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Ruth King of Business Ventures Corporation: “Good customer service is in the eye of the customer, not the company employees”

The company must focus on taking care of its customers since they write the employees’ paychecks. Good customer service is in the eye of the customer, not the company employees. There are times to fire customers: if they do not pay their bills, always want to negotiate an invoice, you can never make happy, or […]

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The company must focus on taking care of its customers since they write the employees’ paychecks. Good customer service is in the eye of the customer, not the company employees. There are times to fire customers: if they do not pay their bills, always want to negotiate an invoice, you can never make happy, or there is a safety issue. Never have more than 20% of revenues from one customer or one industry (whenever possible).


As part of my series about the “How To Take Your Company From Good To Great”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Ruth King, president of Business Ventures Corporation. Well-known as “The Profitability Master”, Ruth has a passion for helping small business grow profits and wealth. Ruth holds an MBA in Finance from Georgia State University and Bachelor’s and Master’s Degrees in Chemical Engineering from Tufts University and the University of Pennsylvania, respectively. She started the Decatur, Georgia branch of the Small Business Development Center in 1982. She also started the Women’s Entrepreneurial Center and taught a year-long course for women who wanted to start their own businesses. More recently, Ruth was the instructor for the Inner-City Entrepreneur (ICE) program in conjunction with the Small Business Administration. After 12 years on the road, she knew there had to be a better way to reach businesspeople. She began training on the Internet in 1998 and began the first television like broadcasting in 2002, launching her own TV channel — www.hvacchannel.tv. Ruth has also been interviewed by Wall Street Journal Radio Network, The Big Biz Show, and many regional and local radio programs. Ruth has appeared on MSNBC’s “It’s Your Money” program, Fox San Diego, and many other local television stations. Ruth has spoken internationally for Kohler, Carrier Corporation, Safeguard (division of Deluxe), and many other corporations and national/state/local associations. For more information, visit: https://profitorwealth.com/ or https://ruthkinghvac.com/


Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?

I always knew that I wanted to have a business. I started my first business when I was growing up: I sold flowers from our garden.

When I was in high school I thought that I wanted to go to medical school. When I got into college I decided that I had better have a backup plan, which became my plan: I graduated with a chemical engineering degree. I never went to medical school.

I worked two summer jobs in chemical engineering and loved them. Then I got into the real world and hated my work. During this time I went back to school at night to get my MBA in finance, and discovered I loved finance and financial numbers.

I started the Decatur, Georgia branch of the Small Business Development Center in 1982. Then I started the Women’s Entrepreneurial Center and taught a year-long course for women who wanted to start their own businesses. This course was the foundation for one of the classes at the Women’s Economic Development Authority in Atlanta, Georgia.

Continuing on the path I was the instructor for ICE, the Inner City Entrepreneur program in conjunction with the Small Business Administration. This 16 week course taught business owners with at least 400,000 dollars in revenues (and many had over 1,000,000 dollars in revenues) how to grow to the next level. A large part of the curriculum was aimed at improving the financial knowledge of the business owners enrolled in the course.

Along the way, I have written five award-winning books, including my latest, Profit or Wealth: Simple Rules for Sustainable Business Growth.

Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey? Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?

The hardest was my sixth startup. We had negotiated with our first customer and a 1.6 million dollars deal. I had 800,000 dollars in investments riding on that deal and had invested all the money that we had in the startup. I got a phone call saying the deal was off and I was devastated.

Everything we had was in that deal. I got off the phone, went outside my office building, sat on the curb where no one could see me, and cried.

Then I heard my father’s voice in the back of my head, “Pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and keep going.” I dried my tears and did. I invested my last 25K dollars from credit cards and we started.

My father was instrumental in getting over the shock and continuing, even though it was his voice telling me the same things he had told me every time bad things happened as I was growing up.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘takeaways’ you learned from that?

I realized I was afraid of my employees and didn’t make myself clear about what was expected.

Now I know that anyone, including me, could get “hit by a truck” tomorrow and be gone. No one is irreplaceable, including me. I am also much clearer about what I expect. And, I live by the “three strikes and you’re out rule. They get two warnings and then they go through my career readjustment program, i.e. they are terminated.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

Persistence. Helping company owners through the tough times. I started working with two owners. They had just bought the company from their former owner. The company had 750,000 dollars in revenues. 16 years later they sold the company for 9 million dollars in cash.

I helped them through the growth pains and growth lessons. About 14 years into our consulting relationship the partners decided to sell and I found them a broker who could help them close the deal.

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

Have things you do outside the business. Hobbies are essential.

Exercise. Always make time for it. It helps you feel better.

Find someone or a group you can talk to about business. Mentors or mastermind groups are essential to get clarity and many times ideas.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

My parents. They put up with a lot as I was starting and growing my businesses. They were always there during the good times and bad times.

For a story see my comment about how my Dad helped during my 6th startup.

Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. The title of this series is “How to take your company from good to great”. Let’s start with defining our terms. How would you define a “good” company, what does that look like? How would you define a “great” company, what does that look like?

A good company is earning the industry average net profit per hour. The owners are working really hard as are the managers. They have not begun to build wealth.

A great company is earning a significant net profit per hour and is donating a piece of that net profit to his favorite causes. He is not working every waking minute on the business. He has a great management team who understand their goals, how to read their department’s financial statement, and can run the business on a day to day basis.

