors. And some people with mental health conditions require workplace accommodations, which employers are legally responsible for providing under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Now and then, employees experience traumatic personal events that require accommodations of their own—time off, for example. Trauma can also lead to or exacerbate other mental health conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder. Familiarize yourself with your responsibilities as an employer and keep an open mind.

Learn more about mental health.

Employee communication about health hazards

As of the time of writing, the COVID-19 pandemic is still a global concern. Mask mandates and social distancing protocols vary from state to state and country to country, making the situation an unclear and confusing one, especially for employees and employers.

Now is the time to communicate your plans and procedures to your team and gather their feedback so that they can organize their lives accordingly. What safety precautions have you implemented? Should work continue in-person or remotely? Carefully consider your employees’ concerns and questions, and weigh that feedback with your decisions. 

Explore free resources for business owners during the pandemic.

How to maintain healthy employee communication when times get tough

Each of those sources of tension listed above requires a unique approach to effectively handle. That said, there are a few general things you can do right now to prepare your business and your employees for most kinds of crises:

1. Create and maintain an internal information center.

This is a place where your employees can access the resources and tools they need before, during, and after a crisis.

2. Make sure your emergency communication systems are secure.

Make sure they’re operational, running, updated, and working in harmony with your other systems—and make sure to test them regularly!

3. Have tools ready to keep your employees up-to-date during a crisis.

The most effective systems provide useful, relevant information on time—and don’t bombard recipients with unnecessary updates. After all, you don’t want your employees to tune you out.

4. Equip your managers with the right training in advance.

Managers are leaders in their own right. Are the managers within your organization prepared with the necessary tools to step up when needed?

5. CEOs, address your organization directly.

Whenever possible, have the senior leadership in your organization deliver updates to employees. If your workforce is remote, consider filming and sharing videos to convey the necessary information.

6. Keep your communication consistent.

Your employees should never have any doubts or confusion regarding what they need to do during a crisis, or the values of your company and your stance on important issues.

7. Communicate your commitment to making a change.

Don’t simply pay lip service to the fight for change and equality. Show your employees the receipts. Tell them exactly what the company is doing to make a difference in the world.

8. Encourage employees to donate or take action.

Either within or outside of your organization, direct your employees to causes they may be interested in taking part in.

9. Keep up a positive and hopeful attitude when possible.

It may seem impossible at times to foster a positive and uplifting culture while being realistic about the current state of the world. But things will never improve if we all throw our hands up and say, “I give up.”

Instead, provide a roadmap for your employees who have been experiencing heightened levels of stress. Remind them that they have the strength to stay informed, engaged, and provide a quality service all at once. It all starts with a workplace environment in which every voice is heard and every perspective is taken into account.

Explore Ruby’s free business resources.

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How to keep a conversation going

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Close-up: professional with blonde pompadour has a conversation over the phone in a co-working space with red walls

So you’re having a conversation that’s starting to peter out, and you don’t want it to end. You want to continue talking to this person. Maybe it’s a new friend, a potential partner (business or romantic—take your pick), a prospective client or customer, a co-worker you want to get to know better, someone you admire in your field, or even a fascinating stranger. In any case, you’re wondering: How do I keep the conversation going?

Well, wonderer, wonder no longer.

Here at Ruby, it’s our job to engage in conversations. We talk to, listen to, laugh with, empathize with, and delight people online and over the phone, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. In this article, we’ll share some of our conversational insights.

Let’s dive in, starting with why conversations can be so doggone difficult.

Table of Contents

The art of the conversation

Conversations: most of us have them multiple times a day, but not all of us consider ourselves particularly good at them. How many times has a conversation you’re having ended abruptly or awkwardly, and you found yourself thinking: What just happened?

What happened is you participated in a complex, unrehearsed verbal exchange of ideas, as millions of neurochemical interactions fired off in that big human brain of yours. It’s a wonder you were able to utter coherent words at all!

That is to say, conversations are tough. They take a lot out of us. Don’t beat yourself up when they don’t go perfectly, or as well as you’d hoped. Even the best conversationalists stumble now and then—which brings us to our next point…

Few people are natural conversationalists. For most, mastering verbal interactions takes dedicated practice. And it’s a markedly different skill set from public speaking. You may be a phenomenal presenter with a captivating, sonorous voice—the type of person who commands attention—but that doesn’t necessarily make you a great conversationalist. Sure, you can talk at people, but what about talking with people? 

Indeed, keeping a conversation going is usually less about how much talking you do and much more about how much listening you do. But we’ll get to that a little later. For now, let’s look at some reasons you might want to keep a conversation from stalling too early. 

Reasons to stay in a conversation

Many of us look for ways to end the conversation early to save ourselves from wasting time or potential embarrassment. But there are times when you genuinely want the conversation to keep going.

Maybe you want to…

  • Learn more about another person
  • Learn more about an interesting topic
  • Change someone’s mind
  • Persuade someone to do or not do something
  • Influence someone’s opinion or emotions
  • Make a lasting impression
  • Have fun and pass the time

If it’s a business conversation, such as a conversation with a customer, sales lead, vendor, manager, or employee, you might want to…

  • Close a deal
  • Make a sale
  • Negotiate an agreement
  • Convince someone your business is superior to a competitor
  • Coach an employee or team member
  • Generate ideas
  • Help someone else see the value of your ideas
  • Encourage team members to share their thoughts and perspectives

A good conversation is particularly important—and sadly, too rare—in the business world. When you truly (madly) deeply relate to someone, you free them for a moment from the noisy, salesy, attention-seeking world we live in. It humanizes you and makes you worth remembering and doing business with again.

