"I don't actually work here."
In the wake of the recession, many companies, particularly smaller ones, have begun outsourcing front-office staff to save money. How does it work? Ruby Receptionists, a firm that provides receptionists who work out of its Portland, Ore., office to more than 1,100 companies around the country, trains staff to meet the specific needs of clients: how they'd like calls about job openings and sales pitches handled, for example. But the system doesn't always work seamlessly. There always seems to be "certain information we don't have," says Ruby CEO Jill Nelson. Nevertheless, off-site reception has become a booming business; Bill Grodnik, president and CEO of Davinci Virtual Office Solutions, estimates that of his firm's more than 8,000 clients, 75 percent use its virtual reception services. And while there are only two or three big players in the "virtual reception" industry, Nelson says the field is teeming with smaller, regional outfits. That means the chances of calling an office down the block and speaking with a receptionist miles away are probably greater than you think. Want to know whom you're dealing with -- and where they're located? "People don't necessarily know we're off-site," says Nelson. "But if they ask, we tell them."