Small businesses are experiencing slower sales growth, and most business owners have a pessimistic outlook of the economy. This is according to a recent survey carried out by PNC Financial Services Group Inc. The survey, which sampled about 1700 small business owners, shows that only 23% of them plan to hire new employees in the coming 6 months.
The percentage represents an increase of 3% compared to 2011, but a decline by 5% from the numbers in spring. The number of respondents who think the national economy will become worse increased by 14%.
The majority of respondents were concerned about the impact of the elections on their business. President Obama and his Republican challenger Mitt Romney addressed the concerns of small business owners during their campaigns. The two leaders debated on small business issues and both of them supported cutting taxes. What was clear is that both Obama and Romney recognized the importance of small businesses in the economy and vowed to pursue initiatives that would spur their growth.
Back to employment matters, the job market has been showing modest gains. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the economy has created an average of 173,000 jobs a month. In October, more than 170,000 new jobs were added. However, the rate of unemployment rose from 7.8% in September to reach 7.9% in October.
With the Obama administration back in office, it remains to be seen how the business environment for will be like. The major concern of most of the respondents surveyed is sales. According to Sageworks, the sales volume from SMBs is growing but at a decreasing pace. Another concern of most SMBs is access to capital. While not many small businesses are looking for financing, those that need the funds find it difficult to get them.
With the advent of smart technology, it’s never been easier to take your work with you wherever you go. For some small business owners and entrepreneurs, having a portable office as well as a bricks and mortar building has always been if not a necessity, then at the very least desirable. Nowadays, virtual offices rather than a fixed location are becoming a conscious choice for many.
Most small businesses going down the virtual office route do so for cost reasons. If paperwork needs are small, it is more efficient to hire experienced secretarial help by the hour from a pool of dedicated workers. The obvious dilemma in the past for small businesses has been the lack of a fixed address. A virtual office could take you from appearing to be an unreliable, fly-by-night operation to having one of the best commercial addresses in town. Providing a mailing address, virtual phone services with a live receptionist to answer your calls, and even meeting and conference room facilities if required, it’s a huge step forward in working smart.
A major consideration for any small business owner or entrepreneur who uses virtual office services is that the privacy of their residential address is immediately protected from their clients. One particular profession that would find this obviously advantageous is anyone working within the private investigation and detective fields.
Since a detective (themselves) is their own biggest business asset and needs to be readily contactable, having a virtual assistant to pick up calls at the end of a phone line is preferable to the frustration your clients might experience at having to leave you a message and wait for a callback. Having calls and messages immediately forwarded to you is very convenient because you can take the calls you want and don’t have to jeopardize the case you’re currently working.
In addition, the occasionally sensitive nature of the work can make virtual offices the ideal solution — customers are reassured by a physical address, and home and work are kept separate.
When you think of Thanksgiving, the things that come to mind probably include turkey, family, pumpkin pie, and backyard football games after dinner. You might be wondering if it’s appropriate to celebrate this holiday at work, if in today’s world it would be just another hassle to plan. Even though Thanksgiving might not traditionally lend itself to an office party, it can raise your employees’ morale and boost their motivation. Here are some reasons to consider celebrating Thanksgiving at your office.
The word gratitude means to be thankful for and appreciative of the blessings in your life. It is not just a vague emotion, however. It is also an action. When you and your employees take the time to reflect on your blessings in your jobs and your lives in general, you’ll find that the world seems a little brighter, a little kinder. You’ll notice that in your interactions with others, you’re a little more understanding. This can work wonders in your relationships with each other and with your customers.
We all have hectic, fast-paced lives. Taking a little time out to be thankful for what we have and to celebrate the often-overlooked and -misunderstood. Thanksgiving holiday is even more important in this environment. When you give your employees the chance to slow down and appreciate what they have (and, indeed, show them that they are appreciated in return), you’ll reap the benefits. Practicing gratitude can renew their (and your) spirits.
“As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.” John Fitzgerald Kennedy.
Virtual offices allow numerous professionals to perform a variety of tasks while keeping administrative costs down. If you are a legal assistant who wants to take advantage of having a virtual office, here is how you can use them to your benefit:
A great thing about having such an office is that you can get a prodigious physical address at a very decent cost compared to having your own premises. You can choose an address at a prestigious business district in cities located throughout the US to impress both current and potential clients and expand your operations.
Meetings with Clients
You can suggest your clients to meet them at their offices. Although this implies transportation costs, these costs are much lower than those associated with renting out an office space. However, if you want to host them at your office, you can rent a fully furnished and state-of-the-art office at the same address as your virtual office.
Perform Various Tasks
Virtual offices pretty much require one thing: an Internet connection. With the help of the worldwide web, you can perform any task, such as conducting legal research and accessing different systems to drafting documents pertaining to prenuptial agreements, divorces, adoptions, and so on.
General Office Duties
As a legal assistant, you have to complete general office duties, including preparing records for trials, filing documents, and many others. A virtual office gives you the chance to do all these at home or in any other location without being disturbed by unscheduled interruptions.
