Imagine if you could run the ultimate visual business; a company in which you don’t have an in-house reception staff, workers, or even a real, physical address.
While it might have seemed like a pipe dream just a few years ago, the power of today’s network computing has made it possible. You really can operate a business through the cloud, distributing tasks to people without a central office. A good internet connection will do the trick.
The term “virtual” can be a little misleading. It’s not that you’re pretending to have these services at your business: they’re all real entities. When you have a virtual receptionist on the end of the line talking to customers, it’s still a real human being with skills. It’s just that you’re not employing that person directly, nor do you have to deal with the hassle of payroll.
The same goes for your “virtual address.” There’s still a real building to which mail is delivered. It’s just that it’s maintained, managed and owned by somebody else. The address itself becomes the service. You pay for an address that isn’t your actual offices or home, and the virtual address company will manage all your correspondence for you, sending on mail where necessary, or scanning it and uploading to the cloud.
The reasons for going “virtual” are many, and it depends on the operations of the business. The main driver of the trend, however, is to get costs down. When you’re starting a business, you don’t want to have to deal with massive overheads like receptionists and physical premises. You want a lean operation. It makes sense, therefore, to hire a receptionist and rent a virtual address instead of sinking investment capital into non-essentials. Going virtual is something that savvy, resourceful entrepreneurs do.
Being a connected, cloud-based business creates additional benefits for remote working too. Today, you can run a remote workforce, scattered throughout the world, with no real impact on the quality of your services, business operations or anything else. Network computing, in fact, adds to the pool of talent available to your company. You can source employees from all over the world.
Okay, so that’s enough with the preamble. Let’s take a look at some of the components of running a virtual business in more detail, starting with coworking.
Virtual coworking sounds like a bit of a strange concept when you first hear about it, but it can make a big difference to the quality of work that remote employees do.
You want people to work from home, but you also want them to feel as if they are a part of the office community, working alongside other people from their computer terminal. Virtual coworking, therefore, is a digital recreation of an office, complete with meeting rooms, coworking spaces, and desks. Each area of the online coworking space has a different function and is populated by the other members of the team.
The idea of the system is to reduce loneliness experienced by some remote workers and increase accountability. Everyone can see what everyone else is working on, just like in a real office. Plus, there are opportunities for people to talk together in customisable rooms.
Of course, you don’t have to go down the full virtual route to the office, if you don’t want. A combination of teleconferencing and business messaging services should do the trick. But it’s a proof of concept and an indication of where things might be heading in the future. Workers from all over the world can now interact with each other to perform a task, no matter whether they’re in North America, Australia, Europe or Asia.
Virtual coworking means that many businesses no longer have to operate physical premises. What’s the point of spending money on offices when there are tools that enable remote workers to interact with each other online?
While many companies still operate offices, there’s a strong case to abandon them. They’re bad for the environment, require enormous amounts of company resources to remain operational, and need people to commute - a massive drag on their time.
They are, however, good for one thing: providing you with a physical address. Customers know where they should send their letters if they want to communicate with you.
Companies with real addresses also benefit from a kind of legitimacy effect - you’re not just operating a company from your bedroom in your pyjamas. You’re a real enterprise with sufficient success to hire out space in an office building or unit.
Virtual offices, however, let you have your cake and eat it too. You can have a physical address that you cite as the location of your company, but don’t have to pay the enormous fees associated with renting space. The virtual address provider forwards all the mail your clients send you. It’s as simple as that. You and your team can continue to work from home offices at low cost, avoiding costly commercial premises rental fees and expenses.
Why might you choose a virtual receptionist, though? What advantage could that bring?
Again, it’s all about giving your company legitimacy in the eyes of customers, without having to pay a fortune for the privilege.
Hiring a full-time receptionist for your company probably isn’t worth it, especially if you’re small. You have to manage all of the expenses and regulations of employing somebody which could cost you many thousands of dollars. It’s almost always much cheaper and easier to hire a virtual receptionist instead and get them to process your calls.
What’s great about an answering service is that you only have to pay for the reception services that you use. The virtual receptionist might serve multiple businesses, dedicating a small chunk of time to directing your clients.
Yes, you’ll need to explain to the virtual reception company the kind of things that you want them to say to your customers. But once that’s done, they manage all your calls for you. This service frees up your time, without any large, upfront outlay.