Going to work? Have you considered alternatives other than a physical office within a building? Ever considered the kind of flexibility a virtual office presents to mobile business owners?
Just as the world-wide-web and internet technology have changed the working order of the business world, the concept of a virtual office has in many ways also changed the working habits of many companies and business professionals.
A virtual office allows a business professional to work anywhere, maintain an office without heavy capital investment or the employment of his own staff. To him, the savings advantage is in monetary as well as administrative terms. Business transactions continue, with or without the actual physical office space.
The concept of a small office home office (SOHO) started a few years ago when busy professionals recognize the need to pack quality family time into an already hectic work-day. (See: SOHO: My home, my office)
The development of the Virtual Office (VO) concept (or the Intelligent Office (IO) as some use interchangeably) stems from the SOHO concept. While the SOHO lives with the imperfections of working from a home address, and/or a handphone contact, the VO caters for working from home with style and prestige matching that of the conventional workspace, at a fraction of the costs involved.
A subscription to a VO entitles other privileges in the business center from which it is subscribed, such as proper meeting room or boardroom facilities for meeting with colleagues or clients, proper (& prestigious) mailing address for receipt of mails and parcels, professional call answering services, secretarial staff support for ad-hoc administrative requirements.
The VO or IO concept very simply merges flexibility in a SOHO concept with the need for image, prestige and working facilities from the conventional concept. The VO or IO concept is service-oriented and comes with an office environment for when the requirement arises. On his name card, a subscriber to a VO or IO service may have a prestigious office address stated, although he does not possess a physical office there. All in all, he gets all the facilities needed to conduct his business without having to pay rent for a physical space.
Unlike in a SOHO concept, where mails and calls are received and taken only when someone is at home, all mails and calls in a VO concept are taken at his “office” although he may be working at home. And in accordance with his preference, the mails and calls received at the office may then be processed at his convenience.
Other secretarial arrangements such as tax, visa application, hotel and ticket reservations can all be arranged by the business center offering the Virtual Office service. The VO thus offers a one-stop center with home-based flexibility.
Right choice in a crisis
In Indonesia, the instant serviced office has been known for a long time, providing office space inclusive of all office facilities. But it was not till quite recently that these operators include value-added services such as the VO or IO services to their range of services. The conventional service was more of a traditional space, complete with furniture.
And it was as far back as in 1997 that Mee Kim started offering services such as VO services despite the start of the Asian financial crisis. Mee Kim, a Korean-born businesswoman opened CEO SUITE, an upmarket business center in the heart of Jakarta business district in the Jakarta Stock Exchange Building. Another branch was launched shortly after at Wisma GKBI. For businessmen who still require physical space to run their businesses, CEO SUITE leases out instant offices fully equipped with sophisticated facilities, such as LAN, ISDN, Unified Messaging System, high speed broadband internet, tele-conferencing and video-conferencing facilities. The lease terms offered vary from hourly, weekly, monthly and yearly bases. And for businessmen who do not need to be tied down to physical space, there presents the alternative of VO or IO services.
According to Nuke, the manager at CEO SUITE, the number of VO users at CEO SUITE Jakarta range at about 300 companies, while their occupancy level for the physical office suites is maintained at 90-95%%.
When asked about the rental rates, Nuke presents an extremely cost-effective solution. “Especially for virtual offices, the monthly fee begins from as low as USD60 for a subscription. This entitles for the use of a prestigious address, a dedicated telephone line and a shared secretary,” she says.
While it is not unusual for users of VO services to have a small staff count of 1 to 3 staff, an interesting fact, according to Nuke, is that quite a majority of their VO clients are already owners of their own physical office space.
“A client of ours with more than a headcount of 30 staff, as in the company of Mr. Rhenald Kasali is still a VO subscriber of ours,” Nuke revealed.