In any case, what you’re ultimately doing is creating a connection. So, let’s explore some ways to keep a conversation going by bringing connections to the forefront.

How to keep a conversation going: 7 tips and tricks

1. Treat the conversation like a late-night interview.

You know what everyone likes talking about? Themselves. One of the easiest ways to establish common ground with another person is to make the conversation about them. Treat them as the most fascinating person in the world (even if they aren’t) and put yourself in the role of the interviewer.

Get to know them. Ask them questions, ideally about things they’re passionate about—their hobbies, job, interests, goals, beliefs, ideas. Even if the topic don’t seem relevant to the “point” of the conversation, it shows the other person you’re interested in them and what they have to say, establishing trust and helping them open up.

The reliable question-asking trick never gets old. Maybe you’ve spoken to someone a hundred times, but there’s always something new to find out when you ask more questions.

But did you know that some questions are better than others? (See what I did there? I asked a question.)

2. Stay away from yes-or-no questions.

Simple yes or no questions are excellent ways to end a conversation. They tend to result in blunt, short responses (those would be “yes” or “no,” sometimes “maybe,” and now and then a fancy “well, it depends”). They usually don’t elicit the profound thoughts that keep conversations going.

Instead, try open-ended questions. We’re talking about the what-do-feel-abouts the why-is-thats, and the how-would-yous. These types of require the other person to share their thoughts, feelings, and opinions, necessarily extending a conversation. They’re also great ways to share control of the exchange and create a productive back-and-forth.

Open-ended questions usually begin with these words and phrases:

  • Why…
  • How…
  • What…
  • Tell me about…
  • Could you describe…
  • What do you think about…

Open-ended questions encourage the other person to expand on their thoughts, allowing them to feel heard and giving you more information. The point here is not to get too personal or come off as nosy, but to get a longer (and more interesting) answer out of the person.

Here are a few examples of open-ended question stems to try:

  • What kind of challenges are you facing?
  • How does this make you feel?
  • What led you to that point?
  • What’s most important to you?
  • What are your expectations?
  • What concerns do you have?
  • What would you like to improve?

The specifics of these sorts of questions will change given the context of the conversation and who you are talking to. But whether it’s a business contact or  a first date, try to stick with questions that begin with who, what, where, when, and why as you first get used to asking open-ended questions.

3. Keep the conversation going by being a good listener.

Beyond asking good questions, you need to make the time for the other person to answer them. People often get so caught up in what they want to say that they forget to listen to others.

I’m talking about honestly and sincerely listening—active listening, as one might call it. It’s about not just hearing someone, but as processing and reflecting on what they said. And it’s a skill that we all need to practice. With active listening, we can all connect better during conversations.

Active listening techniques: 

  • Paying attention
  • Not judging what the other person is saying 
  • Reflecting or paraphrasing 
  • Clarifying 
  • Summarizing
  • Sharing

Only after you focused on the other person, understood and clarified what they’ve said, and summarized back to them what they said should you then offer your thoughts, feelings, and suggestions. The more time you devote to listening during your conversations, the better and longer your discussions will be. Listening helps you build connections and foster relationships—powerful tools for growing your business.

4. Minimize distractions.

We live in a very distracted and distractable world. Texts, tweets, ads, pets, kids, cars, that thing in the bushes over there—distractions are everywhere, making it difficult for us to listen and respond during conversations.

If you’re the type of person who walks through life phone glued in hand, well, that’s one major distraction you can eliminate—simply by slipping your phone into a drawer or placing it face down during a conversation.

Of course, that’s just one item on a seemingly endless list. While it’s impossible to eliminate all distractions, being mindful of what might distract you during a conversation and trying to avoid those things will go a long way in helping you have productive conversations and create better connections with the people around you.

Consider how you can avoid common distractions during a conversation:

  • Put away your phone.
  • Have conversations away from people in your workspace.
  • Reduce background noise (such as sounds of traffic outside, loud appliances, and pets.)
  • Silence emails and other notifications on your devices.
  • Reduce the number of displays or screens around you.
  • Be mindful of your news and social media consumption habits.
  • Minimize clutter in your space.

Keep in mind that some things that seem like distractions can actually facilitate better conversations. Some people listen more effectively while doodling or fiddling with objects.

Learn what works best for you and be honest with yourself when you feel the urge to multitask during a conversation. Do you really need to do something else when you’re speaking to someone, or are you avoiding being present?

5. Embrace moments of silence.

Feeling like you need to fill every silent moment in a conversation takes opportunities to speak and be heard away from others. Moments of silence happen, and they can be necessary. Maybe someone needs a moment to think, or reflect, or carefully consider what they want to say.

Embrace the opportunity to practice your listening and show the other person the conversation is in their hands. You might be surprised at where the conversation goes next.

6. Be mindful of interrupting.

I’m particularly guilty of this one, especially over the phone. Interrupting can be an innocent mistake, but it quickly becomes frustrating for the other person.

Don’t find yourself so excited to blurt out your next thought that you speak over and interrupt the other person—or worse, stop listening. When you’re feeling pumped up in a conversation, take a moment to slow down. Breathe. Collect yourself.

