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A 2011 study from the Center for Marketing Research was conducted with the Inc. Magazines top 500 fastest growing companies to determine how the Internet and social media are affecting businesses.
The results of the research find a significant increase in the use of social media, including sites such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube and others. These fast growing businesses are also incorporating mobile applications for smart phones, iPads and tablets, as well as continuing to leverage email, text messaging and blogging.
The study shows that 74% of the Inc. 500 companies are using Facebook as part of their marketing strategy, and 73% are using LinkedIn. 88% find social media important to generate a business website traffic, and 81% find it important for lead generation.
What does this mean for entrepreneurs and small business owners?
As part of your business planning process, you should have an online business presence and include social media as part of your marketing strategy. Because so many businesses are going where their customers are which is online it is critical that your business has a presence as well.
The next concern is cost and resources to manage all the aspects of an online business. A virtual office is a new trend that has helped many small companies with their online business management. Virtual office services can include:
- A business street address to use instead of a residential address
- Conference call and conference room services
- Wireless internet connectivity for webinars and working online
- Phone and fax services with call forwarding to your cell if needed
- Professional answering services and voicemail
- Meeting facilities and office space to present a professional image
Instead of using your home office and phone, a virtual office can give you a true professional image without the expense of leasing separate office space.
The toughest part of starting a business is actually starting it. It takes hard work and smart planning to get a startup off the ground and moving towards success. Technology makes this much easier, however. It allows us to be in more than one place at one time, virtually.
A virtual office is a great investment for startups. This is a fairly unknown resource as people who haven’t used it don’t know about its many benefits and advantages. For the uninitiated, a virtual office is a virtual office space that provides you with all the facilities that a real office does, without the heavy investment that real estate requires.
A virtual office space allows you to give all your clients one mailing address in a prestigious business location from where all your mail is forwarded to you. This is much classier than using a PO Box. They also provide you with virtual phone services and a live virtual receptionist who takes your calls and messages and organizes your communication. These simple things make running a business much easier and more efficient.
Virtual phone services especially are very useful. Handling your own calls is tiresome and chaotic. Take time to invest in this.
Once you have this very useful infrastructure system set up for yourself, its time to make use of it. Marketing involves getting the word out that your business exists and highlighting what you’re good at. Its vital for people to know about your company if you want new business to come your way. Providing a good product/service makes for great word of mouth marketing. In addition, if you have the funds, advertising is not a bad idea. For those with smaller budgets, social media is the way to go, but note the time commitment that must be made before diving in head first.
It’s the 21st Century. Most all of us have virtual bankbooks, virtual music libraries, virtual address books, virtual calendars and so on down the line. So it should be surprise no one that virtual offices have finally stepped into the fold. In fact, for many young companies and startups, making use of virtual office services saves them tons of money and can really help get them up off the ground. But you may still have questions:
- What are virtual offices?
- What makes virtual office services work?
- What type of services am I availed of?
- How does a live virtual receptionist interact with me?
Let’s see if we can’t help shuffle the noise and get you some straight answers.
What It Is: The virtual office is your office, just without the physical location. You are supplied with a mailing address, telephone number, and a courteous and responsive live virtual receptionist to handle all your 9-5 needs.
Professionals: Even though the “virtual” makes this sound like some computer program, the “virtual” sense to your offices is still staffed by real, professional, courteous, responsive and helpful people. People who know you, are able to conference with you, take notes and give you messages you may get throughout the day.
Big Picture: Virtual offices make running a business so much simpler, efficient and very professional. This is especially important for a startup. When you’re still working and testing and manufacturing out of your mom’s basement and the only “official” thing about you is a PO Box, then you could really use an air of circumstance. You could be building the next Microsoft or Apple, but investors and customers are going to be turned off if your cell phone (that you never answer) is the only way to get a hold of you. Taking the virtual office road you always get a professional phone answer, you have expedient mail forwarding, fax and courier services, access to meeting and conferring facilities and so much more.
Getting your new startup off the ground is no easy feat; especially in as weak an economy as the one the globe is currently suffering from. Still you have your product, the time is now and you’re ready to unleash your vision on the world! There’s no sense waiting for someone else to invent their own version of your product first.
Virtual office services take your product to that next level.
Though, initially, many businesses felt trepidations about the very concept of virtual offices, most have now recognized that the virtual office is likely to become a feature of our 21st century information society. But businesses aren’t simply resigning themselves to this inevitability; instead, they are increasingly coming to acknowledge the benefits of the virtual office and the extremely positive ROI they provide.
A recent survey conducted among six hundred small to medium-sized businesses found that, in general, upper-management thinks the virtual office offers significant benefits. More than half of those businesses surveys reported that they realized a savings of around $10,000 a month by instituting a virtual office.
For most businesses, the costs associated with setting up a business are difficult to meet. To get a choice location in most cities is either impossible of unfeasible. Part of the reason for this is that finding a good location that can fit and support your entire staff is a challenging one. By turning your office into a virtual office, you can either wholly eliminate the need for rent or you can reduce the amount of space you need.
