CBNationI AM CEO PODCAST

IAM824- CEO Helps SMEs With 24/7 Virtual Reception

Podcast Interview with Natalie Ruiz

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, and 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

Website: https://www.answerconnect.com/

https://linktr.ee/natalieruiz


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00:02 – Intro

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.

00:30 – Gresham Harkless

Hello, This is Gresh from the 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 to have you on the show.

00:39 – Natalie Ruiz

Thank you so much for having me, Gresh.

00:41 – Gresham Harkless

No problem. Super excited to have you on. And before we jumped in, I wanted 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, a 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 IMCEO community?

[restrict paid=”true”]

01:13 – Natalie Ruiz

I am.

01:14 – Gresham Harkless

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 got started. Could you take us through your CEO story? We'll let you get started with the business.

01:24 – Natalie Ruiz

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 where I would end up being CEO. I actually was placed through a staffing agency as a salesperson. 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 thought I was going to quit.

Instead of quitting, I happened to run into the founder of the company and 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 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.

02:37 – Gresham Harkless

Nice. Love that and appreciate you for being able to remind us of how important it is to be the change, be the solution sometimes. And I think a lot of times, I always say it can sometimes be darkest before dawn. So like you said, you wanted to leave. But having that conversation probably kind of showcases the leadership that I'm sure you're passing the torch with and carrying it on so that all the people can know that you can create solutions and create that change.

03:04 – Natalie Ruiz

Exactly that. It's part of the culture I never want to lose. You know, we're bigger now. You said to 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.

03:19 – Gresham Harkless

Yeah, absolutely. Kind of continuing to tap into that innovation. And so I know I touched it 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?

03:30 – Natalie Ruiz

Yes, so Answer Connect, focuses on serving predominantly small and mid-sized businesses. We provide 24-7 virtual reception, answering service, and contact center 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 offices are 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, are 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.

04:37 – Gresham Harkless

Yeah, absolutely. And I almost feel, and I don't know if you feel the same way, we're sometimes juggling so many different things. And we have to at least sometimes mentally feel like we're 24/7 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 taxing for a team. So I love that word multiply that you spoke to because 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.

05:11 – Natalie Ruiz

Exactly. It sounds like you might need us,

05:13 – Gresham Harkless

Gresh. Yes, absolutely. And I'm sure a lot of people could as well. And so now I wanted to ask you for what I call your secret sauce. This could be for you or your business or a combination of both. But what do you feel kind of sets you apart and makes you unique?

05:28 – Natalie Ruiz

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 we're in a people business now of course we have amazing technology we're 24-7 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.

See also  IAM950- Full-time Entrepreneur Focuses on the DC Area

Our employees, in general, 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.

06:22 – Gresham Harkless

Awesome, awesome, awesome. So I wanted to switch gears a little bit and I wanted to ask you for what I call a CEO hack. So this could be like an app, a book, or a habit that you have, but what's something that makes you more effective and efficient?

06:33 – Natalie Ruiz

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. 1 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 time zone 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 Setmore and I just 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 going to 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.

07:23 – Gresham Harkless

Awesome. So now I want to ask you for what I call a CEO 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 have been to a time machine, you might tell your younger business self.

07:34 – Natalie Ruiz

Oh, goodness. Okay. So my younger self, I could write a book on that, right? Probably could be something that I've just kind of recognized the value of something I battled with before this career. 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 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 the secret sauce. Those components that make us individuals, that make us unique, and that bring unique experiences and perspectives to the table are what makes us powerful. That's what makes us better than. And so a lot of the things that can make us feel maybe othered are the things that make us special.

08:48 – Gresham Harkless

Now I wanted to ask you my absolute favorite question, which is the definition of what it means to be a CEO. And we're hoping to have different quote-unquote CEOs on this show. So Natalie, what does being a CEO mean to you?

08:57 – Natalie Ruiz

So like I mentioned, when I became a CEO, I Googled it. You know, what the heck do I do now? But 5 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. 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 the 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.

09:32 – Gresham Harkless

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 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.

10:03 – Natalie Ruiz

It makes it the best job in the world.

10:05 – Gresham Harkless

Yeah, absolutely. It creates 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 they can get ahold of you and find out all the awesome things you and your team are working on.

10:23 – Natalie Ruiz

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 1, 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 do the people around me, but let's not hide a part of ourselves that still is concerned about what's going on outside of Our work 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 to keep thriving. And that's really key.

11:32 – Gresham Harkless

Absolutely. Thank you so much, Natalie. We will have the links and information in the show notes. And I definitely appreciate that reminder as well, too. The human aspect sometimes has been lost in business and the things that we do on a daily basis as far as work. But I think, As you said, this has definitely been at the very least a bumpy ride and a bumpy time.

And I think it's reminding us of who we are as people, sometimes how we're all going through a very difficult kind of transition and 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 then we're 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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12:12 – Outro

Thank you for listening to the I AM CEO Podcast powered by Blue 16 Media. Tune in next time and visit us at iamceo.co I AM CEO is not just a phrase, it's a community. Be sure to follow us on social media and subscribe to our podcast on iTunes Google Play and everywhere you listen to podcasts, SUBSCRIBE, and leave us a five-star rating grab CEO gear at www.ceogear.co. This has been the I AM CEO Podcast with Gresham Harkless. Thank you for listening.

00:02 - Intro

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.

00:30 - Gresham Harkless

Hello, This is Gresh from the 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 to have you on the show.

