Q&A with Female Entrepreneur, Emily LaRusch
Emily LaRusch is the founder of Back Office Betties, a boutique virtual receptionist company serving law firms across North America. She is a self-proclaimed process nerd and loves creating simple solutions to complex problems.
Can you tell our readers about your background?
I struggled for years through school with undiagnosed ADHD. I had worked in various roles in real estate from an Escrow and Compliance Officer to Mortgage Underwriter. No matter what the job I was hired for, I was always recognized for the special gift of process optimization and was often asked to join special project teams.
What inspired you to start your business?
While working on a special project team, I was tight on time and trying to call home service providers during a quick break. No one was answering the phone. I had a light bulb moment and thought that I could be the champion of the everyman by being the voice of their businesses.
Where is your business based?
Our receptionists are located across the US and our headquarters are in Scottsdale, AZ.
How did you start your business? What were the first steps you took?
While keeping my primary job, I began the process of sourcing a hosted call center solution. Once that was in place, I took my entire year’s vacation to hire and train my team of 3.
What has been the most effective way of raising awareness for your business?
Word of mouth has been instrumental in growing the business. Early on, I asked people in the legal community to review our services. The reviews were okay. We were rated a C and I immediately took all negative feedback and made changes to our services. This one review has been a constant source of referrals and it’s not even a great review!
What have been your biggest challenges and how did you overcome them?
Being a startup and not profitable for the first two years was mentally and physically taxing. Imagine crying in your closet at night so your kids can’t hear or asking your spouse for their paycheck to make payroll.
How do you stay focused?
I always believed in the big vision for the company. I also have a couple of minority partners who gave me some money to help keep me afloat the first-year in. They believed in this girl with absolutely no business experience. When my belief in myself waned, I got grittier and dug in so I wouldn’t let down those who believed in me.
How do you differentiate your business from the competition?
I was getting frustrated when every time I enhanced our service offerings or improved our technology, my competitors very quickly followed suit. We’re talking multi-million-dollar companies. It seemed like I would never win. I decided to turn our financial and size disadvantage into a positive by doing something drastic.
I sat down with my team and asked who they loved to serve, who paid on time and who found the most value in our services? Across the board, we agreed it was attorney’s. We scrapped our website and relaunched as a company that trains legal receptionists who serve law firms. Our competitors are diversified enough that they won’t be able to copy us on this change.
What has been your most effective marketing strategy to grow your business?
I do all of our own PR. I look for opportunities to be a source for journalists and bloggers. I’ve also developed relationships with some strategic referral partners.
What's your best piece of advice for aspiring and new entrepreneurs?
Always be educating yourself. Read, watch podcasts, join a group like Entrepreneur’s Organization Accelerator or find a mentor. The learning should never stop. If you aren’t thirsty for knowledge and great with change, you may want to take on a partner who is.
What's your favorite app, blog, and book? Why?
App would be Fiverr. I order projects on the fly all the time. I’m not a die-hard follower of any blog, but I do love the podcast How I Built This show with Guy Raz on NPR. He interviews and shares stories of well know founders such as Sarah Blakely of Spanx. Favorite Book, oh my there are so many. Good to Great is a staple and Simple Numbers, Straight Talk, Big Profits by CPA Greg Crabtree. I wish I’d read his book before I started my business. His financial advice for entrepreneur’s is so easy to understand.
What's your favorite business tool or resource? Why?
I am head over heels in love with the Zoho Software Suite. We needed a CRM solution that wouldn’t take a genius to set up and Zoho was the answer. We also integrate with Zoho Mail, Zoho Books, Zoho Desk and Zoho Social.
Who is your business role model? Why?
He probably doesn’t know this, but Luke Ford, Founder of My Computer Works is a role model for me. He sat on the board of Entrepreneur’s Organization Accelerator and shortly I’d interviewed before the board, he invited me to lunch. I thought that this may be part of the vetting process and was surprised that he just wanted to learn more about my business. Our businesses have similar models so we make a good pair to discuss ideas within our businesses. Luke is a numbers wizard and he has become an unofficial mentor to me that I can always rely on when I’m stuck on a business question.
I asked him once at what point in business do things get easy. I thought at some point you get to the top of the climb and get to slide down a rainbow of bliss and into a pile of cash. I looked at his business and saw only success. He shared that it doesn’t matter how successful you are, there are always things to be working on. Having the financial struggles behind you are great, but there isn’t a time where running a business doesn’t take work.
I used to look at successful business owners like Luke as having some kind of intelligence or magic that I didn’t have. He has shown that all entrepreneurs are people who had the tenacity to keep going and great entrepreneur’s never stop learning. They don’t have a special advantage that I don’t and it is possible for me to be as successful as I have the grit to be.
What do you have planned for the next six months?
We are focused on making our company an amazing place to work by adding in benefits like paid sabbaticals, tuition assistance and mind/body wellness assistance such as paid housekeeping or a gym membership.
How can our readers connect with you?