Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Virtual Office Services Ideal for Home Based Businesses

Thousands of Queens’ business owners commute to work every morning by taking the stairs down to the basement or to another area in the house designated as a home office. 

Every year, an increasing number of entrepreneurs choose to work out of their homes, some out of preference, but most out of economic necessity. The recession has forced millions of small business owners to cut back on rent and overhead expenses.

There are a great many benefits to working at home, most notably, the cost savings.  Foregoing a traditional Queens office space allows you to save on rent and associated overhead expenses.  Additionally, you save on gas, on child care, and a myriad of other costs involved with operating a business out of a rented office space.

Another great benefit is the flexibility it offers you to tend to the needs of your family, especially if you have young children.  You can pick up the kids at school, and get them started on their homework.  You can also get the chicken into the oven at 4:00 p.m. 

Though the advantages to working at home are numerous, there is a downside, as well.  What to do you do when you need to meet with a client?  Do you really want to meet with clients or customers in your home?  In your basement?  Some home based entrepreneurs opt to meet clients at public hubs such as Starbucks.  That may work once or twice, but is not a solution for the long term.

Another downside to working in the house is the temptation to do the laundry or get sidetracked by other household chores.  Your kids can also be a distraction just at the moment that you get an important call.  That has happened to me on more than one occasion, especially when my children were very young.  They seem to demand your attention just as you pick up the phone.

Fortunately there is a solution for home based businesses in need of a professional facade.  It is called a virtual office.  The concept of virtual office services began to take shape about twenty years ago as an outgrowth of the executive suite industry.  An executive suite center offers offices that are furnished, and equipped for telephone and internet use.  They often have a receptionist to meet and greet clients and answer telephones for the tenants.  Personalized answering services make it appear as if you have your own personal secretary.  There is usually a common conference room available for scheduled use, a cafeteria, copy center, and other office amenities.

A virtual office allows you to take advantage of these services on an a la carte basis.  Perhaps you only need an office suite or conference room once or twice a week to meet an occasional client.  Or maybe you need use of a conference room to make a presentation before a group.  Some executive suite centers offer high quality videoconference services, as well.  Or maybe you just need to get out of the house and into an office environment a few days to a week in order to feel more professional.  Whatever you need, virtual office services are often available from the provider in customizable form.  You pay for your use of the office facility on an as need basis.

In sum, virtual office services allow you to maintain a professional appearance without the cost of maintaining a full time office.  It is not surprising that though the office rental market is still reeling from the effects of the financial downturn that began in 2008, the virtual office industry has continued to grow.

See why this guy is upset with Executive Office Center at Fresh Meadows in Queens NY

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

When the Bell Rings, Come Out Fighting!

Get ready for a lickin'

When it comes to business, I like to think of the annual fight for profitability as a ten round boxing match. The opening bell rings in the early morning hours of January 2.   I’ve learned, as a mature fighter learns, never to come out flailing wildly in the first round.  I’ve never won by a technical knockout in January, but by the accumulation of points throughout the ten rounds of the year.  The first round is for the implementation of my business plan, and the assessment of prevailing economic conditions.  I dance around the ring, looking for opportunity.

Presidents Week gives us a chance to go back to our corners, and have our shoulders massaged.  But the second round of the fight is usually for minor adjustments only.  In the northeast, winter weather is a big factor.  Advertising is a puny weapon against two feet of snow.   When I can’t bring customers in through the door, I do the things necessary to bring them in at a later date. 

Round three has a variable start date – somewhere between mid March and the beginning of April, when there is a noticeable thaw in the weather.   As the weather warms, there is always a corresponding increase in phone calls.   As buds begin to appear on the trees, customers begin to come out of hibernation.  Now is the time to charge into the ring and take command of the fight.

Just as we are getting into a groove, G-d demands our attention with the holidays of Passover and Easter.   Round 4 begins after spring vacation.  I am in my corner by 7:00 a.m., loosening up, anxious to get back into the ring, and reestablish my rhythm.  This is the time of year when prospects seem most receptive.  I’ve had four months to get a feel of the market, and figure out what’s working and what is not.  I go with what’s working.       

Memorial Day, the unofficial start of summer, marks the beginning of Round 5.  Round 5 is an important round.  The snow is now a distant memory, and the torpor of summer has not yet set in.  This is the time to move in on my opponent and hurt him. 

Independence Day, Round 6:  Thank G-d we are not in France, where people take off all summer.  What’s with those Europeans, anyway?  Remember when the nations of Europe ruled the world?  What happened to all that ambition?   Patience is necessary during the summer months.  Some people are on vacation.  Where everybody else is, I don’t know.

Labor Day, Round 7:  Labor Day is one of my favorite holidays. Man, do I love that Tuesday after Labor Day.  People are ready to do business again in the fall.  It is merely my job to identify and attract them.   I jab with my right, hook with my left, hammer away at the body, uppercut to the chin.

The Jewish New Year, Round 8:  No sooner have we got our rhythm back, here comes G-d again to remind us that our success in life is not merely dependent on the fight, but the observance of His Laws.  Business activity in New York all but ceases between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.  After atoning for my sins, I return to the ring with a vengeance, knowing that the Christmas shopping season is just around the corner, that 30 day period when the department stores become the locus of the Bermuda Triangle.

 We pause on Thanksgiving to give thanks for the bounty G-d has given us.  A lot of people eat so much on Thanksgiving, they can hardly get out of their corners for Round 9 of the fight.  They believe, self-fulfillingly, that the beginning of the Christmas shopping season ends all commerce, except for retail.   Knowing that my competitors in the real estate industry usually began to surrender this time of year, I have always tried to animate our sales force in December with motivational speakers and events. 

The final round of the year is fought in the week immediately preceding Christmas.  Not everybody is shopping for presents, certainly not all of the time.  I’m looking for that one or two people who have finished shopping, or those who are waiting till the last minute.  This year I’m not giving an inch to the economy.  I will be in the ring, bobbing and weaving, feinting and jabbing, swinging away till the last moment.