Telephone and Live Virtual Assistants
Most virtual offices include telephone and live virtual assistants, which are useful not only because they can be answered in the name of your office when clients cannot reach you, but also because they make your office appear larger than it actually is.
Besides the aforementioned facilities, numerous service providers offer mail forwarding services that can help you receive and send messages at any time, regardless of whether you are at home, in your car, or at the airport.
Technology developments in the 21st Century have opened up avenues for businesses that weren’t possible earlier. The concept of virtual offices, with their convenience and flexibility, has helped small businesses and startups shift from the traditional office setting and still operate successfully. Depending on the requirements of the business, you can choose from the hundreds of mobile apps available for efficient on-the-go- business.
Here’s a list of some of the best mobile apps for virtual office users and business people alike:
Evernote: Evernote holds copies of all your important documents and images and is essentially a huge file cabinet.. It comes with a convenient search feature for all saved files, and even the text inside the stored images.
Awesome Note: One of the highest rated notes apps and currently available for the iPhone, Awesome Note combine notes and to do’s, sets up your calendar, creates folders and backs up your data to the web.
Springpad: Springpad is another great app for quickly and easily saving anything you want to remember.
Dropbox: Probably the easiest service to use when it comes to cloud storage, Dropbox allows you to open, download and share files from your mobile device.
Google Docs: Google Docs has emerged as one of the most popular apps to store and share documents with friends and colleagues. It gives you the option to choose who to share data with and can be accessed from anywhere.
Documents to Go: It lets you view all of your Word, Excel and Power Point files right on your smartphone. Files are displayed flawlessly and make for great viewing considering the screen size.
Sign Now: Sign Now lets you open a document, add your signature or other needed information, and send it back from your phone. There is also an option to use a stock signature for low importance documents or upload your original and use that for your documents.
Camscanner: Available for the Android and iPhone, Camscanner is a very useful mobile scanner that lets you create PDF documents with your mobile camera. It integrates easily with your mobile email app or cloud service like Dropbox or Evernote.
My Eyes Only: My Eyes Only is a password manager for the iPhone that never sends encrypted information over the network. You can store credit cards, logins, financial accounts and more.
TripIt: Probably the best known travel app, TripIt lets you store itineraries, get maps, link to hotels, find restaurants and will even send you flight alerts and alternate flight options.
Skype: The popularity of Skype as a means of communication is no secret. It allows you to stay connected on-the-go and even has the facility of video chat.
Google Plus: Although a social app, Google Plus is popular for its Hangout feature, which is great for conferencing and allows up to 10 people on a video call for free.
Time Tracking: A great time tracking app, it makes sure you don’t lose track of time, whether you are a consultant tracking your hours or an entrepreneur just trying to figure out how long things are taking.
With these virtual office apps, isn’t it great to have a mini mobile office in your pocket?
Communication is the key to success for small businesses, regardless of the industry. To make the most of technological advancements, small business owners are now operating virtual offices in Los Angeles to save money, improve customer satisfaction and boost business performance.
Los Angeles is home to an abundance of businesses, and while many have set up camp in buildings sprinkled throughout the sprawling city, lots of entrepreneurs are now considering a Los Angeles virtual office to assist them with starting their business ventures. A Los Angeles virtual office can benefit businesses in many ways:
Preserve funds- Less money is required to run a virtual office because you don’t have to pay for physical space. This is advantageous for low budget businesses, and with the money saved other business improvements can be made.
Hire freelance workers- When hiring freelancers to work from home, you need not worry about vacation pay or medical coverage. This enables you to save money and invest in more help to make business operations run smoothly.
Broaden the employee pool-A virtual office can be managed from home, meaning you can hire employees from other countries and take your operations global. The choice will be varied and so will the experience of each person.
Good customer service- If customers call a physical office, there may not be anyone available to respond; but with virtual offices in Los Angeles, you can guarantee that every call will be taken by virtual receptionists. Customer requests can be answered quickly, which will create a clear line of communication with clients and revamp your company image.
Prominent business address- With a virtual office, customers will be attracted from all corners because you will be “set up” in a prestigious business location. You will get an illustrious city business address with a virtual office, and because fax services and mail forwarding are combined, you will see prompt results with fewer inconveniences.
The recent rise in technology has whipped entrepreneurs into a smartphone frenzy. With most smart devices giving users access to a concoction of applications, it is no surprise that over 88 percent of entrepreneurs rely on applications like the following to help them manage business.
Rock The Post
This app is powerful for new entrepreneurs. Simply upload posts relating to planned projects, reach out to networks interested in swapping resources, and get your idea endowed.
Entrepreneurs have been relying on Mail Chimp to connect with their target audience since 2001. Extensive newsletter lists can be controlled and tracking data makes monitoring campaigns easy.
Hoot Suite boasts over three million users and allows for business maintenance when on the move. Use the integrated analytics to stay updated with social media presence.
E-commerce business owners can accept credit card payments out of office with Square. This app was created by Jack Tors, the co-founder of Twitter, and it can really help boost profits.
When you need to examine legal documents use Legal Zoom and avoid business disruptions, because this app enables you to gain access without lawyers.