Jack Nilles, president of JALA International, a Los Angeles-based management consulting firm, says that typically companies can expect to save $11,000 per year for each of their employees who telecommutes at least two days a week. Clearly you can expect considerable savings by reducing your space requirements.
An important benefit offered by a virtual office is that it eliminates the need for fulltime administrative employees. This is because companies that provide virtual office services commonly provide live virtual receptionists, virtual office services and a virtual phone system. This makes it easy for your customers to reach you, even if you dont have an administrative support staff. Live virtual receptionists can free you and your team from time-wasting administrative duties.
Finally and this might be the greatest benefit offered a virtual office can create happier, more productive employees. A study by AT&T found that 75 percent of telecommuters felt increased satisfaction with both their personal and professional lives after their employers adopted virtual offices. Happier employees, according to Nations Business, are more efficient, less likely to take extended leave or sick days, and are less likely to leave their positions.
Several new businesses are now switching to a virtual office space as they realize the benefits that it offers. There are those who are witness to these advantages, but are unsure of what exactly virtual office services are and hence hesitate to switch to it.
A virtual office is a service that is provided to businesses and is very useful for startups. It gives you a prestigious business address where all your mail can be sent, which is then forwarded to you. The advantage of this is that you don’t need a physical office; you can always be on the move. At the same time, you don’t need to give people different addresses or residential addresses in order to reach you. You simply give them the address of your virtual office space (in a prestigious business area) and rest assured that all your mail will reach you.
Virtual phone services area also part of the deal. This means that you have a defined office number and a live virtual receptionist to handle all your calls. All messages are forwarded to you in a timely manner so that you never miss out on anything.
There are also meeting facilities and conference facilities so that you can have all the benefits of a real office without wasting your money on it. And yes, these meeting/conference facilities are state-of-the-art, furnished and are at the same address as your virtual office address. Courier services and fax services can also be added to your package, depending on your requirements.
With this clear picture of a virtual office space, it should become much easier to decide to use one. A good virtual office services provider will always give you the details in an honest and straightforward manner, either on their website or via phone. Make sure you ask all the questions you need to while you make your choice.
Most businesses are caught with their guard down when a recession occurs. Business owners and management are often ill prepared to deal with the economic realities of business crises, and for those who do not learn to cope with this struggling environment, business closure is often the result. As a business there are things you can do to survive the economic downturn.
If there was ever a time when a business needs to concentrate on making the sale, it is during a recession. This is the time when you need as much cash inflow as possible and sales are your best way to stimulate this. Use clever marketing techniques and focus your key resources on sales with minimal advertising. One of the time tested marketing strategies is taking extra care of your customers to increase loyalty, even when the economy recovers.
Communicate and Negotiate
A company that has effective communication with personnel, key suppliers and customers is very likely to survive the recession. Use proper communication to negotiate better credit terms with your lenders and suppliers, shorter credit periods with your debtors and lower salaries with your employees in order to maintain healthy finances.
Build a Strong Management Team
Most businesses choose to downsize their operations during business crises by cutting down the number of employees including key management staff. Strong leadership is essential for survival in a competitive environment and you will need key personnel when the economy recovers. Use this time to enhance key people\’s skills for a strong and cohesive management team.
Measure and Improve Your Effectiveness
The decisions that you make during a recession will be instrumental in the direction your company heads after the recovery. Put in place control measures to gauge the effectiveness of decisions and identify shortfalls for correction in advance.
Running a small business is not an easy thing to accomplish, but it is not as complicated as most people think, either. In business, you need to be brave and ready to take risks. It is a fact that risk is integrated in a business, and is what allows for profits to be made. You should invest some time to read and understand the five effective quick thoughts (B.R.A.V.E. Model) that is essential in your business ventures.
Be True to Yourself. In making business decisions, the person who has the last say is YOU. Staying true to yourself means that you are confronting and overcoming the fear inside you. Trust yourself and respond to your inner voice because it will help you get and stay brave.
Respect the Reality. If you are aiming to be successful in your small business, respect the facts that are clearly evident and apparent. Do not ignore the basic principles in building a business such as the dos and don’ts. Keep in account that this is important because it will help you to stay brave.
Act As If You can boost your bravery by using mental analysis and mind setting. Try to act as if you were already successful; this technique will definitely help you identify contingencies, pitfalls and potential blind spots.
Value Fear. Most entrepreneurs are using fear to gain a substantial competitive advantage. Do not let fear pull you down; rather value it and reverse its effects because this will ultimately conquer your fears. As President Franklin D. Roosevelt said in his inaugural address, there is nothing to fear but fear itself.
Ease Up. Knowing that handling a small business is a serious matter, do not fail to keep your sense of humor and make business operations your passion. Making yourself relax and eased up aids you to stay brave and be braver.
