Is Cyberspace Business for You?
Not long ago, the idea of running a small business with colleagues and clients dispersed around the country—indeed, around the world—seemed impossible. But thanks to the evolution of Internet-based “virtual businesses,” some of the nation’s fastest growing enterprises exist entirely in cyberspace. It’s ‘market space,’ not just ‘market place.’
With the virtual model, business owners outsource nearly everything—including people and partners who may be anywhere—to create their companies. The technologies and Web-based services to tie it all together are becoming more sophisticated and less expensive all the time, helping fuel the move to virtual existence.
While the absence of a traditional office might change how you manage your business and the people who work for you, it doesn’t eliminate the need for doing so effectively. Staying connected and working in unison is vital to virtual success. Cell phones, email, social media and shared workspaces on the Web can keep it all running smoothly.
With people interacting electronically from remote locations, and little if any face-to-face contact, you need extra effort to foster trust and bonding among individuals involved. Talk by phone, use Web conferencing/meetings, and meet in person on occasion.
Leverage the strengths that a virtual business affords, including flexibility, such as offer short turnaround, low overhead to keep costs lower than the competition; and competence by touting the credentials of your virtual partners.
The Microsoft Small Business Center at www.microsoft.com/smallbusiness is a portal site that offers nearly everything you’ll need to get up and running. This site, previously known as bCentral, has been reinvented as a suite of small business tools and services such as Web marketing, payment processing, online catalog creation, shopping cart, list building, banner ads and search engine submission.
Yahoo Small Business at http://smallbusiness-host.com/yahoo and Hostway at http://www.hostway.com/ can assist virtual small businesses with securing domain names, Web hosting, marketing and site design, and other needs. To keep your internal collaboration processes up to speed, WebOffice at http://www.weboffice.com/ and HotOffice.com both specialize in services for sharing calendars, document exchange and tracking, and multi-location online conferencing.
Whether you operate a conventional or virtual business, the small business experts at Lancaster SCORE, “Counselors to America’s Small Business” can help. SCORE is a nonprofit organization of more than 50 volunteer business mentors who provide free, confidential business counseling and training workshops to emerging and existing small businesses. Call us at 717-397-3092 or find us online at http://www.scorelancaster.org/.