Build a Virtually Perfect Business

Virtual; adjective

  1. having the essence or effect but not the appearance or form of: a virtual revolution
  2. (physics) being, relating to or involving a virtual image: a virtual focus
  3. (computing) of or relating to virtual storage: virtual memory

 

Virtual is a buzzword in business, especially small businesses. It’s all about creating a good impression. It’s said to make you more successful at a lower cost. Sounds promising, but what lies behind the jargon?

 

Here’s how you go virtual:

 

  • Do you really need dedicated office space?

If your team is small, they’re often out of the office, or you are in the early stages of launching and costs are an issue, then maybe you don’t! For around £30 per month, most decent Business Centres can set you up a business address. You get a nice smart address to pop on your business cards and to give your website a bit of much-needed gravitas. Most Centres should accept larger deliveries too, so if you’re always out you don’t need to keep rearranging delivery from suppliers.

Don’t feel it’s a demotion; home-working is on the rise- 59% of companies have remote-working employees, and over 3 million UK workers consider home their main place of work. Even Richard Branson approves- he spoke recently of “an age when remote working is easier and more effective than ever”. Without a doubt, it’s considerably cheaper than taking an office that sits vacant most of the time, and it’s a flexible solution if your needs change over time.

 

  • Can you afford a full-time Receptionist or PA?

Small businesses really struggle with this question. Objectively they know that without calls answered they miss vital business. They might underestimate how much though; 75% of callers hang up when confronted with a voicemail rather than a real person. That’s the difference between success and failure for many businesses. You need someone there at the end of the line. Admin tasks crop up too- but maybe not enough to justify a permanent expansion of your team.

Add National Insurance and holiday cover onto a full-time contracted salary and it’s pretty obvious why a business that only expects 10 calls a day, and one day a week worth of admin work would choose to outsource. Look for a service that offers the first month free, so you know your business is in the right hands. Then sit back and marvel at how cheap it was to extend your workforce!

 

  • How do you communicate and share work, if not face-to-face?

There will always be a place for person-to-person contact, but never underestimate what can be achieved with the latest technology.  This goes beyond email and Skype; consider sharing documents via cloud video conferencing, instant messaging, mobile-enabled applications, and cloud-based project management tools. Investigate Office 365, Dropbox, Google Drive and Google Apps- which all have free options.  All of this can help you share your work with others, getting things done quickly and more efficiently. In some ways, you are more present than if you were in an office because these tools make you so instantly available. Remember: “work is a thing you do, not a place you go”.

 

  • What about those times you need premises for meetings?

So, you definitely can’t afford the luxury of a room set aside just for meetings. Not if you don’t even have your own business premises yet. Business meetings do happen in hotels, in Costa Coffee or the café at the gym, even at home, but they don’t really leave the best impression;  often loud, chaotic and rarely private enough. Clients expect you to be organised, professional and in control. Plus, of course, you’d like them to believe you are a bigger and better-resourced company than you really are, not a fly-by-night who meets up in the foyer.

Look into hiring a meeting room at a Business Centre or serviced office. That way you get the private room you need to discuss confidential business, interview for staff or host a presentation. You’re splitting the overhead of maintaining a room with everyone else who hires it- very economical. Having someone there to meet, greet and serve the tea/coffee doesn’t hurt either!

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