How Ooma’s Ron Hellpap builds relationships to help grow businesses

Husain Sumra profile image May 21, 2024 | 4 min read

When Ron Hellpap was in his first year of law school at age 23, he started a family and realized he needed to make some money fast, so he applied for a sales job in the legal field. In the interview he was asked how long he had been in sales. His answer? About 8 years.

Hellpap said the interviewer quickly did the math and asked how that was possible, since he would have been 16 when he started. It turns out he was a busboy at a restaurant on San Francisco’s Fisherman’s Wharf.

“I realized really quickly my biggest income was the tips, so every chance I got–friends, acquaintances, people I met on the bus–I would tell them about the restaurant. How great it was, the ambience, the establishment, so that I could bring in more people. The more people in the door, the more tips for Ron. I was sellin’!”

The interviewer was sold and hired Hellpap, and he remained in the job for 14 years, growing until he became a national accounts manager. When he was working in the restaurant business through college, co-workers often told him he was good at talking to people and should consider going over to the restaurant sales side.

But the legal field called to him, and he says the combination of the legal field with sales felt right. He stayed in the legal world for 25 years, until his wife tragically succumbed to cancer. “I kind of reflected back on what I was doing after that, and from there I saw this headhunter job placement for Ooma,” he said. “I’ve done all sorts of sales and sales is really relationship building so I applied to telecom; I wanted to do something different.”

Hellpap knew he would have to learn about telecommunications, but he was confident in his people skills and in knowing how to build relationships with businesses. He’s been with Ooma for seven years as an outside account executive. Specifically, he works with the events team at various shows to meet small business owners. Drawing from his own expertise, he goes to legal and restaurant shows.

Helping businesses become more efficient

However, Hellpap doesn’t just pitch Ooma features like an infomercial. He tries to help them become more efficient. “Which, really, makes me feel good about what I’m doing because I’m not just selling them something,” he said. “It’s more about how I could help them be more efficient and help their growth and care about their business.”

Hellpap says he was once talking to a restaurant owner with three locations. The restaurateur was with another VoIP company, and Hellpap says the features were pretty similar, but the business was having some pain points. He wasn’t sure whether those pain points would change by switching Ooma, so he asked Hellpap why he should switch. What makes Ooma different?

“I paused for a second and simply said, ‘Me.’. He stepped back for a second and goes ‘OK, let me know about that’ and I said, ‘Well, I’m going to be hands-on and take care of you during the process and after the process. You’re going to have an A-to-Z liaison that’s going to take care of you and never let you go.’ So he says, ‘I like that—OK, let’s see what you got.’ Well, he’s been working with us for five years now and he’s opened a fourth location,” Hellpap said.

Hellpap’s background in restaurants and legal has helped him understand the anatomy of businesses. He points out that busboys and dishwashers are some of the most important people at a restaurant, because they keep the operation going. Successful restaurants depend on everyone to work efficiently to prevent things from breaking down.

You have to respect all layers of a business, Hellpap says. In other fields, that could include receptionists or cashiers, employees who meet with customers regularly and help keep things running. He also points out that not all businesses of a type work the same, so you can’t use a one-size-fits-all approach.

Part of being relatable is taking a genuine interest in the businesses he’s partnered with. Hellpap says he feels like he’s a part of their business, including some that he worked with when they first started. As they grow, he likes to feel like he’s a part of that growth. He also points out that telecommunications became huge during the pandemic, especially for finer dining establishments that weren’t set up for to-go orders. He says he felt like he was a big part of helping them during that transition.

What Ron Hellpap wants customers to know

“That Ooma cares. Real simple. We really care. It’s not that we only want your business, we care about your business. I try to bring that to the forefront. The care, the personal support, that is the biggest feature. Yeah, we have a support center, but people point out, ‘so does A, B, C company and I get on hold for a long time,’ but if they have someone they know they feel more comfortable, or if they have a safety net, they don’t feel like they’re on an island.”

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