The world of office space may look like a complete mess to someone on the outside of that industry. Every single business needs to be able to solve the problem of having enough office space, yet many entrepreneurs are willing to go even further than that and invest money into offices that are not completely physical - the so-called virtual offices.
A short overview
Virtual offices are offices that come with no physical space. Instead, you can get a prestigious address at very cheap price tags. Along with the address, you are also going to get a wide range of services. The basic list includes correspondence (with an automatic re-route for maximum ease and comfort), call-taking (in the name of your business, of course), and the ability to place your business signage in reception. Some providers also offer additional services, including meeting rooms, in certain locations.
Crossing the borders
It is obvious that virtual offices are quite unlike traditional office space - they are not going bring any additional work space, for example. What they can do, however, is to allow business to cross the borders cheaply and effectively, which is something that can be appreciated by virtually all companies in today's globalised business world. The thing is, in the wake of the recent economic crisis and other happenings on the political scene, many customers are starting to feel increasingly patriotic and are not willing to support firms that do not care about local markets and communities anymore. Of course, only some business find themselves on the wrong end of that problem, but even those that don't can profit from being represented in a different city or country.
Although it might be a bit unfortunate for some, prestige and reputation can go a long way when it comes to business matters. Firms that are perceived as credible and with solid business representation all around the world can close deals that others would not even dare to think of. That is simply the reality of today's business world and there is no point in fighting against it - ambitious businesses need to find a way to adapt to that reality and use it to their advantage.
And that's where virtual office come in to play their part - having an almost full-fledged business representation in all parts of the world has never been easier - and as affordable. Even small businesses can have their expansion ambitions made more accessible, allowing them to become more global than ever before. Thankfully, most providers do offer plenty of locations, so there is no need to become engaged with more than one of them.
Marketing, branding, and more!
As you can see, virtual offices allow companies to bridge the gap between themselves and the target audiences in various parts of the planet. The practical meaning of this, of course, is additional marketing, branding, and business representation that can be aimed any particular location into which the company is trying to expand.
Marketing and branding, for example, will be even more efficient if the target audience knows that.
On top of things, setting up a meeting in the desired location has never been easier. With a virtual office and a (rented) meeting room, a business representative can simply travel to the address and meet with the company's clients just as he or she would back at the company's home.
Summing things up
Virtual offices can do plenty for a business, having the potential to push its boundaries a bit further when it comes to departments like credibility, reputation, marketing, and branding. It's not a traditional office by any means and definitely cannot be treated like one. Entrepreneurs that do realise that and are willing to treat it like a long-term investment into expansion and marketing efforts can easily utilise virtual offices as something that can bring a lot of benefits for very small investments. After all, virtual offices are cheap, available all over the world, and require almost no care at all.
Lewis Edward is one of the owners of The Office Providers. He is an expert in many fields, including virtual offices and office space for rent, and spends his free time by sharing his ideas through blogs and magazines.
Not all virtual office companies are created equal. There are a few issues to be aware of when selecting a virtual office company. One incredibly important item that has been coming up with some of our clients at Allied Offices is that other virtual office companies are assigning phone numbers to the startup companies that signup with them and then holding the phone number hostage when they want to leave. Always be sure to get an agreement from the virtual office company to port your number when you leave. Remember the virtual office company owns the phone number and therefore does not legally have to give it to you when you leave. If you spend money on marketing that phone number and using it on your business cards and stationary, surely you will want to retain it when you hire your own receptionist and move into your own office. Allied Offices has hundreds of locations and allows our client's to port their numbers when they outgrow us.
Working virtually is certainly not for everyone. Unfortunately, not all of us can be self-motivated enough to work under minimal supervision. So for any employers that need to monitor the computer activities of telecommuters or virtual workers, check out http://www.mysammy.com. They are a winner of the American Business Awards.
I have worked before in a virtual office - myself in CT, and with my fellow management in Nairobi, London and Boston. It worked, but yes - one needs a lot of self-discipline to make it work. And our set-up really did work.
As Edward says, one needs self-motivation and self-discipline, and as Nathan says, make sure you have all your ducks in a row upfront, but when those are all in order, it is a great way to work.
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