Author: Christina Esterly
The work environment has changed dramatically in the past two decades. Now, in an age of instant communication, cloud-based applications and workplace versatility, the era of the traditional office culture has likely slowed down – maybe even coming to an end. Providers of virtual offices, executive suites and, co-working spaces have effectively added new choices leaving behind the old-school office culture and even to some degree working strictly from home. The new choices can be helpful for freelancers, entrepreneurs (often now called “Solopreneurs”) and employees of startup operations. Conversely, not often thought about, are those businesses looking to downsize their overhead. The latter have “been there done that” with traditional office overhead and a standalone lease. They are often looking to cut operating expenses in order to bring home more profit margin.In short order, there’s quite a bit to learn about engaging a virtual office, executive suite, or co-working space in light of all situations.
Looking back twenty years ago, an individual looking to start a business had to incorporate a year’s worth of operational costs into their business proposal and loan funding in order to ensure the business has ramped up enough in one year to sustain the lease and expenses associated with the operation. We’d often heard statistics like 50% of all startup businesses failed. The heavy overhead associated with the past model lent well to ensure that the figure held true. Fast forward to today’s world of choices whereby startups have a fighting chance of success thanks to new progressive options. The original “virtual office” emerged from a combination of technological innovation and the Information Age. When almost all of our work went “to the cloud,” we started to see that the office was becoming more mobile and transient.
A virtual office is a model that provides communication, services, hourly office space rental and/or a physical address to receive mail or use on marketing collateral without providing dedicated office space with the overhead associated with it. The term “virtual office” includes the utilization of space, which can occur as a service; however, the concept includes many different professional services. The model has many actionable benefits including reducing the environmental impact of workers as well as removing the personal negatives of a daily commute. For startups and entrepreneurs, the model allows for a quick start up and/or a low-cost expansion with no long-term commitments. Users taking advantage of virtual services also eliminate the traditional burdens of health care, records, payroll, insurance, leases, and rent to name a few. The other benefit is the appearance of a larger operation than what actually exists. With the appearance of a commercial A building, a reception staff, and formal meeting location, one looks as if they’ve been in business for a very long time with an established presence.
Let’s look even closer at Virtual Office Services. The most useful benefit offered by virtual office providers isn’t always the most obvious. Virtual offices provide a wide variety of services, which will be detailed below. However, the biggest benefit that companies like Office Alternatives, a local New Mexico provider with two locations, provides is local knowledge. By hiring locally, screened professionals trained for specific skills, the staff provided via virtual offices are able to provide local knowledge, geography and other vital information about amenities, logistics, and other crucial elements of doing business in a particular location. The added value by these services can provide enormous efficiencies to a wide variety of businesses.
Services provided by a Virtual Office provider may include:
- Remote Telephone Reception: With a huge push for “live answer” telephone in a world tired of robots and phone trees, a virtual reception service provides a team of workers in an office environment working remotely via high-tech integrated softphones to replace a traditional receptionist and to provide live answer phone service for your company. Studies have shown people are tired of voicemail and telephone trees. 85% of potential clients who get a voicemail instead of a live answer, will take their business elsewhere (usually the next Google listing). A live answer service ensures the calls are answered and routed as you see fit – again, giving the “appearance” of a larger staff and operation.
- Professional Address and Virtual Mail: Engaging a virtual office provider allows businesses to access a high-profile address in the city for a fraction of the cost of renting a space in that location. A professional address is a matter of image, establishing a professional presence while alleviating the privacy and security concerns of working from a home office. Some businesses join a dual location virtual address program and advertise on their website they “have two locations in town.” A virtual mail package also ensures your packages and mail arrive safely and are managed by a professional staff. Often that staff can also provide additional “mediator” services whereby you can drop off items for YOUR clients to come pick up at that location and vice versa.
- Business Meeting Space: The on-demand hourly or incremental use of conference rooms and offices for meetings, which can be rented at short notice or even for on-the-fly appointments, ensures you have an office when and where you need it. Office Alternatives, for example, allows members to reserve and book rooms and meeting spaces by the hour online or by telephone at a moment’s notice.
- On-Site Amenities and Admin Billable Minutes: A full-service virtual office will provide many amenities including broadband Internet access, receptionist greetings, elegant lobby/waiting area and hot coffee free of charge. For a nominal fee, many providers offer a variety of billable administrative services including copying/printing services, witness services, conference calling, projector rentals, and more billable by the minute or in increments. This means that instead of hiring a full-time admin, you are outsourcing administrative time by the minute as your business needs it.
What comes after the Virtual Office Experience?
Many members of virtual office services graduate to an onsite Executive Office Suite rental when the time is right for their business. Modern workers—including executives, attorneys, consultants, and solopreneurs find this “instant office” to be a low-cost way to run their business. Executive Suites are physical offices that come fully equipped with services and amenities of a traditional office on an as-needed basis – with flexible access and no lease. Office Alternatives has offices in two locations (4801 Lang Ave NE, Ste 110 and 6300 Riverside Plaza Drive NE, Ste 100). Because start-ups often experience rapid growth and/or go out of business before a lease term’s end date, executive suites provide the flexible terms that such businesses need to accommodate unforeseen needs of the company.
So, what is co-working then?
Many people wonder how virtual and executive offices compare to the newer buzz word “Co-Working.” Co-working involves an open-concept shared working environment, often a large college style room with open desks, cubes and tables encouraging sharing and networking between members. It’s built upon a laid-back, shared atmosphere versus a more traditional private space concept.
Unlike a traditional office environment, those co-working members are not employed by the same organization. Co-working is very popular with high tech, freelancers, artists, independent contractors, or people who travel frequently. Occupants of co-working spaces are generally interested in the synergy that can be produced from working with people who value working in the same place alongside others.
In short, whether its virtual office, virtual mail, telephone reception, full-service office space or co-working, it’s clear these choices can be a real asset to almost any kind of business model. Our services have the ability to expand and contract with you on an as needed basis as your business ages over time. They provide resourceful and innovative options to the business and startup communities. Office Alternatives has been local to Albuquerque for over 14 years and is here to provide any additional information and services to help your business grow and be successful.
For questions or to set up a consultation, you can reach out to Christina Esterly (President and Sales Director).