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FROM CORNER OFFICE TO HOME OFFICE: Shifting Your Business from Downtown to Down the Hall

The cool morning breeze swirls through the half-rolled windows. The over sweetened mug of coffee steams in the cup holder. The hum of talk radio ambiently perks up your senses preparing you for bustle and buzz of working in the city office.

… Until you turn off of the side street, and onto the beltway, onto the sea of gleaming commuter machines interweaving the ribbon of highway between the comforts of home, and the perils of the office. The vast open sea of vehicles inching down seemingly endless miles of highway. Across this sea, you recognize a storm brewing on the horizon – but it's not in the sky. The storm is a swirl of red and blue lights, of flashing orange signals, and glaring red brake lights coming into view.

A procession of moving vans sail by in the opposite direction, down the Southbound lane like an industrious blur of hope and renewal. The moving vans find us beleaguered and noncommittal in our dedication to the physical office space of the downtown high rise. We begin to wonder what it would take to move the business from the city, to the undecorated guest room at home. Is it possible? Could it really happen?! We'd need a moving company, and all kinds of boxes. We'd need them to pack everything up, and then unpack it for us at the home office. We've got to keep the business moving – we don't have time to pack and move, right?

You snap back to reality, as the morning breeze has shifted. Your tailwind has become a stale, auto-circulated fan pumping hints of exhaust, and wafts of the Italian restaurant off exit eight ubiquitously through the vents. Years pass, and you've finally made it to the fifth floor of the parking deck, where you've gathered your coat and briefcase and insulated lunch bag. During the bustle, you unknowingly let slip your glasses from the side pocket. They slide between the passenger seat and center console, as you lock your door from ten paces toward the elevator bank.

Settled into your corner office, you boot your computer on to the droll and drivel of colleagues and coworkers squawking about the fumble from last night's game, and their machismo puffing and threats to quit if this or if that. As your computer processes the start-up sequence, you cram your lunchbox into a tiny gap in the stay-fresh drawer of the office refrigerator. You notice something of yours from last week rolling around in the back. You inspect it for the sell-by date, but it's blurry. You reach for your glasses, but can't find them anywhere, until you conclude they must be in the car... down the elevator; outside down the block and around the corner; up the garage elevator; down the fifth floor; searching somewhere, everywhere in the car.

This is just another Tuesday for the commuter! While the traditional drive in to the office downtown may have been the norm, adjusting to a home-office work style has advantages that may outweigh all the aforementioned upside of commuting into work. But where do we begin, you're wondering? We begin with the move. 

There are a multitude of components to moving an office: furniture, sensitive information, fragile technical equipment. Moving an office from a major city like Chicago, can offer especially demanding logistical challenges. Researching and hiring a qualified commercial moving company takes the stress out of the office move, and frees us up to focus on what really matters: our business.

In today's omni-present linkage of information and interpersonal accessibility, fully operational and thriving businesses can be successfully run from just about anywhere. The home office provides a perfect platform for the following reasons:

Personalize a perfect work space. We function at a stronger clip when we're comfortable. The freedom to personalize the home office in any imaginable way that pleases us will make our work stronger. Stepping into a space we've designed for ourselves every morning is a healthy and productive way to begin each day.

Flexibility. The home office, virtual office, remote work space – whatever you title it, provides invaluable flexibility. Make your own hours. Work in your Nike's. Get some bacon frying while your computer boots up. Productivity is rarely stifled when we're happy at work.

More time. When we have more time for ourselves, we engage in a better work-life balance. We'll save time once spent preparing in the morning and commuting to and from the office. We can direct this new gift toward building our business, or use it constructively outside of work, in other enriching ways.

Money saver. We're not commuting, so we're not filling the gas tank up every week, so we're saving a boat load of money. Our wardrobes may suffer, as we're not staying up on the high fashion of the city office. Working from home keeps money in our pockets.