And despite crises the world over, CEO SUITE has managed an occupancy level at a consistent average of at least 90% and above. In only a few years, the company has even set their expansion plans to cover other international locations in Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, Shanghai, Beijing, and Korea. “We are targeting to open one center each year,” says Nuke.
Most of the clients at CEO SUITE rate their service level as high. John Brophy, Country Manager of Devere and Partners who has been their VO subscriber since January 2002, said he chose CEO SUITE because of their competitive level in terms of pricing, the strategic office location and most importantly, their service level to their clients. “I don’t feel there is any hindrance in the service offered,” he confessed to answer the question regarding the obstacles he has to face, without failing also to confess that VO services have proven to be helpful in increasing the productivity of his staff, and the reduction of his office costs.
It remains interesting to note that both instant and VO services are highly subscribed too by foreign companies in Indonesia. Several more well-known local names such as management expert, Rheinaldi Kasali, financial expert, Safir Senduk, and marketing expert Hermawan Kertajaya have been known to be subscribers for a long time. And according to Nuke, even Tracy Trinita, an actress and a famous model is also familiar with services at CEO SUITE for her daily operational management. To cope with disasters in Aceh, foreign NGOs have depended on CEO SUITE to send their aid.
The initial considerations for a VO may purely be monetary factors, but upon subscriptions, many have reaped other benefits such as improved quality of life. With unlimited flexibility, accessibility, and mobility, it has proven easier for work and life to be moving in increasing momentum.
FLEXIBLE IN MANY SITUATUIONS
You launched your business at the peak of the monetary crisis. Would you consider it timely?
It was timely as companies were frantically finding ways to cut costs, and down-size their operations. Some offices were forced to shut down. And under those circumstances, our cost-effective solutions have only come in as attractive alternatives. Contrary to popular beliefs, our products have actually catered to the requirements of these ailing businesses. And in the days of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, our business is thriving thanks to the confidence he has managed to rebuild in the economy. We are receiving increasing number of enquiries from foreigners looking for re-investment and office space in Indonesia.
What is the function of a remote secretary?
She is on stand-by mode for all sorts of secretarial requirements for all clients. Hotel / restaurant reservations, meeting room bookings, cars to be rented, documents to be translated, conversations to be interpreted, minutes to be taken, she does them all, and charges at reasonably-priced 10-minutes blocks.
Are there clients who choose a virtual office for traffic reasons?
There are clients who have considered such reasons. For one, they have a meeting place at a centrally located building. For those who are more domesticated or have a family to look after, working out of home, but with proper back-end office support can save hours of traveling time!
What are the main reasons behind VO subscriptions?
Affordable rental, prestigious office representation, professional staff support, and total flexibility. At the end of the day, work gets done in an efficient manner.
THIS IS THE BEST SOLUTION, by Benny Slamet, VO client of CEO SUITE
When did you start to use the virtual office services? Are you used to business activities via a virtual world?
We started using the virtual office service at CEO SUITE since July, 1999. It has catered to our business requirements in every way.
What kind of business are you involved in?
We are into marketing. We represent Cambridge University, International Examinations and we assist international schools, and a school known as School Plus. A School Plus offers national curriculum with additional international curriculum and exposure.
Why a VO service?
We choose VO support because we spend so much of our time outside the office. Back-end office and staff support is important in a marketing company such as ours.
What benefits do you get out of a VO?
We can be contacted by our clients at all times during office hours. If we are busy, CEO SUITE assists to take down messages for us to return the calls at our convenience. We rest in assurance that our clients are being attended to at any time during the working day.
Are you more efficient with the use of VO services?
Understandably, our productivity has increased because we don’t have to spend so much of our time to manage an office, and/or monitor our staff etc.
Have your costs been reduced since using this service?
Our costs have greatly been minimized as we save on costs such as human resources; and we do not need to invest in equipment such as the phone system, fax, copier machine, etc. Our opportunity costs are largely minimized too as we are able to invest a lot more time now into focusing on our core competencies – which is marketing.