Natalie Ruiz is the CEO of AnswerConnect, which is a global company that employs all of its staff remotely. Her company helps small and mid-sized businesses by ensuring they will never miss another call and helps them take their business anywhere. She's an award-winning executive, a published writer, a mentor, and is passionate about making the workplace a more inclusive place for women and other marginalized groups.
- CEO Hack: Scheduling links to my calendar and continuous learning
- CEO Nugget: Be proud of what makes you unique
- CEO Defined: Having the responsibility to your team members and clients to do what's right and create a conducive environment for all
Do you want to learn effective ways to build relationships, generate sales, and grow your business from successful entrepreneurs, startups, and CEOs without listening to a long, long, long interview? If so, you’ve come to the right place, Gresham Harkless values your time and is ready to share with you precisely the information you’re in search of. This is the I am CEO podcast.
Gresham Harkless 0:29
Hello, hello. Hello, this is Greg from me. I am CEO podcast and I have a very special guest on the show today. I have Natalie Ruiz of answer Connect Natalie, it's awesome. have you on the show?
Natalie Ruiz 0:39
Thank you so much for having me. Gresh.
Gresham Harkless 0:41
No problem. Super excited to have you on. And before we jumped in, I want to read a little bit more about Natalie so you can hear about all the awesome things that she's doing. And Natalie is the CEO of answer Connect, which is a global company that employs all of its staff remotely. Her company helps small and mid sized businesses by ensuring they will never miss another call and helps them take their businesses anywhere. She's an award winning executive, a published writer and mentor and is passionate about making the workplace a more inclusive place for women and other marginalized groups. Natalie, are you ready to speak to the IMC Oh community?
Natalie Ruiz 1:13
I sure am
Gresham Harkless 1:14
awesome. Let's do it. So to kick everything off, I wanted to rewind the clock a little bit here a little bit more about how you get started. Could you take us through your CEO story, we'll
Natalie Ruiz 1:22
let you get started with business. Definitely. So it's always fun to share. I started with my business, it was actually 14 years ago, as of this year. So back in 2006, I came into answer Connect, never expecting that this would be my forever home my career or a place that I would end up being CEO, I actually was placed through a staffing agency as a salesperson. And interestingly, I had no idea what a startup I was getting into. So when I joined, a lot of things were not hashed out. And a lot of things were seemingly chaotic. So I actually thought I was going to quit. Instead of quitting, I happen to run into the founder of the company, had a brief conversation, he asked me how it was going. And I think my poker face has never been very good, I probably made a face. And he ended up asking me what we could do better. From that point, I was really immersed in this culture of being able to identify a problem, work really hard and try things. And 14 years later, it has been a journey filled with lots of opportunities. It was back in 2015, that I was given the opportunity to become CEO. And I said yes, with a lot of enthusiasm.
Gresham Harkless 2:37
Nice, absolutely love that. And definitely, you know, appreciate you for for being able to remind us of how important it is to you know, be the change be the solution sometimes. And I think a lot of times, always say it can sometimes be darkest before dawn. So like you said you wanted to leave. But having that conversation, probably kind of showcase the leadership that I'm sure you're you're passing the torch with and carrying it on so that all the people can know that you can basically create solutions and create that change
Natalie Ruiz 3:03
exactly that it's part of the culture. I never want to lose, you know, we're bigger. Now. You said rewind the clock. If we fast forward the clock, we're bigger, we're more distributed, we're spread out. But I never want to lose that ability for anybody to have an idea and run with it. That's how companies stay great.
Gresham Harkless 3:19
Yeah, absolutely. kind of continue to tap into that innovation. And so I know I touched on it a little bit with answer Connect about like what exactly you do. Can you drill down a little bit more? And let us know how you serve the clients you work with?
Natalie Ruiz 3:30
Yes. So answer Connect, we focus on serving predominantly small and mid sized businesses. We provide 24, seven virtual reception answering service contacts in our work. So basically making sure that phone calls are answered web chat visitors are taken care of and the like. We also have software components. And that's come along over time as it's been available. So now we've got the ability on mobile apps, and through desktop capabilities to help with appointment scheduling, let business owners take their business, their contacts, their calendar, their work with them, no matter where they're working. So these days, their office, their home office or on the road. And we really, we really help them to thrive, to grow sometimes to multiply what it is that they're working on. We work with a lot of companies where the founders and the core group, they're wearing so many hats. And so making sure that when a client or a prospect calls in, they always get a fast professional answer somebody who's happy to talk to them and can help them. It's really invaluable.
Gresham Harkless 4:37
Yeah, absolutely. And I almost feel and I don't know if you feel the exact same way. We're sometimes juggling so many different things. And we have to, at least sometimes mentally feel like we're 24 seven on, it's hard enough to be able to answer those, you know, submissions through our chat on our website and answer the phone call. And it could be really, really taxing for a team so I love that word multiply that you spoke to be I think sometimes it's not so much you know, the resources that you have, but as much as how you leverage them, and to be able to kind of leverage those resources to be more effective and to multiply the efforts that we have.
Natalie Ruiz 5:11
Exactly. It sounds like you might need a scratch.
Gresham Harkless 5:13
Yes, absolutely. I'm sure a lot of people did as well. So, now, I wanted to ask you for what I call your secret sauce. And this could be for you personally, or your business or combination of both. But what do you feel kind of sets you apart and makes you unique?