Again, interrupting happens regardless of how careful you are. Don’t dwell on it; simply apologize and try and refocus on your active listening. If you find yourself guilty of frequent interruptions, it might be time to do some self-reflection and practice those listening skills in your day-to-day conversations.

7. Prepare in advance.

Okay, this last one isn’t possible every time. Spontaneity is key to many great conversations and meaningful connection. But if you can go into a conversation with a goal and game plan in mind, you’ll be better-equipped to keep the conversation going.

Think about…

  • What questions you want to ask
  • What questions you should be prepared to answer
  • Where you might run into disagreements with the other person
  • How you’ll handle objections
  • How you want the other person to feel
  • What you want the other person to do once the conversation is over

Do allow room for some flexibility. Keep in mind that the questions you ask and the answers you get might lead down different paths than you planned. Still, if the goal is to keep the conversation going and get as much information as possible, you may be able to get things back on track after the tangent.

Conversations are an art—but I truly believe they’re an art anyone can learn. In many cases, all it takes to keep a conversation going is patience, curiosity, and a few basic practices:

  • Asking open-ended questions
  • Active listening
  • Giving someone your full attention
  • Letting go of total control
  • Slowing down
  • Planning ahead

Regardless of how long your conversations are, what matters most is human connection. Connection is the basis of everything successful humans and businesses do—and it’s more important than ever as our world grows more digital and omnichannel.

Visit Ruby’s Small Business Hub for more ways to connect with the people you serve in your business.

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“Ending small business failure.” That’s what Melinda F. Emerson—AKA SmallBizLady, America’s #1 small business expert—is all about.

Cutout of Melinda Emerson, AKA SmallBizLady

A renowned speaker, author, consultant, and media personality, Melinda has empowered countless entrepreneurs to follow their dreams and succeed as their own bosses. For over 20 years, she’s coached all kinds of leaders—from small business founders to Fortune 500 CEOs—on business growth. She’s written for and been featured in publications such as The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and Black Enterprise. She’s also published tons of articles, podcasts, videos, books, and more. Did I mention she runs her own online school?

Many of us at Ruby have been avid fans of Melinda for years. So, we leapt at the opportunity (okay, maybe not literally leapt, although I did bounce up and down in my chair) to work together. Melinda not only invited us to contribute a couple posts to her blog, but brought one of our customers, Sharie Hendricks, along with our CEO, Kate, onto the #SmallBizChat podcast!

Check out the articles and podcast episode below:

Learn 101 ways to improve customer experience.

What does it take to bring your customer service to the next level? There’s no single, all-encompassing answer. Companies that provide genuinely exceptional customer service focus on their customers in every action, decision, and moment of connection. Take it from one of our customers—Barbara Davis, owner of BADDogs Inc: “If we demonstrate concern and care for our clients, they do notice and appreciate us.”

We know perfecting the customer’s experience is all about the little things—smiling when we pick up the phone, pronouncing someone’s name correctly, making a person’s day with a kind word or gesture. With that in mind, let’s look at 101 small ways your business can improve experiences for the people you serve.

Read more.

Discover dos & and don'ts for responding to online reviews.

If you’ve ever looked up a business on Yelp, Facebook, Google My Business, or another review site, you’ve no doubt come across sentiments like “absolutely terrible” or “worst company ever!” Maybe you’ve laughed or gasped at a couple. Perhaps you’ve even doled out a one-star review yourself after an exceptionally bad experience.

But while critical reviews can be fun to read—and cathartic to write—they feel different on the receiving end. They hurt. They can feel like personal attacks, like someone is trying to embarrass you or sabotage your business. And thus, your first instinct after getting a negative review may be to ignore it or find a way to have it taken down… which is exactly the opposite of what you should do.

Read more.

Watch or listen to Ruby CEO Kate Winkler and Ruby customer Sharie Hendricks on the #SmallBizChat podcast.

Sharie Hendricks is the founder and owner of Laguna Candles, an award-winning manufacturer of sustainable, luxury candles. We’re honored to count Laguna Candles among our customers, helping Sharie grow the business, gain time back in her day, and delight the people who contact her company.

In a two-part podcast (also available in video form) with Melinda Emerson, Sharie and Ruby’s CEO, Kate Winkler, share their stories, tips, and experiences leading businesses during a pandemic. They also explore how a solution like Ruby makes it easy to adapt to changes in demand while boosting efficiency and bottom-line growth.

Listen to part 1 with Sharie and part 2 with Kate, or watch the full video.

Bonus: read Kate and Sharie's interview on leveraging customer service as a value proposition.

Quote from Sharie Hendricks, entrepreneur and CEO of Laguna Candles: "The biggest lesson I learned during the pandemic was how important it is to willingly help others when there is a need. We kept our staff and even hired some more folks who just needed an opportunity."
Quote from Kate Winkler, CEO of Ruby: "Trust is fundamental to business success. It’s the key factor in not only generating opportunities, but also converting people into customers and maximizing loyalty."

In a bonus interview, Sharie, Kate, and Melinda discuss the following questions:

  • Why is trust so important when building relationships, especially for service businesses?
  • What was the biggest lesson you learned during the pandemic?  
  • How have you grown your business online? 
  • What are the things that keep small business owners from achieving their business goals?
  • What is the best business advice you ever got?