The home office will save you money and time, but to keep your business looking professional you will need a Virtual Office Address.  Keep that downtown address without the high price of the downtown office space.

Shifting your business from downtown, to down the hall has invaluable upside that benefits us mentally, emotionally, and financially. 

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Show Some Gratitude Towards Your Customers

Gratitude can be expressed in different ways in a business relationship. How small businesses demonstrate their gratitude to customers through support processes and systems are directly tied business issues such as account growth, customer retention, subscription renewals- among others. Businesses wanting to show true gratitude towards their customers allow them to engage anytime, anywhere, on any device. Businesses that fail to deliver what is known as an omnichannel service experience put themselves at a competitive disadvantage.

Customers expect their service interactions to be easy, personalized, in-context, and across all channels. Businesses that seek to push digital-only channels or focus on traditional contact center interactions struggle to deliver the experiences their customers want—or, to put it a different way, to show appropriate gratitude toward their customers. A recent study shows that the majority of customers—both B2B and B2C—remain dissatisfied with the engagement options offered by businesses:

·       50% feel frustrated that they must repeat information as they move across engagement channels

·       48% indicate responses by customer service agents are too slow

·       43% note they cannot use their preferred channels of communication

·       41% say engagement responses are not consistent across touch points

Enterprise and mid-size businesses must evolve to meet these new business realities. Those running their own contact centers must reassess their technologies, people, information, and processes. In some cases, the ensuring projects to address related deficiencies are quite daunting. Top obstacles they cite include:

·       Lack of system functionality (73%)

·       Engagement channels that are not integrated (68%)

·       Inconsistent responses across touch points (44%)

·       Inability to share data across business systems due to the lack of integration (39%)

What small businesses often fail to recognize is that the incline they must scale to tackle these challenges are often less severe than the incline facing their larger counterparts. Services like Davinci Live Receptionists, Auto Receptionists, and Live Web Chat enable them to outsource customer service engagement. They can look and act like much larger competitors.

So, for small businesses looking to engage an external third-party provider for customer service, what are some of the things to consider?

1. Multiple engagement channels. Finding a provider that offers engagement across multiple channels is critical. Forcing customers to use one or two engagement options of your choice will aggravate many—and not just Millennials—and result in them taking their business elsewhere (upwards of 60% saying they will do so). This means that you need to provide engagement through phone, email, social, text, and live web chat. And with growing numbers of customers preferring to start with do-it-yourself (DIY) channels such as forums, knowledgebases, etc. before engaging directly with businesses, this is an area that requires exploration and thought (viz., what they want, what their typical journeys look like, etc.).

2. Integrated systems and processes. Customers don’t want to repeat themselves as they move across engagement channels. For example, if they start with live web chat but need to move to phone, they do not want to spend the first five minutes of conversation updating the customer service agent on the interaction that took place via live web chat. And for any who think customers only use one or two channels, you need to think again. Millennials use an average of five channels when engaging with a brand for customer service, and while that number drops for other demographics, it remains in the multiples—even for those age 65+.

3. Cost-effective solution. Most small businesses don’t have the resources to pay for dedicated customer service agents. Instead, they need to find third-party providers with teams of customer service specialists who concurrently serve multiple clients and are experts on multiple engagement models. This is where solutions like Davinci Live Receptionists, Auto Receptionists, and Live Web Chat services enable organizations to achieve scale.

4. Extension of your team. Outsourced customer service engagement doesn’t mean there should be any sacrifice of quality or expertise. Customers should never get a sense that your customer service agent is anything but a full-time paid employee. As a result, small businesses need to look for providers with systems and processes in place that provide checks and balances and customer service agents who are at the top of their profession.

5. Escalation channels. Sometimes your first tier of customer service cannot answer a customer’s question or resolve their issue. Small businesses need to ensure that there are clear escalation paths and processes when those instances occur.

