Written by: Matt Martin, Co-founder, Nurango

Starting a business is exciting. From cocktail napkin to business plan, few items will remain on the “need to have” list, but a company phone number will be one of them.

No matter the business or the plan, the start-up founders and entrepreneurs that I speak with all face the challenge of how to engage with customers by phone.

Providing potential customers with a way to contact you is as important as having a business plan, an email address and a domain name.

Did you know?
phone service start-up

The challenge that entrepreneurs face is how to project a professional image when leaving a contact number during prospecting. The problem is really two-fold;

  1. Having a business phone number for callers and displaying that number on customers’ phones when contacting them.
  2. Making and receiving calls while being a remote team.

Providing your personal phone number is certainly not ideal. Similar to giving out a free based email address, this might not be the image you want to project.

When contacting prospects you’ll want to have your contact number displayed for call-backs and easy identification, without worrying about being inundated with calls back to your personal phone numbers.

As a fledgeling start-up, working remotely and being “on the go” means that your phone solution needs to be as flexible and available as you are. Expensive and feature-rich phone systems are not always accessible (or necessary) for a start-up, thus solving this problem can be difficult.

Now that we’ve identified the main challenges we can start to look at the best approach for setting up your new phone service. This is where VoIP or “Voice over IP” can help. If you’re not already familiar with VoIP, it is the method of connecting the traditional phone network with the digital phone network by sending and receiving calls over the Internet.

There are many free and paid options that you’ll uncover with a quick Google search and choosing the right service from the start will allow you to grow and avoid the need to change your business contact details, ensuring your efforts are not in vain.

Let’s break down the process in a few simple steps.

Choosing a phone number

Appear local

Luckily, this process is much simpler than choosing a company name or a domain. You will want to ensure that the area code is relevant and local to the market you intend to serve. Traditionally this will encourage more would-be customers to contact you by phone since they won’t have to incur long distance charges. It’s also a way to make a statement that they are doing business with someone who is local to them.

Appear national

If you intend to service more than just your local market, additional options are available that can include phone numbers from other area codes that ring to the same destination, or the “all familiar” Toll-Free number. VoIP providers almost exclusively offer a DIY back-office that allows you to instantly order phone numbers from different geo-locations, allowing you to start with a single number and expand at any later point in time.


Lastly, a “Vanity Number” is a custom phone number that translates letters to numbers for an easy to remember contact number while associating your brand. These can be purchased for a nominal fee on an “as available” basis. Desired combinations can be searched for similar to a domain name search.
{link to example search site?}

Where and how should you receive calls?

“Please hold while I transfer you”… not ideal right?

Whether you’re starting up alone or with an ambitious team of remote workers, having your phone calls follow you wherever you are will be essential.

There are three basic methods for ensuring that calls can reach one or more individuals in your team whether by department, job function or directly. In all cases, users can receive phone calls by having their system forward the callers to their mobile phone directly (“Call Forwarding”) or ring through to an application that runs on their smartphone or computer desktop, referred to as a “Softphone”.

Auto Attendant

Commonly referred to as an IVR or “Interactive Voice Response” menu, this is your traditional greeting message followed by a “press 1 for X, press 2 for Y” style setup. Calls can then be forwarded to groups of users (such as a sales group with multiple reps) or to individual phones (a single salesperson), for example.

IVR’s can be expanded upon to include useful information to callers without the need to speak with a live person such as; directions, shipping/return policies, or a company directory.

Ring groups

A ring group consists of multiple users in a single group. The caller dials your phone number and all of the phones in the assigned group are rung at once. The first person to answer their phone takes the call. Different ring strategies can be set up such as distributing the calls evenly amongst phones or cascading the calls to users incrementally.

Call forwarding

The first two solutions may be too robust for your current needs, especially when starting up solo. You may just need a Virtual Number that can forward customer calls to your mobile or to your softphone application for now. This will enable you to provide customers with a true business phone number which protects your privacy and scales with you as you grow.

Virtual Number services usually come with voicemail-by-email and even allow you to display your own company number when receiving calls so that you can easily identify the call as a forward from your hosted phone system.

Making outbound calls

Softphone applications cut the cord on traditional desk phones and enable mobile workers to make and receive calls from where ever they are. Running from a computer desktop or smartphone you can call anywhere in the world at low rates using VoIP. Many plans include Canada and U.S. wide calling for the same price or even for free, eliminating traditionally high domestic long distance rates. Your Caller-ID will be able to reflect your new business phone number allowing you to showcase your company name when calling and ensuring customer call-backs reach the right people at the right time.

Main takeaways

Choose a phone number and a service provider that you can grow with as part of a long-term strategy. Evaluate which features you need right away and which you may need late; fax-by-email, conferencing, call recording and so on. A service that allows you start small and scale up will avoid growing pains and the need to transfer your number to another provider.

Many free based services won’t guarantee your ownership of the phone number you choose and may not provide any service guarantees. You have one chance to make an impression and a working number is crucial in building a trustworthy brand.

Get up to $60,000
in financial support,
and the support of one
of our 2,400+ mentors.

Learn More →