Read the interview.

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Ruby Grasshopper collaboration

As phone calls surged during the pandemic, the collaboration between Ruby.com, the premier provider of live virtual receptionist and chat services for 13,000+ businesses, and LogMeIn’s communication and collaboration tool, Grasshopper, proved critical to many businesses’ survival.

The partnership combines Ruby’s exceptional virtual receptionist solution with Grasshopper’s virtual phone system to help businesses capture every opportunity, appear more professional and responsive, while also gaining time back in their day to focus on their business. To date, Ruby has more than 600 active customers using Grasshopper.

“As a leader in US-based virtual receptionist and live chat specialists, Ruby brings significant expertise to our vision of creating an end-to-end phone solution for entrepreneurs. Ruby adds to Grasshopper services, products, and analytics needed to manage customer interactions and deliver exceptional phone experiences,” said Damon Covey, VP Product Management at LogMeIn. “Together we are building a best-in-class phone solution for small businesses.”

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A white-bearded man looks beyond the frame with a happily surprised expression on his face.

“Wow.” That three-letter word is one of the most meaningful and rewarding things you can hear from a customer or client. It reflects the amazement someone feels when your customer service exceeds their expectations—when your business truly connects with them.

And those “wows” could be the key to your business’s growth. After all, customer service is the number one differentiator between brands. You’re more likely to attract and retain business if you can provide a better experience for your customers than your competitors can. People will even pay more for a superior customer experience.

At Ruby, we’ve invented a word for this phenomenon: wowism. It’s one of the reasons we’re more than an answering service. We don’t just answer; we create wow-worthy experiences.

To us, wowism means… 

  • Going above and beyond
  • Anticipating customers’ needs
  • Providing solutions before we’re asked
  • Creating experiences people remember (in a good way)
  • Making personal connections

But what does wow-worthy customer service look like in the real world? We’ve shared our own stories here plenty of times before. Today, we’d like to shout out some of the other businesses that have built their brands by elevating their customers’ experiences and wowing the people they serve.

6 examples of companies providing wow-worthy customer service

1. Nordstrom 

Nordstrom is well-known in the retail world for its generous return policy and world-class customer service. Take the legend of the man who returned snow tires to Nordstrom and got a refund—despite the fact that Nordstrom doesn’t sell tires. (According the story, the shop where the man had bought them had gone out of business, and a Nordstrom store had popped up in the same location.)

At first blush, this sounds like an ill-advised business decision. Snow tires are expensive, and there would be no way the store could resell them. But if the legend is true, it was a shrewd move in shaping the public’s perception of the company. The snow tires were allegedly returned in 1975, and here we are, five decades years later, still talking about them.

It’s one example of how Nordstrom’s remarkable culture—a culture that centers customers and empowers employees to use their best judgment to serve them—continues to pay dividends.

2. Costco

Wow-worthy customer service doesn’t have to be a luxury, as the bargain-driven supermarket chain Costco demonstrates every day. You probably know that Costco offers great deals, but did you know that the stores will take pretty much any returns (with a few exceptions), even if a purchase was months or years ago, and you don’t have a receipt? Yup.

Notice a recurring theme here? Great customer service isn’t just about a positive initial experience, but also a willingness to make things right when customers aren’t totally happy. 

And like Nordstrom, Costco invests in customer service by investing in its employees, paying comparatively high starting wages and offering some pretty choice benefits. As a result, the company sees low rates of turnover, avoids excessive training and overhead costs, and ensures customers can get help from knowledgeable, experienced team members. I guess none of this should come as a surprise—anywhere with literal buckets of mac and cheese has to be a magical place.

3–5. JetBlue, Alaska Airlines, & Southwest Airlines

For the past few decades, three airlines have been competing to provide the most wow-worthy customer experiences.

JetBlue has been on a mission “to bring humanity back to air travel”  by delivering personalized customer service and encouraging all crewmembers to do what’s right for customers at every opportunity.

Alaska Airlines, meanwhile, has been wowing customers by anticipating their needs, gathering their feedback, offering tons of in-flight options, and providing friendly and responsive service over the phone and other channels.

For my money, however, no airline’s customer experience can compare to Southwest’s. Story after story exemplifies the extraordinary lengths Southwest employees will go to to serve their customers. Take this story about a pilot personally delaying a flight for a grieving passenger. Or this story about an employee who dropped everything to save the life of a passenger’s wounded guide dog. Or this story about employees who not only allowed a passenger to check her pool noodle, but gifted her a hand-decorated one of their own—and then filled the baggage claim with pool toys to show their love for her.

6. Patagonia

Patagonia takes a different approach to providing wow-worthy customer service. The brand is known for its forward-thinking stance on sustainability and climate change, attracting a loyal customer base that shares its values. It also offers plenty of concrete ways customers can extend the lives of their purchases. For instance, through its Worn Wear program, Patagonia repairs customers’ products and teaches them how to repair gear themselves.

And then there’s the company’s donation initiatives, environmental activism, and internal campaigns such as Zero Waste Week. These programs not only empower customers and employees but prove that Patagonia’s commitment to sustainability is genuine rather than an easy marketing strategy.

Lessons from companies with wow-worthy customer service

What can you learn from the Nordstroms, Patagonias, Costcos, and Southwests of the customer service world? Here are a few takeaways:

1. Focus on creating great experiences for your customers. Whether you offer a product for sale or are service-oriented, make sure doing business with you is an enjoyable experience.