00:39 - Natalie Ruiz

Thank you so much for having me, Gresh.

00:41 - Gresham Harkless

No problem. Super excited to have you on. And before we jumped in, I wanted 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, a 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 IMCEO community?

[restrict paid="true"]

01:13 - Natalie Ruiz

I am.

01:14 - Gresham Harkless

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 got started. Could you take us through your CEO story? We'll let you get started with the business.

01:24 - Natalie Ruiz

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 where I would end up being CEO. I actually was placed through a staffing agency as a salesperson. 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 thought I was going to quit.

Instead of quitting, I happened to run into the founder of the company and 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 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.

02:37 - Gresham Harkless

Nice. Love that and appreciate you for being able to remind us of how important it is to be the change, be the solution sometimes. And I think a lot of times, I always say it can sometimes be darkest before dawn. So like you said, you wanted to leave. But having that conversation probably kind of showcases the leadership that I'm sure you're passing the torch with and carrying it on so that all the people can know that you can create solutions and create that change.

03:04 - Natalie Ruiz

Exactly that. It's part of the culture I never want to lose. You know, we're bigger now. You said to 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.

03:19 - Gresham Harkless

Yeah, absolutely. Kind of continuing to tap into that innovation. And so I know I touched it 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?

03:30 - Natalie Ruiz

Yes, so Answer Connect, focuses on serving predominantly small and mid-sized businesses. We provide 24-7 virtual reception, answering service, and contact center 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 offices are 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, are 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.

04:37 - Gresham Harkless

Yeah, absolutely. And I almost feel, and I don't know if you feel the same way, we're sometimes juggling so many different things. And we have to at least sometimes mentally feel like we're 24/7 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 taxing for a team. So I love that word multiply that you spoke to because 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. 

05:11 - Natalie Ruiz

Exactly. It sounds like you might need us,

05:13 - Gresham Harkless

Gresh. Yes, absolutely. And I'm sure a lot of people could as well. And so now I wanted to ask you for what I call your secret sauce. This could be for you or your business or a combination of both. But what do you feel kind of sets you apart and makes you unique?

05:28 - Natalie Ruiz

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 we're in a people business now of course we have amazing technology we're 24-7 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, in general, 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.

See also  IAM927- CEO Creates In-house Trained Virtual Assistants

06:22 - Gresham Harkless

Awesome, awesome, awesome. So I wanted to switch gears a little bit and I wanted to ask you for what I call a CEO hack. So this could be like an app, a book, or a habit that you have, but what's something that makes you more effective and efficient?

06:33 - Natalie Ruiz

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. 1 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 time zone 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 Setmore and I just 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 going to 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.

07:23 - Gresham Harkless

Awesome. So now I want to ask you for what I call a CEO 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 have been to a time machine, you might tell your younger business self.

07:34 - Natalie Ruiz

Oh, goodness. Okay. So my younger self, I could write a book on that, right? Probably could be something that I've just kind of recognized the value of something I battled with before this career. 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 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 the secret sauce. Those components that make us individuals, that make us unique, and that bring unique experiences and perspectives to the table are what makes us powerful. That's what makes us better than. And so a lot of the things that can make us feel maybe othered are the things that make us special.

08:48 - Gresham Harkless

Now I wanted to ask you my absolute favorite question, which is the definition of what it means to be a CEO. And we're hoping to have different quote-unquote CEOs on this show. So Natalie, what does being a CEO mean to you?

08:57 - Natalie Ruiz

 So like I mentioned, when I became a CEO, I Googled it. You know, what the heck do I do now? But 5 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. 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 the 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.

09:32 - Gresham Harkless

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 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.

10:03 - Natalie Ruiz

It makes it the best job in the world.

10:05 - Gresham Harkless

Yeah, absolutely. It creates 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 they can get ahold of you and find out all the awesome things you and your team are working on.

10:23 - Natalie Ruiz

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 1, 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 do the people around me, but let's not hide a part of ourselves that still is concerned about what's going on outside of Our work 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 to keep thriving. And that's really key.

11:32 - Gresham Harkless

Absolutely. Thank you so much, Natalie. We will have the links and information in the show notes. And I definitely appreciate that reminder as well, too. The human aspect sometimes has been lost in business and the things that we do on a daily basis as far as work. But I think, As you said, this has definitely been at the very least a bumpy ride and a bumpy time.

And I think it's reminding us of who we are as people, sometimes how we're all going through a very difficult kind of transition and 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 then we're doing the others around us a disservice. So I truly appreciate that reminder and I hope you have a great rest of the day. 

12:12 - Outro

Thank you for listening to the I AM CEO Podcast powered by Blue 16 Media. Tune in next time and visit us at iamceo.co I AM CEO is not just a phrase, it's a community. Be sure to follow us on social media and subscribe to our podcast on iTunes Google Play and everywhere you listen to podcasts, SUBSCRIBE, and leave us a five-star rating grab CEO gear at www.ceogear.co. This has been the I AM CEO Podcast with Gresham Harkless. Thank you for listening.

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This is a post from a CBNation team member. CBNation is a Business to Business (B2B) Brand. We are focused on increasing the success rate. We create content and information focusing on increasing the visibility of and providing resources for CEOs, entrepreneurs and business owners. CBNation consists of blogs(CEOBlogNation.com), podcasts, (CEOPodcasts.com) and videos (CBNation.tv). CBNation is proudly powered by Blue16 Media.

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