How To Run a Virtual Business

I hate to call our business a virtual one, but that really is what it is. We don’t have a bricks-and-mortar office location (unless the post office counts) besides our home offices. Some clients might consider it unprofessional but by running our business remotely, we are able to operate more efficiently and at a lower cost. We have created systems to allow us to operate our virtual business with the same effectiveness if we had an office full of people.
The Advantages of Operating in a Virtual Business

  • The biggest advantage of running a business is the significant cost savings. Without having to pay tens of thousands per month in rent, we have more flexibility in our cash flow and a much lower overhead costs.
  • We can run the business remotely. We are not tied to a particular location. We can quite literally work from anywhere in the world.
  • No one has to be in the same location. For instance, I study in the US and only come home occasionally but the business still runs smooth! We talk often and e-mail several times a day, but we aren’t forced to be in the same location. We can also hire employees and sub-contractors from different locations.
  • You can live wherever you want. This is similar to the last one but it’s a bit different. When I come back home I do not want to live in Nairobi. If our office was based there, this would not even be an option.

Running our Virtual Business
Creating a virtual business was a necessity based on how we started – part time. If we weren’t working on the business full-time, there was no way that we could have justified creating a bricks-and-mortar office for a business in which we almost never meet our clients. Once we went full-time, there was no need to change what worked. Here are some of the simple steps we took by necessity and now, by choice, to run our “virtual busines”.

  1. Don’t Look like a Virtual Business – A business without an office, doesn’t always inspire the most confidence in potential clients, so make sure that you have all the outward appearance of a professional business. This is pretty easy and usually just means having office phone lines, publicly displayed physical offices (which my actually be your dad’s), normal office hours, etc.
  2. Always Choose Online Software – By necessity, we have always gone with online applications as opposed to desktop applications so that we could access the same information from multiple locations. For example, we are a huge fan of Google Apps over any of the other applications. We are also thinking of going with the online version of Quickbooks over their standard desktop applications. One of the other advantages is that it provides more dependability. Even if a computer crashes, we have nothing to worry about since it’s just a web site away.
  3. Make Sure Your Tools Work Remotely – Similar to the last point but one of the first things that we did when setting up our business was to get a VoIP business line. It’s not that big of a deal now but it was pretty new then. We wanted something that we could operate from anywhere and that was configurable and accessible from the web. We also use tools like eFax so that we can both receive faxes and we have an online version, which is much easier for us to operate with. We also have e-mail accessilbe phones so that we aren’t tied to our computers (which need to be laptops, of course!)
  4. Keep Soft Copies of Everything – Again, by necessity, we have been forced to keep things online instead of printing them out and dealing with them by hand. Instead of filing cabinets, we try to keep everything on an online back-up site.

The Future of Our Remote Business
Someday, we may get a formal office location, and that’s only because it will be more cost advantageous when we bring some of our outsourced work in house. However, that doesn’t mean that we won’t still run a virtual business. Since I’m so lazy, there is no way I will be able to make it into an office everyday or have less than 2 vacations a month. Therefore, we will still need to run everything remotely.

Additional Resources

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