Monday, June 17, 2024

The Virtual Office

What is a “Virtual Office” and why do I need it?

If you currently run a small company, a “Virtual Office” is the best way to edge out your competition. A Virtual Office is a technique that creates the image of a much larger firm with multiple offices operating 24/7 without spending thousands of dollars. The model is based on a simple premise: a potential client will conduct business with your firm if you meet their expectations. Such expectations are based on appearance and perspective. These are elements that can be manipulated to create the proper image for your firm.

I’d like to use a case study of my firm to demonstrate how this works. Back in 1999, I was trying to win a network consulting contract. A number of mid- to large-sized firms were competing for the business and seemed likely candidates, but I used an innovative approach that won the contract. All I needed for this technique to work was a laptop and a cell phone.

First, I set up my cell phone service with a professional voice menu, call waiting, call forwarding, and 3-way calling. Then, I configured my laptop to send and receive faxes and to call my cell phone with a fax confirmation number. I ran across a sole proprietor who had an impressive office and worked out an arrangement with him to pay a daily rental fee for using his office. I could hold client meetings at his office and put his business mailing address on my business cards.

A Virtual Office is a Wireless Office

The Wireless Web was new in 1999 and gave me added capabilities that few others had. One day when I drove to a parking lot near the client’s office waiting to receive word regarding the contract. The client called requesting certain accounting documentation and billing information to be faxed to them immediately, then they would sign the contract and finalize the deal.

Unfortunately, the accounting documentation I needed was with my accountant, who was on vacation, and the billing information was back at home. Then I remembered that I had an old fax document with my billing information saved on my laptop. The accounting documentation was also saved as an Email attachment in my inbox.

I opened the Email attachment and chose an option that allowed me to print to the fax software (this created a fax document). I updated the information on the old fax document and changed the dates and other information making it applicable to my client. I connected my cell phone to my laptop using a serial cable from the service provider and I faxed the documents to the client. The client contacted me, confirming receipt of the documents but needed my signature. As I was in the area (actually, I was a few hundred feet away) I told them I could come by and sign off on everything. In a couple of days, I started working on-site.

This case study is an example of how a Virtual Office enables one person to respond to opportunities faster than most Fortune 500 firms. If a sales prospect wants to conduct business in Chicago, Dallas, or L.A., you can contact one of the many voicemail/answering service firms in those cities to use their office address as yours. Now you can make business cards and company literature showcasing your nationwide offices.

Hire a “Virtual Staff”

Most of us have friends, acquaintances, and business contacts who have asked us for favors from time-to-time. Why not employ them? Not with a full-time salary, but with a freelance opportunity to make some extra cash. Bring a trusted co-worker along with you on a sales meeting to help close a deal. Ask your accountant to become your part-time Controller or CFO.

Your spouse can track billing invoices and make collection calls to problem accounts (chances are they will prefer this to GETTING collection calls). Your computer geek son or daughter can become your MIS department. Make it all legit by creating voicemail boxes and printing business cards for each of them – now you have a Virtual Staff. Pay them when you get paid and save thousands of dollars on payroll taxes and benefits.

These ideas can help your small firm to win more business by giving you an edge on the competition. With a Virtual Office business model, you can respond to opportunities faster and more effectively than the largest Fortune 500 corporations.

Brian R. Patrick Jr. is Co-founder of Platinum 2000, a New York consulting firm specializing in network solutions and wireless networks. He is a Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer with over nine years of systems integration and project management experience.

Related Articles


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Latest Articles