Who hasn’t had a meeting in a coffee shop? To perform an interview, to be interviewed or just to have a regular business meeting or workshop, the increasing popularity to use such venues for startups or small businesses has morphed into a work space of sorts. But what are the problems of mixing business with pleasure?
Privacy: Maintaining the privacy of your conversations and your documents is quite a challenge, there is an unspoken etiquette of working in a coffee shop and you want to keep a brief conversation at a lower voice. Who wants to be interviewed where anybody can hear you? Imagine how many people just passing by can see your financials or bank statements. Imagine trying to close that big business deal over the phone with everybody listening.
Noise: Coffee houses can be very noisy at times and there is no way to foresee this, trying to concentrate on an interview or phone conversation with the noise of a busy coffee shop can be very distracting, not to mention the negative impact when receiving a business call while the barista is calling out your name for you to pick up your drink and the sound of espresso machine in the background.
Security: According to an article done by LoJack, the second most common area for laptop theft is a coffeehouse. And while a laptop can be easily replaced at an expense, your loss of data is not, and can really hurt your business, with problems ranging from the loss of income to legal investigations the fact remains that it will be a real problem that can be prevented.
Professional image: Even though it’s a common practice to hold your meetings at a coffee shop, it can really hurt your business professional image. Some coffee houses have music and while this can be very soothing for some it’s really not the most professional image you want to transmit to your customers or future employees, with so many scammers or ghost companies out there, you really don’t need the added doubt, it’s tough enough as it is already being a startup or a small business trying to establish your brand and be taken seriously.
What is the Solution?
Hiring the services of a virtual office or business center with day offices and meeting rooms, where you can hold your meetings at a private, secure and professional building that will give your customers and guests the right setting, and what is best is that the cost of leasing a day office for an hour is about the same as most coffee drinks out there and at the business center you will also get that coffee included for you and your guests. You will have access to all the amenities the business center has to offer like a live receptionist to greet and meet your customers
The real advantages of using a mail forwarding service for your business
As a small-business owner who is responsible for every aspect of running your office, you know that handling the daily mail can eat up a good portion of your workday. You don’t want to let the mail pile up, so part of every day is spent sorting through it, deciding what’s junk, what can be saved for later, and what you have to take care of right away. Documents have to be filed; certain things must be shredded. It all adds up to a major interruption of your day. Fortunately there’s a great solution – using a mail forwarding service will put time back into your day and give you the confidence that your mail is handled professionally.
When you use a mail forwarding service, your business mail will be delivered to a secure, professional address where it is opened by a virtual assistant who will handle it according to your explicit instructions. Consider these benefits of using a mail forwarding service:
Eliminate junk mail. A mail forwarding service will take junk mail right out of your office. Solicitations and flyers and advertisements for things you don’t need will be discarded without distracting you for a second.
No more clutter. The virtual assistant at your mail forwarding service will not only toss out junk mail but will also scan your important mail and send it to you electronically. If you need hard copies, they will be sent to you, or you can ask to have them shredded at the forwarding service.
Secure package delivery. When you work alone from a small office, it’s easy to miss a delivery when you’re out at a meeting or running errands. That means extra time spent rescheduling deliveries or running to the post office to pick up packages. With a mail forwarding service, packages will be delivered to your designated address and handled according to your instructions. You can make arrangements to pick up or receive the items at your convenience, on your schedule.
Delegate the details. You receive lots of correspondence that has to be answered but doesn’t necessarily require your personal attention. Your virtual assistant at the mail forwarding service can respond to general inquiries for information, acknowledge testimonials from customers, and even deposit checks for you.
Stay in the loop when you travel. Returning from a business trip means spending hours going through a week’s worth of mail. It’s frustrating and time-consuming, and when you use a mail forwarding service you won’t have to worry about it again. Your mail will be handled promptly and efficiently while you’re away, and you’ll still receive scans of the important mail while you’re on the road.
These benefits show just how much a mail forwarding service can help you run your business more efficiently. You’ll have more time to be productive, and you’ll have the confidence of knowing that your mail is being handled by professionals who are working with your best interests in mind.