The owner is oversight and is leading the company and building wealth rather than being stuck in the day to day operations.

Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things one should know in order to lead a company from Good to Great? Please share a story or an example for each.

Be a great communicator. No employee can read your mind. Clearly define what is expected. Communicate what the authority, responsibility, and accountability are for each manager. Manage by those objectives.

Each manager should be able to understand his department’s P&L and make good business decisions based on it. Each employee should know how his/her job affects the customer AND the bottom line.

The owner should be able to read department and company P&L, as well as the company balance sheet. He should be able to make company-wide decisions based on the financial information. He must also build the wealth of the company so it is protected during downturns.

Clearly communicate what the company goals, purpose, mission are, and how everyone fits in to that mission. Employees should know why they are there and align with the company’s goals and mission. Share the testimonials you receive about an employee with the company and that employee’s spouse/significant other.

The company must focus on taking care of its customers since they write the employees’ paychecks. Good customer service is in the eye of the customer, not the company employees. There are times to fire customers: if they do not pay their bills, always want to negotiate an invoice, you can never make happy, or there is a safety issue. Never have more than 20% of revenues from one customer or one industry (whenever possible).

Extensive research suggests that “purpose driven businesses” are more successful in many areas. Can you help articulate for our readers a few reasons why a business should consider becoming a purpose driven business, or consider having a social impact angle?

If you are in business solely for the money, I believe you will ultimately fail.

What would you advise to a business leader who initially went through years of successive growth, but has now reached a standstill. From your experience do you have any general advice about how to boost growth and “restart their engines”?

Why did the business stall? Did the market change? Did customer needs change?

This is the time to reach out to active and inactive customers. Give inactive customers reasons to buy from the company again. Find out what other products and services you can provide to your existing customers.

On an employee note, are the employees feeling stagnant? Is there a general malaise in the company culture? Do the employees know why they come to work? Re-invigorating the company needs to be from an external customer perspective and an internal employee perspective.

Company-wide goals and contests could help.

Generating new business, increasing your profits, or at least maintaining your financial stability can be challenging during good times, even more so during turbulent times. Can you share some of the strategies you use to keep forging ahead and not lose growth traction during a difficult economy?

Build recurring revenue. These customers are loyal during good times and bad.

Save 1% of every dollar that comes in the door. And, once the savings account gets large, leave it alone. Do not be tempted to touch it in good times.

Make sure that you have enough cash in the bank so that you can fund operations for four to six months. This will help during difficult economic times.

Contests also help during these times. Your employees, if they believe in the company’s mission, will help boost revenues and profits. They are on the front lines and probably have ideas that are helpful.

In your experience, which aspect of running a company tends to be most underestimated? Can you explain or give an example?

Paying attention to the financial side of business. Unless you are a CPA or a bookkeeper, you didn’t start your business to do the accounting/financial side of business. However, it is the critical part to pay attention. Otherwise, you could grow yourself out of business.

One of my clients started his business with a partner. They grew it to 2 million dollars in revenue and never paid attention to the financials. As long as they could take their supplier discounts and pay payroll, they were happy.

They reached 2 million dollars in sales and the growth stopped. Soon they started noticing that it was difficult to take their discounts and sometimes they had to make collection calls to make payroll.

When I did the analysis, it turned out that they were losing a nickel for every dollar they brought in the door for 12 years. We raised prices, paid attention to costs, and their cash flow and profits improved.

As you know, “conversion” means to convert a visit into a sale. In your experience what are the best strategies a business should use to increase conversion rates?

First, discover your potential customers’ needs and wants. Then show that potential customer how your products benefit him/her.

Always follow up a visit — in the way the customer prefers — email, letter, text, or phone call. By following up you will have higher conversion rates.

Of course, the main way to increase conversion rates is to create a trusted and beloved brand. Can you share a few ways that a business can earn a reputation as a trusted and beloved brand?

Take care of the customers’ needs and wants profitably. Communicate and give benefits even when you don’t want them to buy something. Provide value and show that you care.

Build recurring revenue — give customers a product, a service, or something they can invest in every month that will help them. You’ll build trust and repeat customers. (This is a rule of building profit and wealth).

Great customer service and great customer experience are essential to build a beloved brand and essential to be successful in general. In your experience what are a few of the most important things a business leader should know in order to create a Wow! Customer Experience?

Don’t rely on what your employees/salespeople tell you. Visit the customers. Talk with customers directly. You will get unfiltered information.

What are your thoughts about how a company should be engaged on Social Media? For example, the advisory firm EisnerAmper conducted 6 yearly surveys of United States corporate boards, and directors reported that one of their most pressing concerns was reputational risk as a result of social media. Do you share this concern? We’d love to hear your thoughts about this.

Be consistent in your opinions and posts. Make it clear what the company stands for. (I stand for profitability and am known as the Profitability Master).

What are the most common mistakes you have seen CEOs & founders make when they start a business? What can be done to avoid those errors?

Not paying attention to the financial side of business. Not understanding costs. Not reviewing accurate financial information every month. Not paying attention to cash and cash flow.

Thank you for all of that. We are nearly done. You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Imagine if every business were profitable! Then the business could donate 1% or 2% of profits to their favorite causes. The world would be a better place for all.

How can our readers further follow you online?

www.ruthking.info or www.ProfitOrWealth.com

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this!


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