2. Invest in and empower your employees. To hire and retain great people, offer them competitive pay and benefits, then allow them the freedom they need to be creative in solving problems and offering solutions.

3. Commit and deliver. Let customers know that if things go wrong or don’t meet expectations after the initial transaction, you’re ready and willing to make things right. 

4. Listen and learn. Be open to feedback from customers and employees about how your business can be improved. 

5. Prioritize long-term customer loyalty over short-term profit. It may not be profitable in the moment to accept a return or work through a complex problem. However, people remember when they’ve been treated well—and that creates customers for life.

For more tips and tools to grow your business, check out Ruby’s small business resource hub.

Have a wow-worthy customer service story you’d like to share with the world? Tell us about it on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or LinkedIn, and we’ll feature it in an upcoming article!

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how businesses can address labor shortage

There’s no shortage of records set in the last 18 months, and now we’re adding yet another to the mix. Small businesses across all industries are experiencing a 15-year high talent shortage. And while we do not yet see the lower pre-pandemic levels of unemployment, the Department of Labor is reporting 9.3 million open jobs.

Combine that with:

  • 4 million employees leaving their jobs in April
  • A surge in openings of restaurants, retail, and hospitality industries
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Companies are now in fierce competition to attract and retain talent like never before.

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lifelong customer podcast

The Life-Long Customer podcast interviews successful sales and marketing leaders, discussing ways they are building long-lasting relationships with their customers.

In this episode, Ruby’s Chief Revenue Officer, Rebecca Grimes, shares how Ruby’s customer engagement solution works with businesses to build trust with callers and website visitors with every interaction.

“It’s really about this experience, that we are making sure that their customers have, and that consistency of experience is really critical when there are so many different options to choose from. When you were talking about loyalty and how you build lifelong loyalty, we really, as an extension of those small business customers see loyalty as our role to help foster that ongoing, not only initial interaction, but ongoing interaction that you have with your customers, and making sure that everybody is treated exceptionally throughout that process.”

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Achieve remote work bliss with Ruby.

Reading time:
A woman in yellow overalls sits on a hardwood floor among houseplants with a closed laptop on her lap and her hands behind her head, relaxing.

I’m a sucker for behind-the-scenes content. Whether it’s “making of” specials included in movie extras or an Instagram influencer showing how they converted a school bus into the ultimate tiny home, I love seeing the nitty gritty details involved in bringing something to life. 

Wouldn’t it be great if there was that same type of “how-to” content for setting up a remote office? I mean, how do you actually take your business mobile? How do you translate a physical location—with all the accompanying infrastructure, schedules, and communication—into a system that can work from anywhere, any time? 

(Note to self: make that a real video…) 

Okay, while the “how-to” video we’re talking about doesn’t exist (yet), it’s easier than you might think to jump into remote work.  

Step 1: Move your physical phone infrastructure into the cloud. 

It’s time to cut the cord, my friend! Face it: you already check your smartphone a dozen times an hour (a little email here, a bit of Facebook there—we don’t judge) so why not consolidate systems? A virtual receptionist solution like Ruby can host your business number (otherwise known as “porting”), eliminating the need for a physical phone. Plus, porting to Ruby allows you to manage your business line directly from your smartphone through our mobile app or handy dandy online portal. 

Check out this quick overview of our mobile app and online portal to see the possibilities: 

Learn about Ruby’s mobile app, available for iOS and Android devices.

Take a tour of the Ruby dashboard.

And moving away from a physical phone has other benefits, beyond saving dough: 

  • Be more efficient. Prioritize customer communications using tools such as our flagging feature to mark calls or chats for follow-up. Plus, we automatically tag incoming calls and chats so you can quickly filter activity by lead, current client, solicitor, non-actionable, robocall, and more. 
     
  • Avoid multiple devices! No one should have to carry two phones to do business these days. When you host your business number with Ruby, you can make calls or send texts from your business number through your personal smartphone, keeping your professional appearance polished and your personal information private. 

Step 2: Create a communication plan & build good habits. 

When you have a team, an office environment gives you line of sight into someone’s day. Someone not at their desk? It’s easy to assume they’re either in a meeting or out on the job and respond to clients accordingly.  

With a distributed, remote team, it can be harder to stay on top of who is available and when—and to make sure customer communication is happening at the caliber you expect. 

This gets compounded when it’s just you. Now you’re responsible for handling all your work and managing customer communication? 

Taking your office remote is a great opportunity to consider outsourcing customer engagement so someone else can focus on getting calls and chats to the right person, on that person’s schedule. 

A tool like Ruby moves as fast as your business does, if you keep us in the loop. We can change how we handle your calls at a moment’s notice, ensuring the people who contact your business have the best experience no matter where—or when—you are.  

Here are a few ways you can use the app or dashboard mentioned above to achieve total flexibility: 

  • Status updates: Update your call handling instructions at any time. Control when and where you want to take calls, who you would like to receive calls from, and other options. 
  • One-tap call handling: In a hurry? Tap the Hold My Calls button and we’ll take messages or offer voicemail until you’re back.   
  • Smart scheduling: Create a call handling rhythm that aligns with your daily schedule. We can also sync with your calendar and change call handling based on your availability. 
  • Temporarily change where we’re sending your calls: While you’re working remotely, we can connect your calls to your mobile phone, home number, or a Skype line—or just take messages. If your update should apply to your whole company, or if you need to update your default call-handling instructions permanently, our Customer Happiness team will make it happen. 
  • Update your voicemail: Keep your after-hours callers in-the-know by with a customized voicemail greeting. 
  • Take advantage of call assists: If you’re in an environment where making a business call isn’t ideal—or if you’re just too busy—we can help with outbound call assists.  

