A virtual office is a system which offers small to medium sized business owners a professional business address, answering services, receptionists, and even short term office and conference room rentals at monthly rates. Rates vary by service and what options are purchased. Many small business owners love the fact that virtual offices allow them to have the impression of a large successful company while helping to keep business expenses low.
With a virtual office, the subscriber to the service can essentially run their business out of their home while having mail sent to their virtual office, having calls routed from their virtual office to their personal phone lines, and even renting traditional office space at hourly or daily rates. While this may seem like the perfect idea for small businesses who want to give their clients a large corporate image, there are also certain downfalls.
First off, giving the impression of something that isn’t may not be the most moral way of running a business. A client who orders services from the small business may be let down should the small business fail. The client may very well be left holding the bag should a deal fall through and may feel scammed when he or she discovers what is really behind that virtual office.
These days, more and more people are using the power of the Internet to run their businesses from their homes. With the recent turn of the economic tide, more and more former corporate players are running one man businesses from spare bed rooms. This has become more and more socially acceptable, and the fact that a business is run from a home has little to no effect on a client’s decision to hire a certain business. If anything, the clients will appreciate the financial savings to them if they see that a one man home business is able to pass on savings from not having to pay commercial rent and utilities.
Also, when a virtual office address is given as a company address and a potential client happens to decide to want to meet the business owner face to face, that client will find that the personnel on staff are trained to offer excuses for the absence of the business owner. This is done by saying things like “he’s in a meeting”, “he’s in the field”, or “he’s with another client”. These excuses all lend further to the illusion that the business is much larger or more successful than it actually is. What happens if the client decides to wait? What happens if that virtual office is an hour or two away?
Should a small business owner not want a client to show up unexpectedly at their home office, the use of a P.O. Box would be much more appropriate. This shows potential clients that an unannounced drop in would be inappropriate for the type of business the owner operates. Small business owners who operate out of apartments or condos can turn the words “APT” or “Unit” number in their addresses to read “Box” number. Or, if the business owner doesn’t want their clients to know where they live at all, it would be very easy to print business cards without an address.
All in all, while virtual offices seem to mean well, they fall short of keeping small business owners true to their clients. For years, small business owners have used the fact that as small business owners they are more personable and potentially more available than their corporate competitors. This fact should be used to the benefit of the small business owner as a selling point when pitching products and services to potential clients. No matter what state the economy happens to be in, customers and clients will prefer truthfulness and honesty over grand illusions any day.
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