At one time, it was easy to differentiate between small businesses and large corporations. Customers and clients could look at a business’s address, business cards and, in later years, website and determine a company’s size and success level.
But technology has leveled the playing field for businesses. Using cloud technology, a small business can set up operations to give the appearance of being a much larger corporation. Unless a client gets to know your day-to-day operations personally, no one will ever know that you don’t have a staff of dozens of people. Here are some tips to help your business compete on a much wider scale.
How much of your day do you devote to mundane tasks? If you stop and take inventory of those tasks, how many other things could you get done. You could put more time toward nurturing your client base and landing new business. Instead, you’re spending 12 hours each day handling bookkeeping, clearing out your inbox, and manually entering the addresses of people you met at your most recent networking event.
There are many tools now available that can handle day-to-day tasks for you for a small monthly fee. The right cloud-based software can be accessed through a web portal, with no installation required. You’ll not only free yourself up from having to take care of the task, but you’ll avoid the expense of having to hire someone to do it, as well.
Set Up a Street Address
If you’re working from a home office, you’ll have the issue of a street address. If your home is in an apartment, you’ll immediately give away the fact that you don’t have office space by virtue of the fact that you have an apartment number associated with your street address. Even if your home is on a street that has a business-friendly name, keep in mind that your customers can look up your address on Google Street View and see that it’s in a home.
One great alternative is to rent a mailbox through a service that issues a street address rather than a box number. Some post offices now participate in this program, called Street Addressing. This, too, can be undone through a simple Google search, though. Businesses can only hope that clients won’t look up their street addresses and if they do, they will acknowledge that some businesses choose a mailing address that is separate from their regular business address.
Share a Suite
There are options in between working out of your home and paying for dedicated office space. Look into alternatives like shared suites and co-working spaces that will give you a conference room where you can hold meetings. A shared suite can be particularly advantageous, since you can also get your mail there and offer an inviting space for greeting guests. You don’t even have to leave home to work in your space each day. Merely having access to it is enough to give the appearance of being a dedicated business.
With a shared suite, you’ll also show up as being in an office building when someone searches on Google, giving you the professional appearance you’re seeking. Some shared suites provide a reception desk and phone service, as well, which will help if you have regular office visitors. Just be aware that you’ll pay for those additional services, but it still will likely be less than renting an office with a conference room and paying a full-time receptionist to handle visitors.
Hire a Virtual Assistant
For those items you can’t automate, consider hiring a virtual assistant to take them over. This could be anything from sourcing content for your business blog to clearing out your email inbox. A virtual assistant could even respond to emails and set appointments for you. The best part of a virtual assistant is that you’ll only pay for the services provided, so you won’t have to worry about paying a salary and benefits to someone you only need part of the time.
In addition to a virtual assistant, there are also virtual receptionist options. Off-site workers handle your incoming calls, seamlessly transferring them to your cell phone or providing basic information like hours of operation and directions. These services can serve as a gatekeeper, while also providing a more professional experience than if incoming callers were greeted by an automated system and your voicemail.
Use Cloud-Based Legal
Every business needs legal advice from time to time. You may need an item patented or trademarked or you may just need someone to look over some forms and make suggestions. Virtual legal services allow you to pay professional legal counsel for those services at a much lower price than you’d pay locally.
In addition to counseling services, these legal sites often provide the documents you’ll need at no cost or a very low cost. Paperwork like non-disclosure agreements, statements of work, and employee agreements can be downloaded directly from the site and customized to meet your own needs. You can complete those documents and use them as they are, or have them reviewed by an attorney before using them for extra protection.
Outsource Everything Else
There are likely many things you need done as a business owner but you simply don’t have the time to do it. Through outsourcing, you can accomplish specialized tasks at a fraction of what you’d pay local professionals. If you need an app designed for your business, you can pay someone to handle it for you. You can also outsource the design of logos and social media marketing, among many other tasks.
By building a team of outsource workers, you’ll be able to accomplish much more than you could alone. You’ll also be paying by the task rather than managing yearly salaries, giving you the flexibility to sever business relationships if they aren’t working out.
Whether your business is brand new or you’ve been growing it for a while, there are things you can do to make it appear larger than it is. With the right tools in place, you’ll be able to offer top-quality customer service on a budget, helping you add more customers and gain great word of mouth.