Learn more about call handling.

Step 3: Meet your customers online, too. 

You aren’t the only one evaluating the value of remote tools—your customers are already there. More customers prefer using online chat because it allows them to multitask while receiving critical information about a business. In fact, 42% of customers rank it above all other communication channels. And 73% of chat users report satisfaction with their experiences—the highest level of all channels.   

Ruby’s industry-leading customer engagement solution extends beyond virtual receptionists and typical call answering services. We also have an extraordinary team of friendly, highly-trained customer service specialists ready to connect with your website visitors through live chat.  

Why chat?  

Discover how chat grows your business.

But wait, there’s more! 

Whether you’re new to this whole remote work thing or a seasoned pro, Ruby has tons of tricks, tools, and resources to maximize your efficiency and wow your customers while you work remotely: 

Discover 7 work-from-home office setup secrets. 

> Read a Customer Success Manager’s approach to working remotely. 

Find out everything you need to know about running a virtual office. 

Get a few tips for transitioning back to the office. 

Wherever, whenever, and however you work, Ruby’s here, there, and everywhere to help. We offer numerous plans to fit different business’s needs. Find the details on our plans and pricing page

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Sam Hainey is all about helping people. As VP of Client Services and Operations at Hilltop Law Firm—which she owns with attorney Cy Hainey, her partner and husband—Sam calls on her background in customer satisfaction to provide the best quality service for clients. It starts with first impressions. But as Sam and Hilltop found out, not just any answering service can get those first impressions right.

Discover why Sam chose Ruby after working with another provider and why she says it’s “like a 100% difference.”

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A man in a blue and white-striped shirt looks pensively out at the ocean through binoculars

On paper, you’ve done all your digital marketing right. You’ve optimized your SEO. You’ve launched an ad campaign. You’ve analyzed your competitors, mapped a customer journey, and highlighted the pain points of your potential clients and how you plan on addressing them.

You’ve incorporated every buzzword and acronym your business guru (or the host of a business YouTube channel) told you to include in your sales and growth strategies.

And now you’re seeing those efforts pay off: you’ve attracted real sales leads for your business. 

They have a demand, you have the supply. They have a problem, you have the solution. It’s like you were made for each other. One call leads to another, and another. Sales seem within reach. Now all you need to do is reel them in….

Aaaand they’ve decided to go in a different direction.

What happened?

Truthfully, you may never reach a definitive answer.

Instead of endlessly sifting through hypotheticals, a better question to ask yourself may be:

“Was this person really the perfect customer? Or was I just chasing a sale? Did I neglect to realize that, in reality, we weren’t right for each other?”

In the all-consuming chase after revenue, it can be easy for businesses to overlook the obvious. Sometimes, you may even convince yourself that you can adequately serve everyone who comes knocking at your proverbial door.

Losing a lead so close to the finish line can be a major disappointment. But it doesn’t indicate failure on your part. 

It’s kind of like the opposite of that old adage about having loved and lost. Better to lose a potential customer altogether than to find them feeling unhappy and underserved months later.

Why leads walk away

Leads are potential customers who, while they may have expressed interest in your product or service, have yet to decide whether they would like to do business with you. To bring them to the next step, you have to persuade them. Sounds simple enough, right?

Let’s back up. Leads don’t appear out of nowhere. You have to find them and draw them to your business by generating awareness, interest, and demand. This can be challenging and expensive, especially for new and growing businesses in crowded markets. Effective strategies for generating leads may take months—or even years—to produce results, which is why losing leads late in the game can feel so frustrating.

As arduous as lead generation can be, too many businesses overlook an important step in the process: lead qualification. Lead qualification is how you determine whether someone is truly ready to become a potential customer—whether they have the right needs, situation, and budget to benefit from using your products or services. 

It can be tempting to overlook this step and assume that anyone who finds you is a good fit for your business.

 But qualifying leads is critical. Your customer or client base isn’t a monolith. Each prospective buyer is an individual with unique needs and values. Being able to recognize why a lead will walk away from a sale may help you differentiate which customers or clients are worth pursuing and which aren’t.

Consider the following factors when targeting new leads:

Price

For many, this is the first and last stop. There’s a reason why the shopping tag is always facing away from the cool shirt that just caught your eye. Be upfront about your pricing early on so that your leads aren’t eventually caught in a difficult negotiation between their heart and their budget.

Are you drawing the attention of people who can afford your services? Or are you casting too wide a net?

Services

The people seeking the services of a family lawyer aren’t the same as those visiting an employment attorney. Without these descriptors, clients would be wasting their time trying to find the right representation.

Is your business crystal clear about the services you offer? Or could a lack of clarity cause a potential customer to expect something you can’t deliver?

Regionality

Location is so important to success that a timeless piece of business advice is merely the word repeated three times: location, location, location.