With today’s rapid change, traditional office space as we know it is also changing, with so many technology advances we come upon a vast variety of working options. The office of the future has you working with customers and clients remotely, and in many cases you have never met them face-to-face and that is ok. With the right applications and tools you can keep connected and collaborating. IT professionals dedicated to one business keeping all the computers and networks running smoothly at your office is not the only option anymore, that IT professional is still there but virtually working from a remote place keeping more than one system in check, and by sharing the costs the technology you can actually make use of it without breaking the bank. Furthermore, the office of the future is a paperless office, no more clutter or need for a physical space to keep it all.
This office of the future is coming to us very quickly. And according to current technology trends, in many ways, it’s already here. The advantages of this office of the future are huge in time and cost savings and you will need to get into the trend to keep current with your competitors and provide your customers with the services that they’ll be demanding as well as with a more efficient business.
What are those technology trends that are telling us that the future is here now from a small business perspective?
Mobile computing devices like smart phones, tablets, notebooks as the main tools for managing your life and work by doing complex operations. These technologies are reinventing the way we work not to mention the way we live, allowing a greater flexibility of when, where and how the work is done. Being onsite is becoming less important while customer satisfaction is still unchanged and of paramount importance. This mobile devices have enabled the terms whenever, wherever.
Virtual office, this trend persists and is on the growth for two main reasons: firstly, it promises cost-effective computer systems solutions that make a big impact on your budget. There is no need to invest on expensive hardware and systems as well as the resources to keep them up and running. Secondly, it gives way to many new enterprises that provide shared physical real estate, offering flexibility to other businesses that want to take advantage of this mix. As a result you still get to keep the best of both worlds, by projecting a professional image with a professional office address and taking advantage of all the cloud solutions out there to make your virtual office a possibility.
Data is becoming accessible from anywhere and with the increase of cloud adoption and mobile use, eventually all data will be downloaded automatically. Data is becoming accessible from any platform and with data flowing seamlessly and automatically in and out of any application you can focus on your customers and not on data entry, so now you can focus on what really matters and provide an even better customer service. No matter where you are, the functionality of the cloud allows you to access your data form anywhere and at any time, there are no time-zone restrictions, you are always able to connect and use your data.
By embracing the current tech trends you can also get in the race of the office of the future… that is happening now, you can get access to customers around the world; there are no physical boundaries to what you can achieve. Becoming familiar with today’s tech trends will expand your vision of what is to come and have you ready for the present as well as the future.
As a business owner, you probably refer to such trusted sources as CNN, Forbes, The Wall Street Journal and Business Week for information on economic trends and innovative ideas. While you can get a diversity of opinions from these different sources, in recent years they have all reported on the same fact – McAllen, Texas is one of the fastest growing cities in the United States. Its rapid growth makes McAllen an ideal location to start a business, and the perfect place for a virtual office.
Here are five solid reasons to consider McAllen for your virtual office:
Easy to reach. With nine bridges between the United States and Mexico, McAllen is situated perfectly for international business. McAllen Miller International Airport is the main business hub of the Rio Grande Valley and Northeast Mexico, providing easy access for your international clients.
Great location. As the retail hub of the Rio Grande Valley, McAllen boasts more than 15 million international bridge crossings per year. With this high volume of traffic, it is a prime location for your virtual business. In fact, McAllen’s number of sales per household surpasses those of Dallas, Austin, San Antonio and Houston.
Steady population growth. The population of McAllen increased more than 35 percent from 2000 to 2010, and the metro area of Cameron and Hidalgo Counties is expected to double in size by 2040. A regional customer base of 10.3 million practically guarantees business for your company.
A ready workforce. In addition to businesses, McAllen’s appeal also includes several colleges and universities, providing a solid workforce of students and graduates for your virtual business. The city is home to branches of Texas A&M University, South Texas College, University of Texas and Eagles International Christian University. At 29 percent, McAllen’s overall population outranks both state and national averages of adults holding Bachelor’s or higher degrees.