Some people have false conceptions of people who work from home, thinking that they are not professionals and, because they work home, are not able to stay focused on work. And while the latter is true in that there are more distractions at home, the former is just not true: work at home jobs are in high demand in the technologically driven business world we live in today, and they will only grow in importance in the coming years.
Work at home professionals are able to set their own work schedule and work when they feel like, which requires time management and discipline. They work in a freer environment and thus can design their home office to their exact specifications and liking. They are also able to maintain prior responsibilities, such as watching after their kids, which can save both money and stress.
These positive attributes, however, are also difficulties. Time management, dedicated focus and maintaining an ideal work-personal life balance are all crucial to ensuring optimal productivity while working from home. Many opt for a virtual office to help with their business management and organization, as a virtual office space helps in managing day-to-day business tasks while also providing a professional image for any business. With a prestigious business address, ability to use conference rooms at that address when hosting clients and virtual phone services, where a live virtual receptionist answers and forwards all phone calls and faxes to you no matter where you are in the world, a virtual offices help work at home professionals advance their business interests and ultimately grow their ventures.
When working from home, its essential to design a very comfortable office to really get you motivated. It doesn’t mean that if you are working from your home that you have to compromise with the conditions of the house and with old traditional furniture. You need to spend some money on your home office furniture as you will spend most of your time in that room. From an organized and spacious desk to a very comfortable chair and even customized lighting to fit your eyes and preferences, creating the perfect home office isn’t as hard as you might think. And for the minimal investment both time and money you put into it, your rewards will be even greater.
Choose any furniture that is simple and fits into your budget. You can buy it new or used, or even go on sites like Craigslist to see what people are selling or even giving away. If the furniture you choose looks professional and makes you feel more professional, then you will want to spend more time in working at home without in that room, without any exterior distractions. Make sure its comfortable, looks great and really turns your room into a home office.
You can even opt for custom-made furniture that is ideal for work in terms of style and health. And if you have the option of getting a laptop or a PC, choose the former, as it will enable you to take your business everywhere and not have to continually transfer documents and email between different computers. This is also why a virtual office is great it enables you to manage your business from wherever you are and seamlessly integrate your online business world into your home office business world.
No matter what happens, make sure your home office is designed how you want it to be to ensure your happiness and ultimate productivity.
Smartphones are one of the most important tools for a business entrepreneur today. A phone well equipped with the right selection of mobile apps is like a secretary, a personal assistant and an intern all rolled into one. Especially for small business owners and start-up companies, you’ll want to extract the most value from your smartphone as possible; you’re paying for data anyway! With these ideas, you can use your device to manage tasks, keep connected to your business and keep all your material current.
Manage tasks with simple, easy mobile apps. For a basic to-do list that can be shared with collaborators, Astrid Task/To-Do list provides a great organizer function, priorities and delegating options. AnyDo is another highly rated task management application. Both have won high acclaim; check them out and decide which works best for your organization style.
Stay connected with your business no matter where you are. The ability to access your business no matter where you are can make the difference between a big opportunity and a flop. For a high-end product, check out LogMeIn Ignition. This app will allow you to access any material on your office computer or laptop from your smartphone at any time. It’s a bigger investment at $25. If you’re not sure that kind of product would be helpful, you can try an app with a similar concept: GoToMyPC is a highly rated, but simpler version that gives many of the same capabilities.
Sync your data.One of the most exciting capabilities your smartphone has is syncing material to have the most up-to-date content for use with your clients and associates. If you love using Google Docs to develop content collaboratively, make sure you use the Google Drive Android app version. This gives you access to all your Google documents and other content, as well as the ability to develop content with feedback in real time.
Starting a business is a challenge most entrepreneurs are faced with, and making a success out of it is an even bigger one. Lack of cash isn’t responsible for the failure of any business, especially a small business, but lack of knowledge definitely is. Complete knowledge and know-how is important for the success of any enterprise, and a mentor or advisor can go a long way in contributing to that success by sharing their expertise and experience required for your business. Having the right business mentor is very important for your business and its growth and success, and a little consideration can help you make the right choice.
Having a strong rapport with your advisor is very important. It essentially would mean that there are no issues with communication and understanding each other and that they are able to challenge your operations and ideas should they not agree with some of your decisions.
Choose someone with hands-on experience. Beware of someone who pitches for a new system or an innovative, untested idea. Instead rely on someone who has been there and done that. Not only can they help you with the secrets of their success, but they will also make you aware about the failures that were faced by them so the same mistakes are not repeated.
Choose someone who takes your entire enterprise into consideration. Your advisor should ideally have good tools and strategies in place for driving sales and profit and a tested framework in place for achieving that.
Choose a mentor that holds you accountable for results. Your mentor should have the right to hold you accountable for the commitments you make and also help guide you in the right direction. You, as a business owner, may not always take being corrected, well but it is valuable for your success.
Successful entrepreneurs make it to the top with a great team and the undisputable role played by a good mentor.