Whatever type of business you operate, location (location, location) matters when evaluating lead quality.  In some cases, it’s obvious: a contractor in California probably has no need for a plumber who operates exclusively out of Billings, Montana, for example. In other cases, location (location, location) can point to other forms of misalignment. Maybe you aren’t licensed to practice in the state a lead lives in, for instance, or the time difference would be difficult to schedule around, or the differences in the costs of living between your two regions make your price point untenable. 

Industry focus

Sometimes, people will only seek out companies of a certain size to do business with. Your company may currently lack the resources or manpower that a client is looking for. Aim within your means and consider your specialty. Remember: you don’t have to be all things to all people.

Familiarize yourself with the process.

Businesses typically generate leads either through targeted marketing or sales strategies.

Marketing-based leads tend to discover and interact with your business through advertising materials such as social media posts, articles, blogs (hi!), and mailing lists. These are people who have expressed interest in your company but have yet to interact with anyone on your sales team.

Sales-based leads are found through more personalized methods such as referrals and calls. These potential customers are the ones who have communicated directly with your sales team and have provided a greater insight into their level of interest.

Depending on their interest and familiarity with your business, potential customers will fall somewhere within a sales funnel. At the top of the funnel are the people who have expressed a need for your product or service, but are not entirely familiar with your business.

As these people continue to interact with your business, either through engaging with marketing materials or interacting with your sales team, a select few will reach the bottom of the funnel. This is where you have the greatest opportunity to secure their business. 

Get the guide.

Learn all about generating and converting leads.

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So, where does it go wrong?

Part of what makes the lead generation process so demoralizing for so many businesses is that a significant amount of potential customers drop out of the sales funnel before they reach the end.

A targeted marketing strategy that reaches 10,000 people may ultimately only result in 100 real prospects. Each one requires an extra amount of care and attention if you want to earn their business.

Your company may often adapt and adjust its sales pitch based on the person you’re engaging with, taking note of their individual wants and needs. Salespeople may need to chase down indecisive leads for months on end, continuously demonstrating their interest and value until suddenly, one day:

“Thank you, but I just don’t think this would be a good fit.”

Even when it seems as though you have the perfect lead in the palm of your hands, they could decide to change their mind at any moment. You’re left wondering whether the marketing campaign was a total bust or if you just came off as just a little too pushy on the phone.

This is part of the reason why so many businesses hesitate to admit that the leads they were trying to land may not have been the ideal customer in the first place.

It doesn’t have to be hard.

If your business is struggling with lead qualification, it may be time to reassess your strategy. Plenty of people will try to sell you and your business “surefire” tips on finding the right customers. But often, it’s the same tired, old business strategies you’ve heard again and again. 

Instead, focus on new ideas that center your particular market and business identity:

Craft your ideal customer profile.

In your heart of hearts, what does your perfect client look like? What are their interests? Their values?

Why would they be interested in your product? What need does your company fulfill for them?

Rethink your marketing strategy.

Once you’ve determined the identity of your ideal client, ask yourself where you can find them. Discover what type of campaigns they tend to respond to.

Do your potential customers tend to congregate on social media? If so, what’s the primary platform? If not, how are you guiding them to your web presence?

Does your website reflect their passions and interests? Or is it time for a digital re-brand?

Review and optimize your sales and marketing qualification processes.

Do you feel as though the traditional qualification processes aren’t generating the same level of interest as they used to? Listen to feedback, highlight which strategies are underperforming, and make adjustments from there.

Keep in mind that tactics such as cold calling and traditional mailing lists are becoming increasingly irrelevant for younger consumers. Research new avenues to get your business in front of the right set of eyeballs.

If they’re uninterested, consider what you can bring to the table.

You may be unable to serve a particular lead, but could you possibly offer a recommendation or refer them to a neighboring business?

While you won’t necessarily be working with the customer, showcasing that you still care about treating their needs might create a lasting impression.

Who knows? Maybe they’ll contact you in the future or refer a friend your way themselves.

One shortcut: automated lead capture 

Yes, lead generation is challenging. There are no two ways around that. But I’ll let you in on a little shortcut to streamline the process: Ruby’s automated lead capture tool

Learn about how Ruby’s automated lead capture tool grows your business.

The tool recognizes when someone visits your website and initiates an introductory conversation with them. Following your visitor’s dialogue with the capture tool, their contact information is gathered and sent to you via email.

Boom! Instant potential lead.

Ruby’s lead capture tool collects the specific data from your prospective customers that your business needs to achieve greater insight into what they’re looking for. It’s also completely customizable to align with your business’s brand and goals.

Best of all, automated lead capture is free with every Ruby plan. It’s ready to use once you sign up!

To learn more, use the buttons to your lower right to contact us, or click here to get started.

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Did you know that more than 10,000 businesses launch in the United States every day?

Yes, that’s a real statistic. According to the US Census, entrepreneurs filed 4.35 million applications for new businesses in 2020, or approximately 11,900 applications per day. It was the busiest year on record for new businesses, and if trends continue, that number is poised to keep increasing.

This all raises the question: Why? What’s driving so many people to start their own businesses?

The reasons why are as multitudinous and diverse as business owners themselves. To name a few of the motivating factors: 

  • Freedom to work and live on one’s own terms
  • Independence from someone else’s (e.g., a boss’s, manager’s, or supervisor’s) whims and expectations
  • A change of circumstances (such as the loss of a job or partner, the birth of a child, or relocation to a new city)
  • The prospect of finding true meaning and purpose in a career
  • The idea of building a community or giving back
  • A desire to create jobs and contribute to a local economy
  • A passion for following one’s dreams and making a difference in the world

The big reason: risk and reward

Perhaps the most common reason people start businesses is the same reason you’d find in an introductory economics textbook: to capitalize on financial opportunities.

