Virtual Offices and Executive Suites
Need to start or operate a business… but don't need permanent office space? Consider using virtual offices or executive suites.
First, Two Quick Definitions:
A virtual office provides communication services (phone, fax, email, and answering service support) from a remote location while also providing a physical address to which customers and vendors can send mail and packages. No lease is required; you never occupy any part of a virtual office.
An executive suite is office space, often including the use of shared conference rooms and other facilities, leased by businesses who want to maintain a professional image while only using a portion of the total space available. Tenants often share a receptionist as well as office equipment and other support services. Some executive suites even rent offices or rooms by the hour to home-based businesses or other people who need temporary space.
Which is right for you? If you plan to see clients, meet vendors, or in some way meet on a regular basis with others and don't wish to do so at your home or at a restaurant or other location then an executive suite might be the right choice. Plus you can use conference rooms for larger meetings and avoid investing in copying machines and other expensive office equipment.
If you don't need to meet with people, a virtual office can create the perception of an established business while offering the convenience of professional communication support. While you will need to invest in your own copiers and office equipment, you won't incur the cost of monthly lease charges. Instead, you will pay a fee for the virtual office service (and have a place to pick up your mail and packages).
Let's Look More Closely at Each Alternative.
Here's what a virtual office service can do for you:
- Receive phone calls "live" and take messages (and in some cases answer basic questions)
- Provide voice mail services
- Establish a mailing address for your business, often in a prestigious location
- Receive mail and packages, and if necessary forward those items to you (especially helpful if your virtual office is not nearby)
- Provide a virtual assistant to handle administrative duties, bookkeeping or clerical duties, schedule appointments, translation and transcription, etc.
- If located nearby, rent office space on an hourly or daily basis
- If located nearby, rent conference or meeting rooms
Some virtual office providers offer a combination of services; remote duties like phone reception and package receipt as well as leasing office space. Most focus on providing remote services. A virtual office is perfect for a professional wishing to maintain a professional image without incurring the cost of establishing an office, hiring permanent staff, etc. Many virtual office providers and virtual assistants bill on an as-needed basis. You only pay for the services you need when you need them.
Think of an executive suite as a lower-cost way to establish a physical office location. You can create a home for your company without committing to more space than you can afford, without signing long-term leases, without hiring full-time staff, and without purchasing expensive office equipment and office furniture. Most executive suites come fully furnished and ready to use, and allow you to adjust your space requirements as your needs change.
Executive suites are right for:
- Small sized businesses that want to enhance their professional image while controlling costs and maintaining flexibility
- Branch offices, temporary meeting rooms, and special projects
- Start-ups unsure of their long-term needs
What services do executive suites provide? In general, most offer:
- Customized signage and office branding
- Offices, meeting rooms, lounges, reception areas, and kitchens
- Receptionist services include call and mail/package handling
- Office equipment like copiers, faxes, audio-visual equipment, internet access, etc.
To decide the location and services that are right for you, start with your needs. If cost is an issue, find space on the outskirts of your local business center; you'll pay more for prestigious locations. If image is more important, limit your searches to the "right" buildings and parts of town.
Then, focus on the services provided. Do you need extensive phone and reception services? If so, choose an executive suite that can handle your needs. If conference room availability is important, factor in that consideration when making your choice. Finally, be sure the executive suite provides the office equipment you need.
Once you've created a short list, evaluate each potential location in terms of cost and length of lease. Some executive suites provide space on a month-by-month or even as-needed basis; other locations require a longer-term commitment. Weigh your present needs against your future needs, and chose the executive suite that provides the best balance of cost and services.
If you're in doubt, chose a location with a shorter-term commitment so you can test the waters. The beauty of using an executive suite is moving to another location is relatively easy and painless.