There are many advantages to virtual office space, but finding a suitable provider can be a cumbersome and confusing process. The best starting point is to do determine what city or location makes sense for your business, then do an internet search; For example, “Virtual office in San Francisco, California, and make appointments to visit each facility. During your tour, take the opportunity to ask the sales manager specific questions that are critical to your decision-making process. As “the face” of your business, it’s important to ensure that the provider you choose has the essentials needed for you to run your business successfully. Here are some recommendations about the ‘must haves’ when determining a Virtual office provider.
- Technology, Technology, Technology! Ask each provider about their technology platform. Do they offer wireless internet, or do they expect you to run around with one of those blue cables that patch into the wall? What kind of internet speed do they offer? Are you able to network your laptop to their onsite printer, and does the printer/copier they offer allow scan to email, storage of copy documents and files, etc.? I can’t stress enough how important state-of-the-art technology is for your business.
- Communications Platform. What type of phone system is handling your important calls? Does the provider offer VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol), or are they using conventional phone lines? Does their communications package offer Unified Messaging? For those unfamiliar, Unified Messaging is where messages left in your voicemail box are sent to you via email as an audio file attachment allowing you to listen to your messages from your computer. How cool is that!
- Conference rooms. Are the meeting rooms fully-equipped with flat screen televisions, white boards, and speaker phones? Does your virtual plan include conference room usage, or are you limited to only reserving a guest office? Which brings us to another point: Ask each provider what the process is for reserving a conference room or day office. Do they have a web-based reservations system where you can book office time at your leisure, or do you need to make reservations via phone or email? Lastly, ask about hours of operation. Can you access the office during business hours only, or is 24/7 access an option?
- Mail Services. Will your business address contain a PO Box number? This is very important. Having a PO Box as your business address sends the wrong message — that your business doesn’t have a physical location. You definitely want to be clear about how your business address will read to the public. Also ask if you get a private mailbox and how much they charge for mail forwarding.
- Professional Services. Virtual providers are an extension of your business, so it’s important that you feel good about the staff and the service they provide. Ask questions about how phone calls are handled from a customer service perspective. Also inquire about how they would handle a situation where a customer or client of yours comes by when you are not in the office. What does the staff tell your customers?
- Terms. Lastly, ask about pricing, lease terms and the cost of set-up fees. Providers that offer low barriers to entry and flexibility are best. You may also want to see if they can customize a plan for you in case the packages they offer don’t quite match-up to what you’re looking for.
Asking the right questions when shopping for a Virtual office plan will ensure your chances of a good experience. The idea is to become educated on all the options available so that you can pursue something suitable for your personal style and your business.