My business definitely qualifies as a small business. I hope that it will someday grow into a bigger business but, for now, it is just me doing what I do. That is fine because my clients know that they will get quality service from me even though I am not backed by an army of support staff. At the same time, I know that I need to project a bigger image to my potential clients and I realized very quickly that the image I want requires that I not work from home.
I was reluctant to set up my office in my home, anyway, because of privacy concerns and because I did not really want to bring clients into my home for meetings. It is easy to work at my house when there are no clients around, but I really did not want my dog jumping up on a client’s suit or my kids barging into a meeting so that they could use my computer.
After deciding that I needed an office, however, I had to find a way to get a legitimate office address without spending all of my fledgling business’s revenue on rent. I made several calls and was at first concerned that I would not be able to afford the cost of an office address in a respectable area. In frustration, I turned to the person who has answers for most of my questions about operations: the guy who owns the bakery that I visit each day. He pointed me to an office building about a block away and told me to go to the fifth floor. So far, that recommendation was the most helpful recommendation that I have received as I work to build my business.
The fifth floor, when I got there, turned out to be a floor leased by Regus, a virtual office provider. I had not even known that such businesses existed. Now I am a happy customer. The concept is quite simple. Many small businesses – mine for example – cannot afford the costs of a full office and staff. Regus, and as I have learned its various competitors, offer virtual offices that allow a business to increase the services that it receives as its business grows.
For example, I really need only an address. I have an office in my home from which I can do 99% of my work. Accordingly, I have an address in the Regus building that is about a 3 mile drive from my home and Regus receives all of my mail (important, especially when I am travelling) and will take messages if clients happen to walk in off the street. If I need a conference room so that I can meet with a client, I can rent conference rooms of various sizes by the hour. I also have access to a business lounge and to various fax and copy services. It is exactly what I need and I pay only $99 per month, which is well within my budget. (If I were willing to drive another 10 miles to get my mail, I could pay as little as $69 per month at a facility a bit farther from my home.)
As my business grows, I can add telephone services and actual office usage to the services that I receive. This will allow me to actually go into an office on a limited basis when I develop my business to the point that I know I will need to meet with clients on a regular basis. Eventually, I can even rent full time use of an office and still not have to worry about paying for support staff.
Someday I may expand beyond the need that my virtual office relationship provides but that day is at least a couple of years in the future. Until that day comes, I will save hundreds of dollars (perhaps thousands of dollars) by using a virtual office.
My point is not merely to sing the praises of virtual officing. It is important to recall that when I started searching for office space, I did not even know that virtual officing existed. Nevertheless, I did not quickly sign a lease on an actual office. Rather, I spent two days calling every person I knew who might be able to give me advice. Even after I spoke with several real estate people, none of whom were familiar with virtual office space, I did not abandon my effort to find something that I could afford and eventually, my friend at our local bakery was able to point me in the right direction.
You never know who will give you the information that you will need to succeed, so you have to always be looking for people who can help you, and you never know who that person might be. Who has helped you to move forward with your projects? Has help ever come from a surprising source? Your barber? The cashier at your grocery store?