The holiday season is a time when individuals and businesses take a moment to show their gratitude. If you’re a small business that is falling short on giving your customers the right engagement experience, now may be the time to show some gratitude towards them. 

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3 Reasons to Embrace Gratitude in Business

"If you count all your assets, you always show a profit."

-Robert Quillen

With Thanksgiving around the corner, there’s no better time to tackle the topic of gratitude in business. It’s not a topic that gets a whole of attention, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t important. Here are three reasons you should embrace gratitude at the workplace:

Perspective

When we have an attitude of gratitude we look for the good in things. We don’t become so easily discouraged by downtrends, and instead we focus on what we have. 

That’s not to say that we as entrepreneurs shouldn’t take an honest look at our weaknesses so that we can improve them and remain competitive—but if we forget to look to the positive, we will lose pride and confidence in our entrepreneurial endeavors.

Culture 

In previous decades, no matter the conditions—one felt “lucky” to be hired. But ever since pioneers like Google came on to the scene in the 90’s, it seems like there’s been a cataclysmic shift in workplace culture. Nowadays its common and almost expected that management show touches of appreciation to their employees. 

Is this directional change motivated purely by good will towards mankind? It’s possible. But what’s more likely is that business owners are realizing the marketing potential of being a “fun” and “good” company to its people. These types of investments can help attract top talent, and reduce turnover.

Furthermore, gratitude turns employees and the public into fanboys and brand ambassadors. This gives employees pride and makes them want to work harder and spread the word about their company. When people have a positive impression and good feelings towards a company, that converts to dollars. 

Personal Health

Forbes quotes a study by Dr. Robert A. Emmons that purports that being grateful can increase your happiness:

"Gratitude reduces a multitude of toxic emotions, ranging from envy and resentment to frustration and regret. Robert A. Emmons, Ph.D., a leading gratitude researcher, has conducted multiple studies on the link between gratitude and well-being. His research confirms that gratitude effectively increases happiness and reduces depression."

This is one of several studies that have been conducted on the topic, others which have shown gratitude to improve sleep, increase mental strength, deal with adversity and improve relationships.

The fact is that gratitude is good not only for our spirits and health, but for business too. At Bookly, we make sure to send client anniversary cards to all of our stellar bookkeeping clients. Yes, it’s a small gesture. But it lets our fellow entrepreneurs that they are appreciated. 

This November as Thanksgiving approaches, consider ways to invest in a culture of gratitude at the workplace—we promise you it will pay dividends. As Eckhart Tole writes, the key to abundances is recognizing that which you already have.

We couldn’t agree more.

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How an Attitude of Gratitude Can Spur Business Success

Gratitude. Merriam-Webster’s dictionary defines it as “a feeling of appreciation or thanks.”

Much has been written about having an attitude of gratitude. Walking in gratitude is a powerful lifestyle. Robert Emmons is a psychologist widely considered the top expert on gratitude. His research shows gratitude can increases happiness levels by about 25 percent.

But gratitude goes beyond living happily ever after—it also holds business value.

Globoforce’s Spring 2014 Workforce Mood Tracker survey reveals 86 percent of employees who were shown gratitude in the workplace felt more motivated in their roles. What’s more, more than 80 percent of employees who felt appreciated at work wanted to hold steady at their current company, according to Globoforce’s Spring 2012 Workforce Mood Tracker. That compares to 60 percent who did not feel appreciated and were actively seeking a new job.

Gratitude also impacts employee engagement. Globoforce’s 2013 Workforce Mood Tracker study revealed employees empowered to give thanks to peers were over twice as engaged as those not empowered. The studies go on and on, confirming one another and demonstrating gratitude enhances social connections, health, energy levels and the capacity to achieve while reducing stress, depression and loneliness.

“Saying thank you is an emotional act. It doesn't just acknowledge someone's effort, kindness, intent, or action. It recognizes the person himself,” says Tim Askew, CEO of Corporate Rain International. “It's even more important than acknowledging the principal person you are doing business with because it sets a tone for discussion. And it is a winning tone. When you suffuse your preliminary actions with gratitude, it shines out of you as a penumbra of generosity.”

