5 Business Types That NEED a Virtual Office

With the ability to do job tasks remotely, many professionals are turning to virtual offices for their businesses. While many business owners can work from home, there are times when they will need an office to visit with clients or have professional meetings. Virtual offices make it possible for professionals to have their business in their homes. At any time, they can step into a virtual office to give them a more professional work environment when needed. 

From conference and video call technology to desk space to conference rooms for large meetings, a virtual office has all the technology in place that a business owner might need. The offices are run by a manager who provides all the state-of-the-art equipment of an office for a set price based on services required.

Financial Advisors

Financial advisors can do most of their work from home because most of the communication comes over the telephone or through email. In the event that they need to use an office space, they can reserve a virtual office space. That space might even include a virtual assistant to schedule appointments or a virtual receptionist to answer the phone. When they have a new client that wants to meet in person the meeting can take place at a virtual office.

Law Firms

A small law firm might need virtual assistance with office space or an assistant to provide basic administrative tasks like bookkeeping or billing. Potential clients might not understand a lawyer who works from home. While the concept is coming into the latest century, some clients expect to see their lawyer in a luxurious office. With this in mind, lawyers can rent those luxurious offices for clients that might need that reassurance.

Architects

Along with tools like Skype and Dropbox that allow architects to share online, there are virtual offices and assistants that will help a remote worker be productive. It reduces the need and overhead associated with an office space. There are many architects who are opening the doors of their small business without having a physical door. They are setting up websites and doing all their work virtually.

Software Developers

Those who develop software can often do their work from home. As long as they have the computer that will allow them to code and work with others, they can develop processes at home. The most important part is that developers might have to work remotely but collaboratively. They may need more technology like the ability to connect with others through Skype or Google Hangouts. That can be accomplished with the help of a virtual office. Client meetings can take place in a virtual office for those developers who are working for themselves.

Engineering Firms

There are both financial and environmental considerations for those who want to work remotely in their own home offices. It allows their staff to work remotely too. There’s no extra cost for equipment, utilities or overhead. The freelance workers or telecommuters have to be able to access virtual space occasionally to hold group meetings and meet with potential clients or investors. A rented virtual office space will cost less than a dedicated office year-round.

Whether it’s physical space like a meeting room or administrative help with a virtual assistant or receptionist, a virtual office like those found at Executive Suite Professionals can be a great way to fill in the gaps between working from home and having a professional office.

How to Build Company Culture with Remote Teams

“Company culture is the personality of a company.” – jobsearch.about.com

A simple, understandable definition; yet, it doesn’t portray the importance of company culture. Company culture encompasses goals, vision, mission, values, beliefs, employees, and relationships. As Trinet explains:

“An organization’s culture may be one of its strongest assets or it can be its biggest liability. The reason culture is so important is that its impact goes far beyond the talent in the organization; it has significant influence on the organization’s goals. Culture drives or impedes the success of an organization. With culture impacting the talent, the product, the clients as well as the revenue, why would a company not measure, review and intentionally nurture something so important and critical to its success?”

William Craig, contributor of Forbes, believes that the most important aspects of company culture is that: “[it] is something that is pre-existing in your company’s genetic code; it’s not something that employees bring with them.”

“Environment” (in terms of the actual physical space) has been considered as a key characteristic of a strong company culture. However, with employees demanding more flexibility and businesses adopting remote work strategies, company culture can no longer rely so heavily on work environment.

With physical space out of the equation, the non-tangible aspects of company culture have become more important than ever.

One of the biggest issues facing remote teams is that remote team members tend to work by themselves. Part of a company’s culture is how its employees and employers interact and work together; when work gets done by everyone in the same place, interaction happens easily and naturally. When, as is the case with remote teams, work gets done from different places and times, it’s harder for interaction to flow among all members constantly.

How to Build and Nurture Company Culture

Companies with remote teams need to provide the necessary tools and platforms for all workers to be connected and in sync. It’s about creating the right environment (even digitally speaking) in which workers can share topics they are interested in, hobbies; a digital ‘place’ where they can connect to when they need a break or just some distraction while still; a platform that adheres to the company’s values, beliefs, and ethics.

Introduce New Team Members

Whenever a new member joins the team, make sure you go through a well-established on-boarding process. Introduce them to everyone else, let them know who does what and who to contact for different types of queries, etc. It’ll help the new member feel more comfortable and get familiar with the rest of the team and internal communication won’t change by having the new person on board.

Provide Members with Necessary Equipment

Provide remote workers with the necessary equipment for them to be able to carry out their jobs satisfactorily and successfully. From laptops, to phones, to internet, make sure that they have access to whatever it is they need; not only will this motivate them to do their best, you’ll be able to guarantee that they’re accountable for their work.

