No More Meetings at Starbucks!
By Jeff Landers

Barbara Young owns a small consulting
business in Atlanta, Georgia.
The keyword here is “small” because
Barbara knows that her competition
has more money, a bigger reputation and more marketing resources. “What I had
going for me was personal service and attention to the client, but I was working out
of our spare bedroom and calling it an office,” said Barbara.  “I needed to keep my
overhead low, so I had no intention of running away from home, but I also needed to
pull off a polished, professional appearance when I met with potential clients. In a
nutshell, I needed to make my business look bigger than it really was.”

Sometimes staying in your home office is the right solution for your business, but
that doesn’t mean your clients have to visualize you trudging to the computer in
your bathrobe. A polished professional appearance is much more important for
home-based entrepreneurs than for other businesses because you are always battling
the unspoken – the perception that you might not be a “real” business.

Clients, particularly great paying clients, want to give their business to companies
that inspire trust. They avoid the fly-by-night operators in favor of companies that
look like they will be around for years to come. They are looking for companies who
deliver stellar work on deadline and until they get to know you and the quality of
your work, potential clients can only judge you by “what they see”.

So, they are noticing your office, how you dress, how confident you look, how tight
your presentation is, how organized you seem. And no matter how you stack it,
meeting in your living room or in Starbucks, does not exactly scream out that your
company is best-of-breed.”

So, what alternatives do you have? Well, the point is - you do have alternatives. I
often tell my home-based clients that having a virtual office is absolutely essential if
you want to attract and catch the bigger fish. A virtual office space gives you the
option to work at home, while giving the appearance that your operation is much
larger and more impressive.

Here’s how it works: For a reasonable monthly fee, you can rent the services of an
office suite without actually renting the office itself. Sounds crazy, right? Well,
imagine working from your suburban house outside New York City, but having a
prestigious Manhattan address and phone number. When they call you at your
Manhattan phone number (the call is automatically forwarded to your home office
phone) or when your clients messenger a package over, they’ll have no idea you are
not really in a big office building in midtown.

You can rent a prestigious Fifth Avenue address for your business and never leave
your bedroom or get out of your pajamas. The office suite, also known as an
Executive Suite, can collect your mail, forward it to your home and if you choose, a
very professional receptionist can answer your calls and take your messages.

The point is – you choose which services are best for your business and you only
pay for what you need. In Barbara’s case, she didn’t need a receptionist to answer the
phone since part of her business’ strength was that her clients could always reach her
directly. She didn’t want to compromise a core value, but she did need to have an
office space or conference room where she could do her presentations using state-of-
the-art technology, where her clients could work at a spacious conference table and
where she could wow them with her creativity.

At my suggestion, Barbara rented a conference room in a nearby Executive Suite for
ten hours each month. “Most of my clients just assume the suite is my full-time
office, other long -time clients know that I work from home,” said Barbara, “but they
respect how I have crafted a professional, flexible environment that allows us to get
the best work done.”

Barbara chose ten hours but you can choose as much or as little as you need. That
means you can finish up the big client presentation at home and go to your very own
conference room in a high-end luxury office suite. Your clients can sip a cup of
freshly brewed coffee in your modern, fully-furnished conference room and watch
you blow them away with your polished, professional style.

The virtual office gives home-based entrepreneurs four big things – 1) the
opportunity to create a polished, professional and a bigger-than-you-really-are
appearance 2) an a la carte menu of affordable services to choose from 3) lots of
flexibility for a growing business and 4) more control over cash flow. As Barbara told
me in a recent phone call, “My clients love that I am savvy enough to care about the
details. That already tells them something important about me and my work.”

About the author: Jeff Landers is a serial entrepreneur who has worked in commercial real estate
and has advised small businesses for more than three decades. His company, Home Office
Success, Inc., has helped thousands of home-based businesses become more professional, more
productive and more profitable. Find out more about Virtual Office Space by going to
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