Many people launch their own companies because they see an unmet demand or gap in the market, or because they believe they can provide a better, faster, smarter, and/or cheaper solution than what’s available.

When these beliefs bear out, a new business owner stands to make serious money, perhaps orders of magnitude greater than what they could make working for someone else. In theory, their money-making potential is only limited by supply and demand—and if they plan ahead well, they’ll not only achieve that potential but also grow and scale it.

In other words, if your business has the right offerings, strategy, and timing, you could soon be diving into a mountain of money, Scrooge McDuck-style.

In practice, however, many businesses don’t result in the piles of cash their founders dream of. In fact, 50% of new businesses fail within their first five years. That’s how it works. Failure—perhaps even massive, catastrophic, life-altering failure—is the risk new business owners take.

Some people are willing to swallow the risk in pursuit of the reward. Others are motivated by uncertainty; they live for taking risks and putting everything on the line.

Launching a business for survival versus growth: a question of personality

An individual’s personality plays a large role in their decision to become an entrepreneur. Many of us are aware of the risks and rewards inherent in launching a business, but only some of us go through with it.

Still others don’t consider themselves “entrepreneurs” at all. When I started my business, I did so out of a feeling of necessity. I was 22 years old in a tight job market—there were no real employment opportunities for someone with my experience and skill set—so I collected gigs until I had a steady freelancing career. I didn’t have a clear idea of the kind of risks or rewards I was facing. I didn’t even realize I was self-employed for the first few months; I assumed my clients were my employers.

I know plenty of people with similar stories, people for whom starting a business is the safest—or maybe the only—option in terms of providing for themselves and their families. Many of these people aren’t in it to become multimillionaires. They aren’t chasing growth, but rather hoping to achieve a steady stream of income.

A man hangs an "open sign" indoors in a flower shop.

What kinds of people start their own businesses?

So, what kinds of people start their own businesses? It’s fair to say that the answer to the question is the same as the answer to “What kinds of people live in the United States?” Anyone and everyone.

Anyone can start a business enterprise that makes money, serves a community, and enables the founder to reach their goals. And everyone seems to be doing it.

These days, there’s no such thing as a “typical” business owner—not in terms of what they’re trying to achieve, and certainly not in terms of what they look like. Success as an entrepreneur is not confined to a single gender, age, cultural background, or racial identity. As more people start their own businesses, the landscape is growing more diverse.

Forbes reports:

“The face of female entrepreneurship overall is becoming a lot less white. Black women represent 42% of new women-owned businesses—three times their share of the female population—and 36% of all Black-owned employer businesses.”

It’s not difficult to perceive the reasons why women, and particularly Black women, are outpacing others in terms of launching new businesses in the 2020s.

Researchers at Babson College found that Black Americans start businesses at higher rates than other entrepreneurs. That’s in part because conventional career paths leave them “more likely to be in the lowest third of household income.”

Women, people of color, and especially women of color face many barriers in the conventional working world. For women of color, launching a business means leaving behind experiences in which they felt marginalized or subjected to discrimination and unfair work practices. For many, it also means a lot more money. 

Entrepreneurship gives people opportunities to bypass barriers in their careers— to take ownership of their lives, their successes, and their failures, too. When conventional career paths don’t offer you freedom and control—or don’t seem to be available to you—the obvious choice is to start your own business.

“Starting a business allows you independence and control in your work, and the potential to earn a higher income and pursue opportunities you’re passionate about.” 

–Donna Kelley, Professor of Entrepreneurship at Babson College

While these statistics are encouraging, Babson’s research also uncovered forms of long-term inequity: Black-owned businesses have lower survival rates than white-owned businesses, and only 3% of Black women own and operate mature companies.

Why are these businesses struggling at higher rates than other groups? Follow the money.

Historically, Black-owned companies have been excluded from financial and investment opportunities that keep startups afloat during the first five years (when most young businesses are still in the red). The majority 61% of Black women business owners self-fund their startups.

Fortunately, researchers and members of the finance sector have taken noticed and suggested changes for improving access funding to create more equity among business owners.

But capital isn’t the only reason businesses struggle in their infancy. Other common problems for startups include… 

  • Lack of capital or cash flow 
  • Poor planning
  • The challenge of managing multiple processes and tools
  • Growing too quickly (yes, this can be a problem for many businesses
  • Trouble connecting with leads and customers
  • Lackluster brand image and brand awareness
  • Dissatisfied and unengaged customers

While we continue to work toward improving systemic barriers many business owners face, there are other ways to improve your chances of success. For ideas, tips, and free guides, check out our small business resource hub.

Grow your business with Ruby.

Ruby is here to help. Our virtual receptionists are dedicated to bringing you every available opportunity to grow your business.

However ambitious your goals, we’ll work hard to wow your callers and website visitors, generate sales leads, and create meaningful connections with the people you serve.

Those new opportunities are yours to take advantage of—or you can simply rest easy knowing you’ve optimized customer experience and communication. We exist to support you and the unique needs of your business. Learn how it works.

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