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Posted: November 01, 2010

Top Company 2010: ReadyTalk

Winner in the Telecom category

Mike Cote

TopCo_ReadyTalk_Nov.jpg

Scott King smiles when he recalls the first time he made the two-hour trek by bike from Boulder to ReadyTalk's LoDo office. His older brother, Dan, who had cycled to Denver many times before, wasn't about to slacken the pace. So Scott was in for a grueling ride.

Dan flashes a devilish grin when Scott talks about how he was sore for days afterward. The co-founders of the Web- and audio-conferencing company were distance runners for the University of Colorado, and their competitive streak remains intact.

"It was all about reminding Scott that he was out of shape," Dan says with a laugh.

ReadyTalk continues to thrive in an industry that is evolving quickly as thrift-conscious companies embrace tools that allow workers to collaborate without being in the same room.

"We've had consecutive revenue growth every quarter since we started our company," says Dan, 51. "I think it boils down to a number of things. We bend over backward to make sure we take care of the customers who have entrusted us with these types of services. And we built a really great product. Once customers have experienced ReadyTalk they tend to be pretty loyal."

ReadyTalk aims to keep that loyalty by offering a feature you might not expect from a company whose services can be ordered off the Web. Customers who call for help are connected with someone after the first or second ring.

"It kind of surprises customers because all of the sudden they're talking to a live person who is helping them solve whatever problem they have," says Scott, 48. "And the ownership of that customer problem right at the point of contact is really important. It differentiates us in a very competitive and crowded space."

ReadyTalk also differentiates itself through the workplace culture the Kings have created since starting the company 10 years ago. One of the first things you see when you walk into the ReadyTalk offices atop the Tattered Cover Bookstore is a crowded bike rack, which includes company-provided bikes for workers to use at 
lunch time. And it's not unusual to see dogs wandering around 
the office.

"We all want to build a place that we want to come to work to every day," Dan says. "So much of that is how it feels to walk into the company."

At ReadyTalk, that goes beyond simply providing a comfortable work environment. In an era when rising premiums are prompting many employers to cut back on health-care benefits, ReadyTalk covers its 110 employees and their families 100 percent and recently initiated an employee stock ownership plan.

"Sometimes you can't put on a spreadsheet what the ROI of a particular decision is, whether it's an investment in a local community effort or a benefits investment to help cover employee expenses for medical or health care," Scott says. "Those kinds of decisions, while they may be difficult sometimes to justify to external investors, build a very strong connectedness with our customers and our employees to really what the company is 
all about."

Among ReadyTalk's more quirky perks are the two kegs of beer that are always on tap, freshly delivered from the nearby Wynkoop Brewing Co.

But the beer arrived long before the health insurance.

"When we started this company, we couldn't pay people full salary; we couldn't cover benefits; we couldn't do a lot of things - but we were able to buy beer," Dan says. "We affectionately referred to our keg as our benefits cooler, and it's really been a part of ReadyTalk ever since."
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Mike Cote is the former editor of ColoradoBiz. E-mail him at mcote@cobizmag.com.

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