Throughout this entire challenge I’ve been touting the benefits of the Virtual Office – but what exactly is a ‘virtual office’? And why would you need one? To put it simply, a Virtual Office is the staff, fixed address, phone numbers, desk space, meeting and boardrooms only when you need them. It is a way for start-ups to be big before they’re big, to have an impressive address without the expense (and risk!) of a long term lease, to be able to have staff on demand without needing to do any hiring.
When I set myself the challenge to become the Smallest Multinational in the world… I only had 10 days before my world tour kicked off. I had to set up offices and schedule meetings around the world, and I was just a one-man band. Enter the virtual office.
Step 1 – So why do you need a virtual office?
A virtual office is most valuable when you want to be flexible to work from any location, including from home, but still have a fixed address and business meeting and boardrooms when you need them – which is exactly what I needed. I was going to be meeting high profile people in different cities and needed to make sure that the first impression counted. Further, as a one man band, my time was limited – so the extra staffing, from marketing to secretarial to PA support would be invaluable as I needed to research each market, prepare documents and in some cases translate and interpret. And as this was a startup, it needed to be done on a shoe-string budget – something that a virtual office could afford me as I was only paying for resources when I needed them.
Step 2 – Virtual office can be anywhere in the world, so now to choose ‘where’.
Logging into the Servcorp website I could choose physical locations from more than 120 addresses worldwide. The target market places were in Tokyo, London, Paris, New York and San Francisco and with relative ease I was able to select a suitable office location in each of these cities. Next, I needed to choose the right package.
Step 3- There is more than one type of virtual office, so which package?
I had little more than a day in each city, which left me with next to no time for the finer details that make a presentation successful – like background research, printing and putting together bound documents etc. I decided on the Platinum Plus package, which gave me the best combination of locations, communications and business services with access to several on ground virtual office staff in each location. This proved invaluable as I ended up relying heavily on their services!
Step 4 – A virtual office can be bought online.
This bit is the easiest. Once I had decided I needed a virtual office, selected the location and package, all I needed to do was enter in my credit card and volia. Research time aside, the entire sign up process took less than 5 minutes. In around an hour I had virtual offices worldwide with local telephone number, fax, business address, voicemail, secretaries, meeting rooms and IT support. A nice personal touch was that the setup included a speed dial to my partner and parents from each city at the cost of a local call.
Step 5 – Use your virtual office to your full potential.
Next step was not as simple as signing up. It was time to start working. Fortunately, business addresses at 1330 Avenue of the Americas in New York City, the Louis Vuitton Building on the Champs Elysees and Marunouchi Trust Tower in Japan were the door openers I needed to secure meetings from cold calls.
Utilising the professional skills in marketing, translation and document preparation of my support team to their fullest potential was the next learning curve. As a one-man-band, I have become accustomed to doing everything by myself. But a secretary with a marketing degree? A receptionist who is fluent in four languages and currently honing her skills in a fifth? This was the kind of support I could really get used to! At first it seemed to be a challenge just to delegate work to my staff but that wasn’t a challenge that took too long to get over!
By Sebastien Eckersley- Maslin