Choosing the location for your corporate offices is a very big decision. Deciding where to locate can determine how much it will cost you to provide goods and services to your customers and dictate how competitive you will be in the market. Many companies end up spending a lot of money in order to have a beautiful office with a big logo on the building. What would you say if I told you that the best location for your corporate offices is no location at all? At integrateIT, we have been operating out of a virtual office now for 9 years and believe it is one of the keys to our company’s success.
What exactly is a virtual office? A virtual office is when a company operates on a day to day basis without a physical corporate location. Our employees work either remotely or on a client site. We have a business address that is used for receiving mail and as our official place of business and we believe that we save countless dollars annually by operating in this fashion.
Here are some of the practices we follow that allow us to operate our company virtually.
Owners on Overhead – We have one Overhead employee (recruiter) and this includes our owners. Our owners have scaled back billable hour targets to allow us to perform some tasks required of an owner but most of our work is done in off hours (nights and weekends). A common practice of many small companies is that their owners immediately stop working on billable projects. The thought they have is the only way to grow the business is to have them focused on growing the business. We have found this to not be true. In fact, we have found that having owners on client site has actually helped us grow our business.
Staff Meetings – When operating with a virtual office, it is important to get your staff together periodically so they can hear what’s going on within the company. It also serves as opportunity for them to share information with the other staff and also allows for the social aspect a company can offer. This is why we hold quarterly staff meetings and follow it up with a company sponsored happy hour. We pay about $150 to rent a conference room for an hour and it is all set up for us so we only have to show up. The cost of office space is thousands of dollars a month.
HR, Accounting, Security – We outsource these on an as needed basis. For HR we use my wife who at the time we had a need was on Maternity leave from her job. This gave her opportunity to work some hours (and have grown up time) and also gave us opportunity to keep our HR in house with someone we trusted. She has since returned to work but continues to serve in our HR role and we have found no issues with the level of support we are able to provide our staff due largely to her ability to streamline our HR processes. As far as Accounting and Security goes, we use them on an hourly basis when the need arises. Our security person is actually located in Alabama and provides our staff with a tremendous level of support.
Pay employees to perform OH tasks……At integrateIT, wee encourage staff to get involved wherever they would like to and we compensate them for their time. Our staff serves as our web developer/content manager, they help on proposals, work on business development efforts among other things. All of their extra time they spend is compensated at their regular hourly rate. Doing this eliminates the need to hire full time individuals to perform these tasks or hourly resources that are not familiar with our business. It also allows our staff to get involved with the company and help it to grow.
Business Development – Our owners perform the Business Development tasks for our company. We have been extremely successful with our approach. We now have 9 contracts including 2 prime contracts. We also have GSA approved rates. We have teamed with most of the big companies in the metro DC area and many of them have ongoing relationships with us. We also now sit on the Advisory Board for the Applied Information Technology program at George Mason University. All of these tasks have been accomplished while both of our owners are working on client site and have been done above and beyond these regular billable jobs. This allows us to maintain a revenue stream for positions that are typically huge costs to small companies.
Recruiting – we have recently hired a recruiter based out of Florida who became our first overhead employee in our 9 year history. He works out of his home and uses several means to identify candidates and then pre screens them via a skype web interview. If the candidate passes his initial screening then he schedules an in person interview with one of the owners who makes the ultimate hiring decision. The in person interviews take place usually over coffee or lunch. We find this alleviates one of our major needs for having a physical office and also provides a more casual laid back interview for the candidate.
Director of Talent Management – This is the resource that manages our personnel. He does performance reviews, manages employee issues as they arise and works with employees to plan their careers. This role is also done above and beyond the persons billable job. He is paid hourly for all work performed in this role and also has an incentive plan set up that revolves around the retention of the company resources.
Benefits Consulting – We use a benefits broker to assist us with our benefits as well as with consulting on HR issues as they arise. The broker prices out coverages for us annually and then works with us to enroll or renew coverage. They also are available to meet with us to discuss HR issues that we may be dealing with for the first time as a small company.
Setting up and running a virtual office is not easy and has many challenges associated with it. However, we believe that we have gotten extremely good at it and truly look to this as one of the reasons we have been so successful over the past 9 years.
Geoff is the CEO of integrateIT (http://www.integrateit.net). integrateIT strives to provide innovative solutions to organizations within the public and private sectors in the Washington, DC metro area and beyond. We aim to supply clients with qualified, energetic resources that foster both a winning team attitude and a wealth of technical and management expertise. integrateIT strives to add value to clients by successfully completing projects within budget, scope, and schedule requirements