The "virtual business" phenomenon is transforming how millions of small, successful firms operate in America. Under the virtual model, business owners outsource nearly everything — including people and partners who may be anywhere — to create their company. The technologies and services to tie it all together are becoming more sophisticated, but less expensive all the time, helping fuel the move to virtual existence. Staying connected and working in unison are vital to virtual success. Try this:
- Tap the latest technology to keep everyone in touch. Cell phones, e-mail, follow-me-anywhere messaging and intranets or shared workspaces on the Web can work wonders.
- Look for ways to foster trust and bonding between individuals involved. When people interact only electronically from remote locations, this becomes even more important. Talk by phone, use Web conferencing and try to meet face to face on occasion.
- Leverage the strengths that a virtual business affords, including flexibility (offer short turnaround); low overhead (keep costs lower than the competition) and competence (tout the credentials of your virtual partners).
Discover everything you need to operate a complete business onlineShare documents, calendars and databases. Have Web meetings, and more.
Establish a total e-commerce business virtually on the WebBuild a site, create an online store, get a domain name and market your business online - all in one place.
Pick and choose your virtual office solutionsWhether you just need a virtual receptionist, a temporary virtual office or a complete virtual business solutions, help is a few clicks away.
Hire a virtual assistant for your virtual ventureVirtual are an ideal solution to finding additional, part-time help for a virtual venture.
- Andy Bourland and Ann Handley founded the Internet publishing firm ClickZ in 1997 as a virtual business operating from two spare bedrooms. The firm was started with a few barter deals and a low-balance credit card but reached $3 million in revenues. Bourland says the real challenge was not turning a profit, but rather staying in touch, and the partners found the virtual model inefficient.
- Eventually, the distractions of working from home and the increasing difficulties in linking virtual components became too much and they rented office space. Within 18 months the business grew from five to 25 people and was acquired by Internet.com.