Women swapping recipes may not sound like something you can't afford to miss. However, this woman is sharing her recipe for success. Kathie Edwards turned an answering service into a multi-million dollar call center business.
Walk into Edwards' Northwest Houston company, Westpark Communications, and you'll see her mother's old telephone cord board. It is the actual original piece of equipment Edwards' mom and aunt started their answering service company with in 1968. So long ago ladies couldn't even take out loans.
"They did not allow a woman to sign those type of documents so my dad and uncle did have to co-sign," explains Edwards.
Another antique of sorts in the company? A snapshot of 16 year old Kathie at that old cord board giving her mother's business a try. She decided? "This is not for me," smiles Edwards. Little did she know. Kathie joined her mother's answering service Westpark Communications in 1992 with a few expansion ideas.
"When I came in she had six employees and there were about 200 clients. Today we've got close to 1000 accounts and 80 employees," Edwards explains.
Some of those clients include pretty big names. "Baker Hughes, Halliburton".
Instead of simply continuing to take messages for companies too busy to answer their own phones, Edwards decided Westpark Communications should be an extension of that company, setting appointments, taking orders, accepting payments, answering customers questions. Kathie's company now also answers "web chat" for certain businesses. "Westpark is a 24/7 customer service call center," explains Edwards.
Under Kathie's control the company has acquired many accolades. The business outgrew it's Westpark location and now has an office and colossal call center in Northwest Houston.
"My mother was billing anywhere from $200k to 400k a year and today I'm billing over $3 million. We have clients in Israel, panama, Canada and México," says Edwards.
So what is the secret to growing a multi-million dollar business? Edwards says she has two tips for you. Number one? Go for it. "You will be scared but you have to just take that chance". Number two? Hire people to work for you so you can work "on" the business and not "in" the business.
"You may be put in a positon where you're not paid. For many years I was like that. I was not paid.
Edwards says the payoff may not be immediate but it will come in the end. She also suggests you build business relationships and form professional alliances. That way you grow your business, you learn from other's mistakes and you get more ideas than you ever imagined.