In today’s wired world, a laptop, smartphone, and Internet access are sometimes all it takes to run a successful small business. (That’s in addition to your good idea and solid business plan, of course.)
This unprecedented flexibility has given thousands of entrepreneurs the ability to serve customers anytime, anywhere. Not only do they enjoy the benefits of a less constricted work schedule, they can complement their skills and experience with lower overhead and greater efficiency, creating a competitive edge that’s sometimes hard to beat.
But amid this new kind of “virtual reality,” these kinds of small businesses must still interact with the conventional business world on multiple levels. For example, certain customers may prefer or even insist on speaking with a “real person” rather than simply leaving a voicemail and waiting for you to call back. Suppliers or project collaborators may have varying levels of technological capabilities, or lack the electronic infrastructure to work virtually.
Fortunately, the growth of Internet-based interaction has also given rise to a host of convenient, affordable, and easy-to-use services that provide the “brick and mortar” resources a virtual small business owner needs on demand.
For example, Regus (www.regus.com) provides short-term office and work space, plus fully-equipped meeting rooms at its worldwide network of business centers. Regus also offers a full range of virtual office services, including a staff to answer phones and collect mail.
Other options for virtual offices are Davinci (www.davincivirtual.com) and Alliance (www.alliancevirtualoffices.com). Many local and regional companies also provide virtual offices, as well as technology and other support services.
If web conferencing or teleconferencing is all you need to bring your business partners or clients together, there are many options here as well. FreeConference.com offers both no-cost and fee-based services depending on the scope and volume of the user’s needs. There’s also GorillaConferencing.com, InterCall.com, and AT&T’s Conferencing services (www.att.com/business/enterprise).
And because it’s not practical for a virtual entrepreneur to lug printers, scanners and copiers around, worldwide chains such as FedEx Office (www.fedex.com/office), Office Depot (www.officedepot), and Staples (www.staples.com) are available to prepare documents, presentations, display boards, and other materials.
Whether you operate virtually or in the bricks-and-mortar world, the small business experts at SCORE “Mentors to America’s Small Business” can help. At Raleigh SCORE, we provide free, confidential business mentoring and training workshops to small business owners. To schedule a free appointment with our experienced counselors, go to http://raleigh.score.org, or call us at 919-856-4739.