A strong economy. According to the American Chamber of Commerce Research Association Cost of Living Index, McAllen boasts the lowest cost of living in Texas, adding to the city’s allure for business owners. Business Week has called McAllen one of the strongest economies in the country, and The Wall Street Journal named it the best housing market in the United States.
Since one of the great benefits of a virtual office is that you can choose any location you wish, why not take advantage of the explosive growth opportunities available in McAllen, Texas. With its ideal location, strong economy, and solid population growth, McAllen is a win-win for business owners looking to expand into a new territory. This rapidly growing city has much to offer, particularly for international businesses trying to build a strong customer base. Listen to the experts and consider McAllen, Texas as the site of your virtual office.
When you are running your small business from a home office, it can be a challenge to promote your business professionally and to keep it separate from your personal life. With all of your mail delivered to the same address, it’s easy for things to get confusing and for clutter to become the unfortunate normal state of your office. Fortunately, you can avoid this problem by using a virtual business address, which will simplify your life by helping you to keep business and personal records separate.
Here are five solid ways that a virtual business address can benefit your business:
Boost your company’s image with a professional business address. When you use a virtual business address, your cards and letterhead will announce that your business is located in a recognized professional area. This gives your company a more professional image than your home address can, and tells potential clients that they are dealing with an established business.
Stop sorting through junk mail. A virtual business address can help you streamline your daily operations and run your business more efficiently. It’s great to find a signed contract or a check in the mailbox, but you have to go through a lot of unwanted junk to get to the important stuff. Junk mail is a distraction and a nuisance; you can eliminate it completely by using a virtual business address.
Eliminate clutter by in your office. Not only will you avoid junk mail, with a virtual business address you can eliminate all mail clutter on your desk. The mail that you need can be scanned and sent to you electronically, with hard copies will be shredded for your security. You can print only what you need to have in hard copy. Checks can be deposited into your bank account without you having to do a thing.
Don’t lose time picking up packages. A virtual business address is also ideal if your work involves receiving frequent packages or items delivered by courier. You won’t have to worry about missing a delivery, or having to take the time to pick up packages from the post office. Everything will be delivered to your virtual address, and you can arrange to receive the packages when it is convenient for you.
Stay current while you are traveling. A virtual business address is ideal for business owners who travel. You won’t have to worry about missing important mail or coming home to a pile of unopened correspondence. Your mail will be opened in your absence and you’ll receive emails of the items you need to see. You won’t lose any valuable time due to your travel schedule.
These five advantages represent real ways that using a virtual business address is the right choice for your small business needs. It will help you build a professional image, save time and avoid distractions, and keep you in the loop when you’re away from the office. Make the decision to use a virtual business address; it will simplify your workday and help keep you focused on your work.
Getting started with a virtual office is easy. Here are six steps that will have you on your way to success with a virtual office:
1. Choose your location. Using a virtual office makes it possible to locate your company in any city you choose. Select your location and establish a virtual business address, which is located in a recognized business district, letting potential clients see that your company is professional and competitive. With a virtual office, you aren’t limited by borders. Opening a location in a different city, or even a different country, is easier and less expensive than ever.
2. Hold all calls. Your business calls will be answered by a professional receptionist at your virtual office. No more time lost answering the phone throughout the day; send everything to your virtual receptionist, who will take messages and forward only those calls that you need to answer.
3. You’ve got mail. Just like the telephone, your chiming email alerts take you away from your productive day to check your inbox. Let your virtual assistant take care of the daily emails, answering routine questions and correspondence, and only sending through the messages that require your attention.
4. Forwarding address. Your virtual business address is also the perfect solution to handling your daily mail. Have incoming mail forwarded to your virtual office address, where it will be opened and handled according to your instructions. Junk mail will be tossed, important mail scanned and sent to you electronically. Packages can be received for you, eliminating multiple trips to the post office or UPS location.
5. Get lost in the cloud. Let your virtual assistant manage all of your documents with secure cloud storage. Free yourself of worrying about whether you have the right files for a meeting; everything will be available to you regardless of your location. Business trips and spontaneous meetings won’t be a problem when you let your virtual assistant file everything where you can always see it.