Natalie Ruiz 5:28
For answer Connect, I would say, our secret sauce. And I've been asked this in a variety of ways I started out in sales. It starts with our people. We're in a people business. Now, of course, we have amazing technology, we're 24. Seven, we're really redundant because we're spread out. And so a natural disaster isn't going to impede the service that we provide. So yeah, all of the technical components have to be there. But the person who's on the phone, who cares about your business, and who gives that warm professional, I'm going to get this handled for you feeling. That's what sets us apart. Our employees, they, in general, they love working for our company, they stay a really long time, we've got a lot of amazing aspects of our culture that help people continue learning. And that matters. And I think that comes through when you're on the phone. Customer service is a tough job. And so you have to take care of your people, and then they'll take care of you back. Awesome, awesome. Awesome. So
Gresham Harkless 6:23
I wanted to switch gears a little bit. And I want to ask you for what I call a CEO hack. So this could be like an app or book or a habit that you have. But what's something that makes you more effective and efficient?
Natalie Ruiz 6:33
Oh, my goodness. So there's so many things I love. I love life hacks, and I love tech and tools that can also help. So I'll start with that. One of the big pivots for me, was when I started using a scheduling link so that others could just add to my calendar. And I know I use this to schedule time with you, the back and forth the what day for you, what timezone Are you in? Oh, that it was driving me crazy. And it takes so much time. So I've got a scheduling link, I use set more. And I just I put that in my email signature, I put that everywhere and my calendar magically fills up and I check it and that's what I'm gonna do for the day. There's a lot of customization. So I can also block out time, so it's not crazy. So that has been a huge tech hack. I would say when it comes to other hacks, it's continual learning.
Gresham Harkless 7:23
Awesome. So now what it asks you for what I call a sea of nugget. So this could be a word of wisdom or a piece of advice, it might be something you would tell a client, or if you happen to a time machine, you might tell your younger business self.
Natalie Ruiz 7:34
Oh, goodness, okay, so my younger self, I could write a book on that probably could, something that I've just kind of recognizing the value of something I battled with prior to this career, I, I sold cars at a dealership, I did a lot of retail sales. And even coming in here, there was always this idea of my background, my identity, my path, somehow not matching up to what I thought others were doing, right? I don't, I don't look like Jeff Bezos or Elon Musk. And I don't have their trajectory to becoming a CEO of a company that does a lot of tech. Thank goodness, but it took some time to get there. I would say the advice that I would have for my younger self, or anybody else who is out there is to be proud of what makes you uniquely you. That is actually the secret sauce. Those components that make us individuals that make us unique, that bring unique experience and perspective to the table is what makes us powerful. That's what makes us better than and so a lot of the things that can make us feel maybe others are actually the things that make us special.
Gresham Harkless 8:48
Now wanted to ask you my absolute favorite question, which is the definition of what it means to be a CEO. And we're hoping a different quote unquote, CEOs on this show. So Natalie, what does being a CEO mean to you?
Natalie Ruiz 8:58
So like I mentioned, when I became a CEO, I googled it, you know, what the heck do I do now? But five years in for me, it means that I've got a responsibility to all of my team members, and all of the clients who are counting on us to consistently do what's right. And for me, what's right is what's right for our people, what's right for our clients, and what's right by our values, so that we can all thrive. So being a CEO means that that responsibility is on me, not only to live it, but to create a company and a culture where everybody else can be on board as well.
Gresham Harkless 9:32
Yeah, absolutely. And kind of, as we talked about before, we forget so many times that the success that we have is often not in the efforts that we kind of have. It's in our leadership and the way we empower others, to be CEOs to be leaders to be game changers and trailblazers as well. And when we don't create that culture, sometimes we can have businesses and organizations that are stagnant. They never grow. They don't evolve, and they ultimately perish. But the true leadership in my opinion, as you kind of touched on is really about being able to empower those that are around you to be their best selves.
Natalie Ruiz 10:03
It makes it the best job in the world.
Gresham Harkless 10:05
Yeah, absolutely creates that that winning atmosphere. So Natalie, truly appreciate that definition. And I appreciate your time even more. What I wanted to do is pass you the mic, so to speak, just to see if there's anything additional, you can let our readers and listeners know and of course, how best I can get hold of view, if all the awesome things you and your team are working on?
Natalie Ruiz 10:22
Sure, absolutely. So thank you, first and foremost, for having me. That is amazing. Anybody who's listening who wants to connect, find me on LinkedIn. It's my name Natalie Ruiz. Anything else folks should know, I would say hang in there we are living and working. And some of us homeschooling during some pretty unique times. And I know for one, I've been stretched thin and strained. Hang in there. I think if there's good that can come through such a challenging time, it would be that we're all a little bit more real and a little bit more vulnerable about what's going on. Yes, I love work. I love my career. I love what I do every single day and so to the people around me, but let's not hide a part of ourself that still is concerned about what's going on outside of our outward calendar, and create some space to have those conversations. It's been bumpy. But just by kind of calling out the elephant in the room. I found that people are ready to come to work. And they're also ready to talk about maybe what they need, what solutions they need in order to keep thriving. And that's really key.
Gresham Harkless 11:31
Absolutely, thank you so much, Natalie, we will have the links and information in the show notes. And I definitely appreciate you know, that reminder as well to the human aspects sometimes has been lost in business and the things that we do on a daily basis for as far as work. But I think, as you said, this has definitely been at the very least a bumpy ride and about the time. And I think it's reminding us of you know, who we are as people sometimes how we're all going through a very difficult kind of transition and you know, the ups and downs that go with that. And I think if we don't provide space and opportunity to have those discussions to check in on somebody else, then we're really doing ourselves a disservice and they were doing the others around us a disservice. So I truly appreciate that reminder and I hope you have a great rest of the day.
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