Abby Leibowitz – CEO, Call Experts

As CEO of Call Experts, Abby Leibowitz plans and implements growth and sustainability strategies for the business and guides all. Since joining Call Experts in 2006, Leibowitz has held several different positions in the company as she has built and transformed the company into an international corporation. Leibowitz’s most recent work includes developing solutions for customer experience mapping in relation to customer digital journeys, focusing on AI and automation.

Leibowitz holds a Master’s degree in Business Administration from the Citadel and a Bachelor’s degree in English and Government from Franklin and Marshall College.

She is a member of the Canadian Call Management Association (CAM-X) and the Association of Teleservices International (ATSI). Under Leibowitz’s leadership, Call Experts received the Award of Excellence by both organizations for several consecutive years. Also, Call Experts has been recognized in both the 2016 and 2017 Roaring Twenties lists of fastest-growing companies in South Carolina by SC Biz News, and seven times in the Inc. Magazine 5000 List of America’s fastest-growing companies. In 2010, at age 26, Leibowitz was named to the list of “40 Under 40” as recognition of outstanding leadership in the Charleston business community by the Charleston Regional Business Journal. She currently serves on various local non-profit boards as a committee member and is involved in local organizations benefiting youth leadership.

Leibowitz is a native of Charleston, SC and has two perfect children – ages 4 and 6.

How did the concept for Call Experts come about?
Call Experts grew out of a traditional family answering service company that was started in the 1980s. Call Experts had a different name when I joined in 2006. We are that traditional answering service company on major steroids. Since 2006, we developed our solutions to encompass several communication methods for many different industries.

How was the first year in business?
The first year in business included many frantic days and long days. There was constant assessment and reorganization. I would take employee calls 24/7 and use every management technique I could think of to organize and plan the future. A lot of it was just about reacting to the fire of the day and then hoping I was not too tired at night to work on a plan to stop the fire for the next one. I went from company role to company role creating it and working the role as our organization grew and reorganized. The only role I have not worked to-date is IT Manager, but there’s still time for that…

What was your marketing strategy?
At first, there was none. I probably didn’t even know that term. I went to business school after I was already two years into running the company. I learned so much more from being deep within a real company with actual employees and real customers (one of the customers was even the business school I was going to) than I did in the classroom. I realize now that most of the initial marketing strategy involved relying on good luck and trying to stay above water. Then, it was simply to be the first person to answer any inquiry and establish a relationship of trust and responsiveness that we hoped would turn into a sale. After about a year, we created a proactive sales approach that included SEO, expanding into other states, and utilizing some purchased leads.

How fast did the company grow during the first few years?
The first few years were up and down. It was up from some attempted acquisitions, then down as we unloaded them, and then up again slowly over the years and then steadily since then.

How do you define success?
There is personal success as a leader and then there is the success of the business. My personal success is defined as being able to do what I want to with my time and money because I have established reserves of both. Also, to be able to pick up the phone or email someone to make something happen because of the good will and connections I have established. Business success is when we do what we said we would for customers and then add value on top of it, while retaining happy employees and not losing money. It is the most rewarding to know that we provided something unusually exceptional that really met a need for our customers.

What is the key to success?
Attitude and staying flexible. You also need to ask “why” a lot. There is also not only one key. Work hard, constantly reassess, stay open.

What is the greatest lesson you’ve ever learned?
That you actually can eat an elephant if you go one bite at a time.

What are some quotes that you live by?
“Learn how to respond, not how to react.”

“May your choices reflect your hopes and not your fears.”

“Don’t overestimate the world and underestimate yourself.”

“Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage.”

“Reality is negotiable.

What are some of your favorite books?
Good to Great by James Collins

Tools of Titans by Tim Ferriss

The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg

Tell me about one of the toughest days you’ve had as an entrepreneur.
We had a day where our service was potentially going to be compromised. Every back up plan that we had in place was failing. Things that had been tested stopped working. New solutions and ideas would work for a minute and then stop. The team was looking to me for direction at every turn about what to try next. Everyone seemed almost paralyzed. It was nearing the time when we needed to make a real decision about what to do – how to reroute customers and what to tell them. We figured it out with about five minutes to spare, but it was a time where I felt the true weight and responsibility of my role and realized how much truly relies on my decision making skills. As much as we plan for what could come up, there will be times where you have to quickly rely on experience and bring it all together to do the best you can in that moment.

When faced with adversity, what pushes you to keep moving forward?
That when I look back on this time, I will remember how I dealt with this moment and aim to be proud of my behavior in a situation, regardless of what happened to me or how others acted. The present time moves by so quickly that I can let the future be the judge, not get caught up, and keep moving forward. I can also recognize easily what truly matters in life and put things into perspective quickly to focus on “Okay, now what can we do next?”

What advice would you give to young entrepreneurs?
Start examining your thoughts when you feel limited to dig into what happened in your life to make you think that was the prevailing truth. If you dig deep enough, you can rewrite your life rules to propel you through what you want to accomplish. The older I get, the more I realize that opinions and judgments I had in the past are constantly turned upside down – so it is best to just stay very open and positive from the onset. Do you remember what it was like to be a judgmental teenager who thought old people were lame and we knew the right way to live? Well, remember that and never let yourself be that stuck again. Learn from other people’s mistakes if you can instead of making your own, but also accept that sometimes you will never learn unless you do it. Also, just go for it. If you have an entrepreneur’s spirit, you will regret more the things you do not do than the ones you do.

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Interviews are conducted for research purposes by author Jason Navallo for his upcoming book, Underdog.

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