Small Business Interview: Ebony Ruffin, Ruffin Consulting Services
Introducing Ebony Ruffin, the founder and managing member of Ruffin Consulting Services. Ebony provides life insurance and financial solution services for business owners and families. Ebony's passion for financial consulting developed as she traveled the world as the daughter of an active duty military parent in the U.S. Army. Through her experience both domestic and abroad, she learned the value of saving and investing. Ebony's vision is to foster the growth and economic development of small businesses and families. In this interview Ebony shares her business challenges and accomplishments including casting aside her fear of social media in order to put her business out there. You will certainly enjoy the valuable business advice Ebony shares!
"Trust takes time to build but once in place, the reward is priceless."
Please introduce yourself and tell us about your business. What is it called and what services / products do you offer?
Hi, I’m Ebony Ruffin, the founder and Managing Member of Ruffin Consulting Services, a business-consulting firm providing effective financial solutions for business owners and families. As a licensed and appointed life agent, I provide life insurance and financial services in all 50 states and in 92 countries. In addition to being licensed, I earned a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration in Finance and a Master of Business Administration in International Business from Mercer University. I understand that everyone's economic and life situations are unique. I provide personalized services that are essential when matching clients with the right financial security products and services.
Can you share a bit about how you choose this line of business? What transition did you make to own your own business?
Financial mentoring was a great benefit and value to me early on in life. I learned from my upbringing how to manage money, the importance of savings, how to check and monitor my credit and how to accurately balance a checking account. The value of a budget was taught to me through earning of allowance and my buying power based on my earnings. This foundation coupled with me being raised as a military dependent led to my passion of finance.
After pursuing a B.S.B.A. in Finance and a MBA in International Business, I transitioned easily into the field of accounting and finance with corporate positions as a Credit Supervisor, Financial Analyst, Accounting Manager and now a Finance Manager. My skills and subject matter expertise in managerial accounting and systems implementation made me a sought after candidate at many corporate firms. My passion for finance didn’t stop in the corporate arena, I decided to capitalize on my consulting skills and financial knowledge and study to become a life insurance agent specializing in guiding individuals and business owners on what insurance product is best to protect them as an individual, their family and their business.
I have a dual responsibility with my skills and knowledge; growth of revenue and level expenses for corporations along with streamline processes and procedures and a social responsibility to educate everyday people on how to prepare for retirement and protect their most important asset; their life.
Do you have any special training?
I am a licensed life an annuities producer in the state of Virginia and appointed to National Life Group with reciprocity to practice in all 50 states and in 92 countries. With 2 degrees and 11+ years of experience in finance and accounting, I am a subject matter expertise in the finance industry.
What are some of your biggest accomplishments as a business owner?
3 experiences come to mind here!
A recently married couple in Maryland welcomed a new addition to their family, which prompted them to take more serious steps towards protecting their new family. I earned the trust of the new couple and confidently consulted the couple on each phase to insuring their new family. The couple didn’t think they would be able to afford insurance protection for their entire family, including their newborn; however, I was able to show them just how affordable it was to protect their family and offer them living benefits.
A young single mother wanted to make more financially sound decisions for her and her daughter. She contacted me to request my service and expertise in ensuring her daughter would be financially secured shall the mother pass away. I worked with the mother to provide affordable permanent life insurance for her as well as her young daughter and secure them both with living benefits.
A business owner in Detroit was matched with me to serve as a mentor and provide guidance in the insurance industry. The business owner became my mentee and expressed her utmost gratitude in my investing in the growth her business by providing her additional resources to be appointed to offer a wider range of insurance products to her clientele. We have never met in person but I was the one mentor that remained in contact with her and coached her through the appointment process and held frequent accountability conference calls.
How soon after you started did you start seeing profits? Or when do you project to begin earning a profit?
The profitability for Ruffin Consulting Services wasn’t immediate. There were upfront expenses such as exam costs to obtain a license, errors and omission insurance for the business, accounting fees and other overhead fees such as website, phone, hosting service, consulting fees, etc. Once the foundation was solid, the growth of clientele was a slow start. Working in the financial services industry requires clients’ complete trust. Trust takes time to build but once in place, the reward is priceless. Once an agent obtains his or her license, profitability may be obtained quickly depending on the agent’s ability to earn the trust of clients. As a new business with no previous clients, there was significant time invested in building clientele.
How did you decide how to price your services? How did you determine what your services were worth?
Ruffin Consulting Services is paid directly by the insurance companies in which we receive an appointment. Therefore, there is a fair and honest system. Ruffin Consulting Services, however, may earn revenue from speaking engagements and initial consultations.
What mistake(s), if any, have you made with your business? What have some of your biggest challenges been? What did you learn from the experience and how did you bounce back?
As the founder of Ruffin Consulting Services, I have learned from the following mistakes.
a) Not opening my mouth to ask for exactly what I wanted. People don’t know what you offer and how you can impact their lives or their business unless you speak up.
b) Initially, there was the mindset that everything had to be perfectly established first before a client would take me seriously. I later learned all the knowledge and experience was within me and when I began to share what I know, people believed in my business and me.
c) My biggest challenge was not having a social media presence. I allowed my personal view of social media to impact my business. February 2016 I cast my personal fears away from social media and launched Ruffin Consulting Services to the world. I have no regret and have developed the most supportive audience.
What do you consider the most important elements of running a successful business?
b) Continuing education.
c) Integrity and sound business ethics.
d) A clearly defined mission and vision statement.
e) Presence in the right market and network.
f) A sustainable product or service that creates value.
g) CUSTOMER SERVICE!
h) People who believe and trust in you and your business.
Do you have any start-up advice you can share with women reading this who would like to launch their own businesses?
a) Identify a mentor.
b) Live, eat and breathe your business. It has to be in YOU. Your approach to establishing and running your business can’t change depending on how good or bad of day you’re having; remember there are clients counting on YOU.
c) Research and identify where you are and where you are going.
d) Establish a membership with reputable organizations in your industry that you can learn from and gain tremendous value.
e) Identify your market and create a brand and marketing material to target that specific market.
Do you have any advice on managing your small business finances?
a) Understand your own books!
b) Invest in a bookkeeping course.
c) Retain all receipts.
d) Hire a CPA and be hands-on with the preparation of your financial documents.
e) Don’t trust anyone 100%. Always check the person or hire an expert for a second opinion.
f) Understand fixed and variable expenses.
g) Identify which seasons impact the increase or decrease in your revenue.
How do you balance work and life owning a small business?
a) Plan accordingly.
b) I LOVE my calendar.
c) Be realistic about your capacity.
d) Sacrifice the wants for the needs.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
An advocate and change leader for introducing personal finance management to young children. A sought-after subject matter expert in acquiring the right life insurance that protects families and business while living and after life. A voice for millennials being accountable for retirement planning.
Please share a fun fact about yourself.
I climbed the mountain ridge of Machu Picchu and I purchased my first home at the age of 23.
How can readers find you?
Thank you so much Ebony for your wisdom today. We look forward to following your success on social media!