David Horsager, author of The Trust Edge: How Top Leaders Gain Faster Results, Deeper Relationships, and a Stronger Bottom Line, says his own academic research on trust has revealed not only that gratitude makes a difference but that people don’t require big gestures, just heartfelt ones.

“Simple but genuine thank-yous or small, handwritten notes of appreciation can mean the world to people. So if it’s so easy, why don’t we do it more often?” he asks. “When it comes to business, I think we fall into the trap of not seeing people when we work with them. We take them for granted and just assume they don’t need a show of gratitude. This oversight can have huge consequences, particularly if you’re the boss.”

Lori Saitz, a nationally recognized expert in using gratitude to boost client retention and increase referral business, says the unstated benefit of a thank you is the feeling you give to others. As see sees it, plenty of business people think that their clients make decisions based solely on practical, logical factors—but no one makes decisions without incorporating emotional factors as well.

“As humans, it’s virtually impossible to do. Which means that how you treat your clients, how your clients feel about working with you, whether they are buying for individual consumption or on behalf of their business, is of the utmost importance,” she says.

“Showing your appreciation is an integral part of building and strengthening your relationship. There was a study conducted not long ago that found a mere 5% improvement in customer retention would increase profits 25 to 100. Wow, that’s incredible! If you could use appreciation as the powerful and influential tool it is, and it actually increased your business, why in the world would you not take advantage?”

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How a Virtual Office Address Program Improves a Business’s Legitimacy and Success

 We live in a time where anyone with a dream of opening up a business, or even an enthusiastic hunch, can do so without breaking the bank. The first step in achieving legitimacy for a budding enterprise is to establish a business identity that says to the consumerist world that the business is not just a passing whim based out of a dining room table -- but that there is some substance to it since it’s housed in a professional workplace environment. That is the beauty of a Virtual Office provider. It’s legitimizing, and it speaks to the seriousness and determination of a businessperson to succeed without over-extending one’s financing or forcing itself into a lengthy term commitment. It’s a prudent and ideal hedge and stepping stone in the journey to greater success -- or even a business empire.

A Virtual Office plan, with its many components and advantages, most notably it’s address/mailbox feature, allows an entrepreneur to project that his or her business is beyond just the home-bound, ‘good idea’ stage. It shows that it is firmly established in a professional environment that can receive people, clients, mail and packages, hence forming the foundation for a legitimacy and a confidence that a prospect or client can bank on knowing that there’s a basic business structure in place, which is a critical step for any new business, especially a freelancing, solo-perineurial one.

There was a time when a Virtual Office itself wasn’t sufficiently legitimizing, often considered the space of last resort for an under-financed and under-committed businessperson, or a place where someone unemployed/in transition would park a pseudo/long-shot business in the hopes of getting lucky or buying time until latching on to a top-notch job. In that sense and in those times, in certain circles, Virtual Offices were sometimes considered the opposite of how they are regarded today -- more of a business de-legitimizer, a holding pattern for someone’s ultimate next step. But those days are long gone.

A Virtual Office plan, starting with an address plan plus the possibility of phone answering or meeting space option has gained tremendous momentum and popularity for the past ten years, to the point where today it is regarded as the wise and necessary jumpstarting step that demonstrates lean and savvy business planning, plus financial prudence. No longer is an enclosed, full-time, expensive, fixed-term, leased office -- that, at most, is used 40 hours a week, but usually a lot less these days -- a business requirement for gaining legitimacy and confidence in the marketplace. A Virtual Office, starting with a legitimizing address program, is not only highly acceptable; it also legitimizes an entrepreneur’s business acumen, wisdom, and respect for their, and their client’s expenses, which is why a Virtual Office is such a hugely successful work-way today, and more so tomorrow.

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