More convenient than calculating transactions with standard methods, Expensify synchronizes purchases to credit cards so that expense reports can be generated.
Save time organizing trade shows and meetings with Open Table and reserve tables through your device in 150,000 worldwide restaurants.
Phone communications can be tedious but with Glympse, you can inform business associates of your location using Google Maps, with date and time of arrival included.
ToodleDo enables you to clean up your schedule in central locations by categorizing priorities, targets, task duration and to-dos.
Docstoc introduces various templates for documents, which can then be transferred to devices and accessed instantly.
About the Author
Jim Jacques is the President of United Virtual Office, which provides business owners with virtual office services to help them save money and grow their business. Virtual Offices include a prestigious business address in myriad U.S. cities, Virtual Phone Services, courier services and more.
Successful startups and New York City are a match made in heaven. Over 40 startups have been acquired this year to date, and the city’s reputation as a hub for talented entrepreneurs shows no signs of slowing. The big apple has been a global center for finance and fashion, and it’s more recently become a center for technology and innovation.
In a city where rent is notoriously among the world’s highest, what’s an entrepreneur working out of their Brooklyn apartment or the Madison Square Garden Starbucks to do?
Many local innovators are discovering that using a virtual office in New York fits their need for a professional image on a limited budget. You need space that’s as nimble, flexible and innovative as your business plans, and a conventional office arrangement isn’t likely the best choice. Here are some of the most popular benefits:
Mail Forwarding Service: You need a real address for correspondence with clients, potential investors and contacts. While a P.O. box might be more within you price range, can you really afford to reveal you’re not in a permanent brick-and-mortar structure? A virtual office gives you a real address in a prestigious business area (i.e. on Madison Avenue) without the need to sign a lease.
Reception Services: Never let your calls go to voice mail again when you’re in a meeting or sleeping off an all-night coding session. Your calls can be answered by a trained receptionist at your New York virtual office.
Meeting Space: While you might be able to work from home, being able to schedule meetings with associates in a furnished, non-residential space matters. Take advantage of furnished offices and conference rooms in the same office as your virtual address.
Temp Employees: If you need help on a short-term project but can’t commit to full-time employees, use talented staffing available through your virtual office in New York to get what you need to done.
About the Author
Jim Jacques is the President of United Virtual Office, a leading nationwide provider of virtual offices for entrepreneurs, startups and small businesses. A virtual office includes an address at a prestigious business location in the US, live virtual receptionist, courier services and more.
Money is crucial to the success of any small business. Whether you are a one-person operation or have a few employees, there will be bills to pay, employee salaries, equipment and supplies to pay for and other expenses. These expenses can stifle the growth of your business and thus it makes sense to find financing early on. Here are five top ways of financing your small business:
If you are running a very lean startup, your personal savings can kick start the business and help it stay afloat. There are examples of successful businesses that have made it through with bootstrapping. If you are thinking of starting your own business, start saving for it.
Savings from Family
Your family members can help you fund your business. Some will do it out because of the familial ties they have while others may want to come in as investors expecting a return.
Angel investors are usually wealthy people who believe in your business and would like to help you make it successful by providing funds. An angel investor will expect profits and may want to have a say in the way your business is run.
Venture capitalists (VCs) commonly finance startups. Getting money from a VC can be a lengthy process and you need to have your business facts right. VCs usually consider your business plan, management team and your commitment to make the business a success before providing funds.
Merchant Advance Loans
Merchant cash advances can help your business when money is needed fast, perhaps to pay for a sudden expense. The merchants will usually not look at your credit score to finance you. Merchant loans are usually given to companies that have started seeing some positive cash flow.
When you think of Disney, you might think about amusement parks, animated movies and people dressed in giant plushy mouse costumes.
But have you ever stopped to think about Disney and what their business model could mean to your small business? Namely, what would it be like if Disney ran your office?
If there is anything that the Walt Disney Company knows, it’s to provide a complete and total experience for their customers, not just a product. Actually, they don’t provide anything customers because they don’t refer to them as customers. They’re called “guests” when they visit a Disney Park and the employees are “cast members”. That’s the value placed on everyone involved with Disney, and it’s something your small business might want to consider as well.
Your small business might be very different from Disney, but you can take this total experience approach and apply it.
If you have an office, what are you doing beyond just providing the service that you set out to provide? Think about what your office looks like, how your employees dress and what the materials you send out to customers and potential clients look like. What is the message you send with all of these aspects of your business and how can you streamline them and everything else you do to provide a total and complete experience for your “guests”?
Or if your small business is a shop or service provider, you can apply the Disney principles as well. If customers come to your store to pick up products or items post-service, what is their experience inside the shop? Is it clean? It is inviting? Do you and your employees make customers feel safe and welcome?
Your business succeeds when clients and customers feel like you are looking out for their every need. Disney knows this better than anyone.
About The Author
David Nikolic is the owner of United Virtual Office, a leading provider of Virtual Offices for entrepreneurs and small businesses. A Virtual Office includes an address at a prestigious business location in the US, live virtual receptionists, courier services and more.