6. Stop micromanaging. One of the most important steps in choosing a virtual office is giving up the need to micromanage every detail of your business. Whatever your field, your experienced virtual assistant will handle the day-to-day details for you. You’ll get regular updates on everything that’s happening, and will be able to leave the small details to someone else.
If you are considering using a virtual office, take these six steps now. It’s easy to do, and you won’t regret your decision. The extra time you have to build your business will be its own reward.
One of the primary expenses for most small business owners is renting office space. Although you want to present a professional image, renting space can eat up a significant portion of your monthly budget, leaving you strapped for cash in other areas. This is one of the major reasons many entrepreneurs work from home offices, though doing so can be problematic if your work incudes face-to-face meetings with clients.
The perfect solution? A virtual office, which provides professional office space at a fraction of what you would pay in rent.
Scheduling client meetings in a home office doesn’t lend the air of professionalism that you get with a conference room in a corporate space. Many entrepreneurs hold meetings in coffee shops, but that brings its own set of problems, with noise and distractions from other customers, and the possibility of having to wait for a table. Using a virtual office eliminates the worry of finding the right location and hoping that the place isn’t full of boisterous children on play dates with their babysitters.
By using the services of a virtual office, you have the confidence of knowing that a modern, fully equipped conference room is available, whether you need to use it on a regular basis or even on short notice. Your guests will be greeted by a receptionist in a corporate setting, where you will have access to broadband internet, multi-function fax/copier/scanners, conference calling and video conferencing. You will even be able to provide your customers with refreshments.
A virtual office is a nearly foolproof solution for a busy business owner who needs to maintain a smart, professional image. Your customers don’t need to know if you do most of your work in a small corner of your home. No matter how hard you try to put a corporate look on things, having meetings in your living room just doesn’t instill the same level of confidence as a real conference room.
Using a virtual office also gives you the option of establishing a legitimate, professional business address rather than using your home address for your company. This adds yet another layer of credibility to your business, since prospective clients will see that your address is in a prime business location, rather than in a quiet suburb or obvious residential area. Letterhead that says “1001 Main Street, Suite 12” is much more impressive than “123 Daisy Lane.”
Choosing to utilize the services of a virtual office allows you to get much more for your money than if you were to fully outfit an office on your own. With a virtual office, you don’t need a second computer for an assistant because your virtual assistant will have access to all the equipment needed to efficiently run your business. There’s no need to buy a new fax machine or set up a complex phone system, since these are included in the cost of your virtual office.
To sum up, there are several ways that a virtual office can save you money and bolster your image:
Avoid high monthly rental fees that provide only an empty space.
Have access to corporate conference and meeting rooms, fully furnished and equipped with state-of-the-art technology.
Eliminate the distractions of hosting meetings in public places.
Use a virtual business address that adds credibility to your company.
Save money on the purchase of additional office equipment that is available through your virtual office.
The money that you save using a virtual office can go a long way toward allowing you to upgrade other parts of your business. You will have peace of mind knowing that you have the support you need, and can always host a meeting that won’t leave clients skeptical about your professionalism.
I am sure you have heard of it. Virtual Offices are popping up everywhere and everyone offers a different thing.
So far there is no standard definition as to what it truly is. However there are certain things a Virtual Office should have, and here they are:
1- An address. A real life physical address, unique to you, in a commercial zone. If you can locate it on Google Maps, so can your clients and customers. Would you have them see your office located in a residential area of town? You have to project a professional image, but not only that. Commercial locations offer several additional features like proximity to services, ease of access, and availability of commercial grade services like higher internet speeds.
2- A land line and an extension number. Having a land line means two big things. You have an established, real life business place AND your phone line has business hours too. You might do business from 9 to 5 and most of your clients will respect that, but a few won’t. Giving your personal mobile phone to everyone is not the best practice and you might find yourself in an awkward situation in the wee hours of the night.
3- A real life assistant or receptionist. Not only will you have someone to help you with tasks that require time to solve, but you will also benefit from having your calls answered by a person instead of voicemail or an automated response system. Not that voicemail is bad, but let’s face it: you rather talk to a human than a machine, right? So do your clients.