Have Regular Calls and Video Calls

Emails and messages are a good way for fast communication, but they’re not the best way to relate to one person. Calls and video calls make communication more personal than email and messages; it’ll help team members get to know each other and learn to read a bit better how other team members feel and think–try as many may, deciphering tone on emails and texts is quite hard, as they all appear to be quite dry in essence.

Use Collaboration Apps & Technology

Slack, Asana, Skype, GoToMeeting, these are all apps that help remote teams work together and maintain the flow going. Theses all provide a great way to keep everyone in the loop of what’s being worked on, how it’s moving forward, and they’re great tools to keep communication open.

One on One Meetings

Some people don’t mesh well in groups and when others are present, so make sure you keep constant one on one meetings (every other week or once a month) with every team member to go over their work, provide them feedback, and make sure that overall they’re doing well. It’s a way to bond with team members on a more personal level and learn more about who they are outside of their work, what they value, and what’s important to them.

In-Person Meetings

Though technology can be great at bringing together people that are physically far apart, it’s still necessary and important for team members to meet in person and talk face to face every now and then. Even if all members can’t make it, you should still aim to have a meeting or event at least once a year where the majority of team members can go to and get to know each other.

Be Transparent

There’s a reason “honesty is the best policy” is such a popular saying. When working with remote teams, make sure you’re transparent about company processes, procedures, and finances in order to make them feel comfortable and a part of the company. Being transparent is a great way to share with members the values that are important for the companies and it’s a good way to set up an example of what you expect from your team at all times.

Blog provided by Alliance Virtual Offices

https://www.alliancevirtualoffices.com/virtual-office-blog/how-to-build-company-culture-with-remote-teams/

8 Ways to Build a Business on a Budget

They say money makes the world go round. But when cash is tight, how do you grow your business without growing the size of your budget?

How do you build a business on a budget? To answer this, we asked some of the world’s best entrepreneurs for their advice. Here’s what they said:

1. Knowledge is Power

Amber Armstrong ‏(@ambarmstrong), Program Director at IBM Commerce, Mobile and Social, said: “Identify your network and find people who know what you do not know.” As a small business owner, you want to oversee everything – but sometimes you get drawn into affairs of which you have little knowledge or experience. So identify people who can help fill the void.

Amber lives by this rule, although she admits she didn’t come up with it herself. “Brian Fanzo told me that one” she says. So naturally, we asked Brian for his advice too…

2. Are You Likeable?

Brian Fanzo ‏(@iSocialFanz), speaker and self-confessed evangelist of social technology and change, says: “People buy from people they like.” He advises small businesses to focus on relationships and customer engagement, and not just marketing.

It’s easy to plough headfirst into marketing, branding and advertising when you’re running a fledgling business. Those things are important, but like Brian says, you need to think long-term. Focus on your relationship with your customers and they’re more likely to come back to you – and to recommend you to others, too.

3. Referrals Are Important. REALLY Important.

On the subject of recommendations, Ken Varga penned a great article on how to grow a small business on a budget. Many of these tips ring true, including this one: “Referrals are one of the most important tools you can use to grow your business,” says Ken, explaining that two ways to generate referrals are to “pay for them per lead; or bribe people in a fun way.”

Naturally, we prefer the latter. Ken advises: “Referrals are the least expensive way to grow your business on a budget. The key is to start writing down the ideas you get, and then start doing them.” He also adds a word of caution: “If you haven’t done your job on making your clients happy, you shouldn’t ask for a referral.”

Wise words.

4. Promotion, Promotion, Promotion

Like we said earlier, branding and marketing is important. Digital Sales & Marketing Professional Gary Creigh (@gscreigh) offers these words of wisdom for small businesses:

“It is important to promote your business before it is launched, as marketing and promotion can take a while to gather momentum. By pre-promoting yourself, prior to launch, you can get a buzz going and hit the ground running.”

To start, Gary suggests: “Create a simple one-page webpage which sets out your mission, feature and benefits, as well as a sign-up form for users who are interested. Use Twitter and Facebook as well as networking on LinkedIn to create a pre-launch buzz – and get those potential customers intrigued and ready to buy from you!”

5. Continuous Improvement

Mike Sullivan, Chief Marketing Officer of yours truly, Alliance Virtual Offices, says it’s all about “continuous improvement”. Some know this better as the ‘kaizen’ approach, or ‘good’ (kai) ‘change’ (zen) – read more about this here.

Mike says that whatever size of business you’re running, you should always focus on continuous improvement by looking for ways to progress your enterprise. “Always look and learn,” he says. “Take a non-judgmental standpoint and find ways to improve. Rather than being overly critical, instead take a broad look at the situation and consider how you can make it better.”

