Every business owner or sole trader will know only too well how difficult it is to keep your head above water. Each new day brings a new cost or task, and it’s the toughest decision in the world, choosing where to spend your ever-depleting time. It is for that reason that Yes it was quite tough at the beginning, I was very lucky though in that I got involved in a good network and I had some amazing support to begin with. It was also difficult from the point of view that we had not found our Niche to begin with and as a result we were trying to be everything to everybody, which was quite difficult at times. However, we learned quite quickly that our Niche Market was small micro businesses, the one man shows, and small to medium family run businesses. Because of this, we really get to know our clients customers and they get to know us, it allows for a more personal service to our clients. The concept of virtual is taking hold, but have you discovered any issues in regards perception? Do companies like to ‘see’ an office? Yes, the perception of a virtual office was very hard to get across to Irish people; it still is to a point. Some people get it immediately and think ‘wow’ that’s a great idea and others need a bit more in-depth explanation. The other difficult aspect for people to get past is the trust element which is completely understandable. It’s hard for a business owner to relinquish trust to someone they don’t know. At the end of the day as a virtual office you are the first point of contact for the company. It’s important for our clients to know that their business is in the right hands, we take a ‘plug in’ approach where we work side by side with the business, we do what they need us to do and when. The motto we live by is that we treat your business as if it were our own. Thankfully I’m proud to say that all our clients stay with us for years as a result, and, they will readily refer others onto us. You are making a nice name for yourself in the global marketplace (wonderful to see), but was it difficult gaining those clients and are their expectations different to your ‘local’ clients? Most of our international clients are with us through word of mouth referrals I think because there is a certain trust already there. However, we don’t usually deal with them any differently than our Irish customers because at the end of the day our service levels are quite high and that’s the most important aspect to all our customers – everyone gets the same high level of standard. I love your business start-up package, would you see a high volume of start-ups? Our start-up package is a wonderful way for a new business to portray a very professional image which will always lead to good credibility in their particular industry, plus in addition to the service they always get some additional mentoring and support from me along the way. We do see a lot of start-ups in our business (which is lovely to see) but in some cases people start a business without realising the amount of work involved. Some decide to persevere and are successful businesses today. Others decide the amount of work involved isn’t what they expected and decide to wind up their business. I think this is the nature of start-ups, people don’t realise the amount of work that’s involved or indeed the fact that on certain months there might not be a pay packet there for them by the time the bills and staff are paid. In terms of expansion, how do you cope with a burgeoning workload? With regards to our expanding workload, there are three of us who deal with the workload, together. Each one of us is trained to the same standards. We work well as a team to get through what has to be done on a daily basis and at peak times we prioritise jobs and divide and conquer so to speak. However, one of the most important aspects of business that I have learned, which I’m sure many business owners out there will agree with me, is the ability to say No. If I find that we have a large work load at a given time I won’t take on extra work as it means that our service levels could drop and we can’t guarantee the same care to our customers. We will always endeavour to get the work done, but, if we are exceptionally busy then we have to say no. However, in that case we always try to refer them on to another business that may be able to help them out, but only ones that we would work with ourselves. We are increasingly moving away from a physically-connected work environment in favour of a more flexible virtual work situation. Even socially, we are more comfortable online. Any thoughts on where this will lead? Since as far back as we can remember, social gatherings have been the core of our existence. What I have seen over the last few years has been a significant transfer of traditional social and business gatherings online. Social will continue to expand and grow. I think it has become an accepted, even an expected functionality on the web. But, I still think we’re in the infancy of social media. What’s hit a saturation point however is talking about it. It’s just media now, and all media is social. No company can afford to ignore social media if it wants customers. Thanks to Samantha for giving us an insight into virtual office solutions, and being such an inspiring interviewee! And so to the future – what’s the next step for the Virtual Office? ______________________________________________________________________________ Connect with Tweak Your Biz: Would you like to write for Tweak Your Biz? Tweak Your Biz is an international, business advice community and online publication. 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