Ok, now you have these basic services. Now you have to pay for them. There are two ways of doing this: Exclusive and Shared. Exclusive means they only serve you, and only you pay for them… see where I am going? Chances are you are not sitting on your desk all day. Maybe you don’t even touch your office for days. And maybe you don’t talk or need an assistant 8 hours a day. Why not share them and spread the cost among many users? This is where the Virtual Office excels. You have this shared resources at your disposal if and when you need them, and you only pay for what you really use, and not a penny more.
Now, the market is crowded with Virtual Offices that limit themselves to these basic services, but there are some more adventurous companies that are building more functionality into their offerings, and some are even crossing over into the Cloud Office:
IP Phones. You have internet connection at home, on your mobile phone, on restaurants, coffee shops, so basically everywhere! Why not take advantage of this and, instead of using a regular land line or mobile phone with their associated costs, use a more efficient IP Phone? With this technology you have many advantages: Your extension follows you wherever you are, and you can reach your assistant just dialing an extension number. You can make and receive calls on your office landline from anywhere. You are no longer tied to your office to get that important call, you could be on your car or on the beach and still be connected. Most IP Phone providers will give you nationwide calling for a low monthly fee.
Cloud Storage. There are several offerings out there to buy cloud storage, and they all work great. Some have advanced features like file sync and apps for your smartphone and computers. This technology is now being incorporated into some Virtual Office offerings and it makes sense. You can have access to your stored information at anytime from anywhere, and you know it is secure and protected, even more than on your own computer. One of the most interesting benefits is that you can email a huge file, say 100MB, in a second by just sending a link to that file on your personal cloud storage. This way you only share what you want with who you want, and if for any reason you want to stop sharing, you just deactivate the link you sent. It is that easy.
Digital Dashboards. A dashboard is basically a place where you can see at a glance what is happening. You are used to this; after all you see it in your car every day. A digital dashboard is no different. At a glance it tells you if you have new e-mails, phone calls, messages, mail and other things. And the beauty is that you can just drill down. Say you see that you have 2 new e-mails. Just a few clicks should take you to where you can read and reply. Go back to the dashboard and see that you have a missed call and voicemail. Another couple of clicks and you are now listening to that voicemail, and returning the call. A digital dashboard is the fastest way to take care of business.
Room Reservations. You have a virtual office now, and you want to use it. Actually let’s say you want the meeting room with the big TV for a special product presentation you are giving to a client. With a reservation system in place you can just go into the meeting room you want, check out its calendar and see when it is available, and with a couple of clicks reserve a specific hour for you, your partner and your clients. Some Virtual Offices allow you to also add coffee service to your reservation. Your assistant can take care of this too. The best reservation systems are available online, but some Virtual Offices still require you to make the reservation by calling.
Mail handling options. The traditional workflow is quite simple. New mail gets to the office, it gets sorted and stored and it patiently waits for you to retrieve it next time you visit. The more proactive Virtual Offices will send you a notification. But some will also allow you to personalize your own workflow. For example: New mails gets here, scan it and send it to my inbox on a PDF. The original will be Stored/Destroyed/Forwarded as requested on my profile; IF a check gets here, don’t scan it, notify me AND deposit on my checking account. Is this not better? With this type of personalization you can expect a small bill at the end of each month, but it is worth it.
Business promotion. Picture this: There may be more than one thousand users of a Virtual Office, and all this is a community of like-minded business professionals. Why not list your services and do some internal promotion? And if you think about it, why not list your services and publish them to the web? Some Virtual Offices have this service for you to use. This is the best type of business exposure you can have, because you will take advantage of a community that you already belong to.
Additional Services. Your Virtual Office might offer a variety of services to help you be successful and concentrate on what you do while they deal with the hassle of office operations. Think about IT services, accounting services, personal assistants. And chances are that since you are sharing these resources with your Virtual Community, you will also pay less for them, and only IF and WHEN you use them.
Concluding. A Virtual Office is a community of business professionals, sharing resources, costs and working smarter, anywhere they are, and at any time of day or night. You think you might benefit from this?