You can do this in your own business, and also by looking at your competitors. Look at what they’re doing – both good and bad – and then identify ways you can improve on it.

6. Think Big, Act Small

Ben Weeks (@REGV1), Founder and Managing Director of workspace search Real Estate Grapevine Limited, works with startups every day. He’s seen plenty of great businesses take off, but he’s also seen the effects of poor business decisions – particularly where expensive real estate is concerned.

“Never bite off more office space than you can chew,” he says. “Many young companies have visions of exponential growth and needing stacks of office space to accommodate such growth… but only when you are well and truly ready would I seek leased premises over serviced or coworking space.”

Real estate is one of the most expensive parts of running a business, and the hard truth is that most companies don’t even need it, at least in the beginning. As Ben says, “there are so many derivatives these days”. For instance, a business address can come from a virtual office instead of a physical workspace.

Ben says “there is a juncture” where a private office may be needed, but advises startups to always “think big, act small” in the early days of running a business.

7. Think Partnerships

Vanessa Merit Nornberg (@vanessanornberg), President of Metal Mafia, says: “Identify companies who provide services or products that are complementary to yours.” As an example, she cites placing catalogues in each other’s mail orders. This, she says, eliminates the expense of extra mailing fees and can virtually double your readership overnight.

A “cross-pollination partnership” like this, she says, also acts as a silent endorsement – so it’s well worth seeking out suppliers with an existing client base and a good reputation. “(It) can also be done digitally – just ask to do an email exchange, or to trade advertising space on each other’s respective sites.”

8. Outsource

Gemma Falconer of GoToMeeting recommends outsourcing tasks that you aren’t comfortable doing yourself.

“If the public is going to see it and you aren’t an absolute pro at it, just outsource,” she says. “When it comes to building your website, creating a logo or designing marketing materials, you really will get what you pay for. If you can, use more of your marketing budget on the tasks that you can’t do yourself.”

With websites like Task Rabbit, Odesk, and People Per Hour offering expertise at affordable hourly rates or set fees, you really don’t need to take on the world. You can now outsource everything from SEO management and blogging to cold calling and receptionist services.

So, armed with these 8 tips on how to grow a business on a budget, where will you start? Keep us posted@AllianceVirtual – and good luck!

-Article provided by Alliance Virtual Offices: http://www.alliancevirtualoffices.com/virtual-office-blog/the-bootstrappers-bible-8-ways-to-build-a-business-on-a-budget/

Putting Your Business Where the Business Is

How do you make the most of your location to boost your business?

Marketing expert Brett Relander has an answer for that. He wrote a great post – ‘Cut the Competition Down to Size with Location Based Mobile Marketing’ – to help small businesses get found more easily.

Smartphones are big business in marketing, and because your customers carry them around wherever they go, location is a big factor in trying to catch more potential spenders.

“More than 75% of smartphone users make use of location based services to gain information about businesses near their location,” says Brett. This ranges from getting directions to reading local reviews of your company.

“Businesses that are investing in efforts to increase their location-aware audience base are reporting improved conversions,” he added. “Preferred tools include QR codes, click-to-call, coupons, and mobile apps.”

Brett offers some great advice on the latest cutting-edge location-based marketing techniques, including RFID tags and geo-fencing.

You can read more about that on Brett’s blog. But first, let’s go back to basics.

Try these starter tips to help you get a firm footing in the world of location-based mobile marketing:

1. Get to Know the Platforms
The big social media platforms offering location-based services include Foursquare, Loopt, Yelp and Facebook. Try to identify which ones your customers are most likely to use based on age, interests and location. Sign up for the most relevant and download the apps to your phone.

2. Claim Your Business
Fill out details of your business on your chosen apps and maps. Add a badge to your website or on your front counter displaying your platforms – eg ‘We’re on Yelp’ – to try to encourage customers to interact.

Make sure your business is listed on search engine maps too, like Google and Bing, as well as the main service applications like Apple Maps. Check and edit your information to ensure it’s bang up to date.

3. Engage!
Don’t just jump on a platform and forget about it. Using social channels like Foursquare is a great way to engage with your customers. Promotions will help you to get noticed too. For instance you could offer customers a discount every time they ‘check in’ or leave a review. That will help to push more content to your profile and encourage customer loyalty.

Ready to put your business on the map? Try out these tips and let us know how it goes. We’d love to hear your feedback.

And if you’re looking to get noticed in a new location, a virtual office is a great way to get there. You can bag an impressive business address virtually anywhere in the world from Wilshire Boulevard to Wall Street, Champs-Elysees to Piccadilly.

It’s just one of the many ways Alliance Virtual Offices can help your small business grow. And grow. And grow…

Check out www.alliancevirtualoffices.com to find out more.