Is your business or company paying for an unnecessary brick-and-mortar office, spending hundreds in commuting and traveling costs and wasting time in between meetings? Sure, you may answer no, but chances are you’re lying to yourself.
Lets be clear, just because some companies are finding tremendous success in the virtual sphere doesn’t necessarily mean you should throw your hands up, ditch your office space and convert to an entirely virtual business model. There is a hypothetical middle ground somewhere between internet land and your office space that will save your business real dollars.
Does a virtual business model equate to instant success?
The simple answer: no. A staggering 90 percent of virtual businesses fail in their first 18 months of business.
Although there is a whole slew of causes, many have a similar story. Technology has a way of enchanting buyers into thinking it can transform their lives and businesses–think smartphones–but without learning to use the incredible features on your new gadget, really its still just a phone. The same is true for technology when it’s used by employees that haven’t been properly trained with it and no longer have the security of a physical office to coach them along.
So how can you utilize virtual technology?
If you’re more interested in gradually moving towards a virtual future technology can be used to save costs on meetings, conferences, events, staff and communication.
Free conference calling services can cut costs and still allow for an easy exchange of information, and virtual meetings–especially with clients located around the nation or internationally–cut down on travel expenses (not to mention the additional bonus of cutting down on carbon emissions).
Programs like Google Docs. make collaboration, sharing and accountability easy to track and keeps documents secure and accessible virtually to anyone who needs to view them–including clients and multiple employees can work on projects remotely from a variety of locations.
But if the technology for virtual business is so great, why do so many companies fail?
Whether you own a small jewelry business run out of your house or a large national corporation, communication with employees and clients can make or break you. The technology is alluring, but people are still the foundation to success.
Project objectives, expectations and the means of accountability have to be absolutely clear to employees. Management has to be accessible to answer questions.
Tools like email and IM can be used to answer questions and pass on information, but regular meetings and conference calls should be scheduled. Although employees don’t work together in a physical setting, it’s important to maintain a sense of pride and camaraderie. Many successful virtual businesses use a chat service throughout the day to swap quick information, discuss vacations plans–it’s essentially a virtual water cooler.
Don’t forget about the client
Just because you’re gung-ho about a virtual future doesn’t mean your clients will share your enthusiasm and if you aren’t able to get them on board, you’ve already failed.
Be completely transparent about your transition and demonstrate to the client they are still your priority and will still have full access to important information and staff.
Especially for international clients who need to be in contact with your business, companies have found a lot of success with virtual call forwarding.
Virtual call forwarding allows you to purchase a number which you then provide to the client and when they call it the phone or phones of your choice ring. The real reason this service has been so beneficial is the number provided to the client is local, meaning if the client lives in Brazil the number is a local Brazil number. This eliminates international codes, hassle and frustration–not to mention international calling costs from other phone service providers.
It’s still important to provide clients with face time depending on your industry and scheduling regular meetings can instill confidence in your company that infrequent face-to-face meetings couldn’t.
So where does this leave you?
Sure there’s a lot of good information here, but lets get down to the nitty-gritty. Crunch some numbers for your company and see how many actual benjamins you’ll be saving in commuting costs alone.
Factor in travel expenses and building maintenance costs if you’re ready to be convinced, but before committing to a full on virtual transition talk to other companies, listen to their success stories (and failures) and find a plan that works best for you and your clients.
Author’s bio: Ricky Damron works in business development and has become enamored with emerging virtual technologies including communication technology and virtual business. Follow Ricky on Google+ or Twitter @RickyDamron