Life After Business

Why Culture Matters – One BHAG and a $38 Million PE Recap

Jill Nelson is an entrepreneur who studied business as, in her words, “an act of rebellion.” She wound up as a receptionist for a business broker. She learned firsthand what buyers are looking for in a business acquisition and what gives a company value. That experience led her to build an answering service called Ruby Receptionist.

She built a unique product and culture that made buyers flock to her door. Jill explains how she built such a strong culture and made sure Ruby had value beyond the bottom line. Jill’s story is a perfect example of how to do it right and go to market on your own terms. She is still CEO of Ruby Receptionist but she sold her company in a stock sale to a private equity firm. She walks me through the process and explores how it was so different from any other experience she’s had previously in her career.

What you will learn:

  • Jill’s decision to study business.
  • How she built Ruby Receptionist.
  • The struggle to get Ruby off the ground.
  • Why metrics are so important.
  • The things Jill believes contributed to her success.
  • Jill’s motto: easy to hire, hard to empower.
  • How she built a unique and valuable business culture.
  • How Jill dealt with the sales process and due diligence.
  • How to create organic growth by empowering.
  • Why an investment broker was a key part of Jill’s deal.
  • How finding alignment with buyers is a lot like dating.
  • What life is like as Ruby’s CEO.
  • Jill’s advice to the audience.


Jill is a textbook example of the five principals.

  1. She had the vision of what she wanted.
  2. She aimed for targets to build value into her business.
  3. She researched her exit plan options and found the right one for her.
  4. She created a system that could run without her.
  5. She was on top of due diligence and hired the right people to help her.

Links and Resources:

GEXP Collaborative
Ruby Receptionist
Jill on LinkedIn
Jill on Twitter

About Jill:

A driven entrepreneur passionate about building a one-of-kind company, Jill Nelson has grown Ruby Receptionists into a nationally recognized organization for its inclusive, people-powered company culture and its record-breaking position as one of Oregon’s fastest growing companies for the past 11 years. Since founding the company in 2003, Jill has led Ruby to double-digit revenue growth every year, and in 2015 sold the majority share of Ruby for $38.8 million to Updata Partners.

In addition to her own entrepreneurial endeavors, Jill has been recognized by her peers, receiving the Pacific NW 2017 Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award and named the 2017 Oregon Technology Executive of the Year—the first woman to receive this recognition.

A fervent supporter of local business, Jill has served on the board of Entrepreneurs Organization in a variety of roles including President of the Portland chapter and acted as a mentor in its Accelerator program, successfully helping business owners reach the $1,000,000 revenue mark.

Brought to you by Ryan Tansom of Life After Business