How Ruby Became Ruby: Our Small to Big Story

Ruby

With millions of delighted callers and thousands of businesses grown, Ruby Receptionists® has a lot to be proud of—but it didn’t happen overnight. When we started in 2003, we had just four receptionists, one of whom was our Founder and CEO Jill Nelson. We originally went by the name “Worksource Inc.,” and we offered all sorts of services, including web design and copywriting.

As we grew, however, we found our clients really enjoyed one piece of our service best. We were hearing, “Gosh, your receptionists are so nice!” and “I have such peace of mind. I can focus on my business because I know when the phone rings, your receptionists will do whatever it takes to help me, that caller, and my company.” Clients even told us our receptionists were winning them business.

Gradually, we realized our strength was in making other people’s days through personal, meaningful connections. We decided the brand “Worksource Inc.” didn’t fit, and we became “Ruby Receptionists.”

Revolutionizing Company Culture

Around the same time, we gave our first employee survey. The results were generally positive—employees liked their coworkers and felt they were paid well. Yet, one theme emerged: many receptionists didn’t feel they were doing valuable work.

CEO Jill Nelson was concerned by this feedback. At the time, Jill was in charge of customer service and sales, and she routinely heard stories from clients about how our receptionists made their day and won them business. Jill knew firsthand our receptionists were doing incredibly valuable work! She vowed to make that clear to the team, and started with two big changes:

  • Sharing the inspiring feedback we receive from clients and callers through a mass email to the whole team via our “WeRock” email list.
  • Changing our hiring practices—rather than seeking employees with years of receptionist experience, our job ads beckoned: “If making someone’s day makes your day, we want to hear from you!”

Learning Through Adversity

Ruby’s true test came in early 2009 with the severe economic downturn. Many of our clients were struggling to keep their doors open, dropping services left and right to stay afloat. We knew our service had to be invaluable in order to make the cut. Clients needed to know we were on their team, and their success was our success. We launched our initial four core values during this time: Foster Happiness, Practice WOWism, Create Community, and Innovate. And staying true to those values worked—despite the tough climate, we grew our revenue 30%!

As our growth continued over the following years, the question became: how do we continue to nurture the Ruby culture, and make sure each employee knows they are empowered to positively impact and brighten our clients’ days? Jill sat down with every employee in the company and posed exactly that question. The Ruby Service Pyramid, the Ruby Spelling Alphabet, and our WOW Station were born out of these brainstorming sessions—just a few of the many ways we Incent, Inspire, and Empower® all employees to make meaningful connections on their own. And speaking of growth, in 2012 we realized something was missing from our core values, so we added a fifth value: Grow!

The Ruby Service Pyramid created by Jill Nelson

Looking to the Future

To help us reach our next stage of growth, Updata Partners acquired a majority share of Ruby in 2014, and we became Ruby Receptionists® Incorporated. The Updata investment allowed Ruby to transition from a service company to a tech-enabled company. As Jill put it: “The goal is to replace the phone company and allow a small business to run on Ruby and a cell phone.”

We rang in 2016 by moving to our new headquarters in downtown Portland’s Fox Tower, creating room for more friendly, professional Rubys in our Lovejoy and Beaverton offices. And it was with great pride that Ruby earned a top ten spot as a Best Company to Work for in Oregon for the seventh year in a row.

Our success over the years has proven that values aren’t a bunch of fluff—they’re a bottom-line concept. We’re grateful each day to do work we believe in: helping small businesses grow by creating personal connections in an era of impersonal service and robotic answering machines. With our values in mind every step of the way, we can’t wait to see where the future takes us. We hope you’ll join us for the journey!

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