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Stepping into the Cloud: 5 Areas to Get SMBs Started Today

When all of the advertisements and commercials for the cloud started appearing five or six years ago, most SMBs probably did not pay them much attention, thinking they were intended for much larger counterparts. Today, that is no longer the case. Eighty-five percent of SMBs believe cloud solutions can help them scale and grow their businesses faster.

The data certainly corroborates their feelings. SMBs using an above average number of cloud services (2.5 tools) realize 26 percent faster growth and 21 percent higher profitability.

SMBs and Cloud Adoption

But there is a disconnect. Despite such a large percentage of SMBs believing cloud solutions are beneficial, adoption rates are not at those levels. Thirty-seven percent of SMBs in 2014 reported they use at least one cloud solution. And while this number is predicted to grow to 78 percent by 2020, this still leaves a gap of purported believers that have not adopted a cloud technology.

If you are one of those believers who have yet to step into the cloud, this blog post is for you. The first question to ask is where are you at when compared to your peers. Average IT spend for SMBs is between three and five percent. However, for 30 percent of the fastest growth SMBs, spend is over 10 percent. Though investing in IT for the sake of being in a leader quadrant is not justification to do so, you should seriously examine your technology spend and determine if it is set at the right levels.

Though it is a factor in about one-third of instances, cost is not the primary reason SMBs invest in cloud solutions. The biggest reason SMBs cite is flexibility around mobility and remote work. A joint Deloitte-Google study ranks the list in order of priority:

    • Mobility and Remote Working, 47%
    • Reduced Operating Costs, 38%
    • Collaboration, 36%
    • Lower Maintenance Requirements, 32%
    • Access to Technical Expertise, 27%
    • Scalability, 25%
    • Avoid Long-Term Contracts, 16%

Collaboration and communications show up at the top of the list for SMB growth leaders: 42 percent cite improved collaboration as their foremost reason for adopting cloud technologies, while 41 percent list improved mobility of their workforce. It thus stands to reason that email (63 percent) and productivity (56 percent) are number one and two in the list of cloud technologies SMBs deploy.

There is certainly valid business justification when it comes to the use of cloud technologies. SMBs delineate various desired business outcomes that include:

  • Scale and Growth, 80%
  • Access New Markets, 77%
  • Focus on Strategic Projects, 75%
  • Beat Competitors, 66%

Getting Started with the Cloud

So where do you start when it comes to deciding what cloud solutions will generate the biggest impact to your business. Understanding where you spend your time is a good beginning point. A study by Intuit uncovers the following:

  • Back-office work such as bookkeeping and accounting, 65%
  • Invoicing and accepting payments, 65%
  • Managing relationships with existing customers, 58%
  • Communicating with employees and business partners, 48%
  • Advertising to build company awareness, 35%

When the different solution options are boiled down to a manageable list, they fall into five basic categories:

  • 1. Business Productivity. These applications are focus on the day-to-day productivity tasks such as email, spreadsheets, word processing, instant messaging, and other functions. Cloud technologies here include Google Apps, Office 365, Skype, and others. Nineteen percent of SMBs report using business productivity cloud technologies.
  • 2. Infrastructure. Over half of SMBs—up from seven percent in 2011—indicate they use some form of infrastructure or storage technologies from the cloud. Solutions here include cloud storage and file sharing such as Box, Dropbox, among others as well as platform- and infrastructure-as-a-service solutions like Amazon Web Services and the Google Cloud Platform.
  • 3. Web and E-Commerce. The majority of SMBs elect to use cloud-based web solutions such as Wix, Web.com, Weebly, and Duda. In addition, numerous cloud e-commerce technology providers make selling online quick and easy, providing functionality that includes web hosting and building, an online storefront and payment processing, inventory management, back-end functionality, marketing tools, and CRM capabilities. Some examples of solutions in this space include Shopify, Magento, and Squarespace.
  • 4. Enterprise Applications. Enterprise applications break across finance and operations. Seventeen percent of SMBs report using at least one enterprise application. These include solutions such as Xero and QuickBooks for finance and CRM (customer relationship management) solutions like Insightly, Zoho, Salesforce, and others. Project management and communications tools like Slack, Basecamp, and others are also gaining in popularity with SMBs.
  • 5. Prospect-Customer Interactions. Cloud technologies are becoming particularly popular for marketing activities. Twenty-two percent of SMBs indicate they have at least one prospect-customer engagement cloud-based tool. It starts with basic social media monitoring and management tools such as Hootsuite, Social Pilot, or Buffer and extends to marketing automation with solutions such as Infusionsoft, MailChimp, and Constant Contact. It may also include digital engagement tools for live web chat and personalized content offers.

Davinci: Rooted in the Cloud

Since our founding in 2006, Davinci Virtual has relied on various cloud technologies to grow our business. At the same time, our different solutions use a hybrid cloud platform. For example, Davinci Meeting Rooms provides customers with an online booking service that includes billing services and the ability to review and evaluate meeting rooms and day offices before booking them. Our mobile iOS and Android DAVINCI MEET app extends these capabilities to customer smartphones.

Our Live Receptionist services uses the best-in-class LivePerson live web chat, a cloud-based technology, which when combined with our customer service, enables us to deliver outstanding prospect and customer experiences for our clients. We believe in the technology so much that we use it ourselves on our website for sales and customer service.

For more about our solutions, check out our Solution Guides or simply call us, email us, or chat with us.

Davinci Live Receptionist Services
Davinci Meeting Rooms
Davinci Virtual Office Solutions

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Why Small Businesses Are Opting to Go from Physical to Virtual Offices

The overhead of leasing physical office space is substantial for small businesses. On average, nearly 10 percent of a small business’ expenditures are on office space (ranking behind only employee wages and inventories).

A Change in Address

Putting this working capital back into the business can make a big difference in terms of product development, hiring better talent, and spending more time building relationships with prospects and customers. But this requires giving up your physical office space.

There are certainly a number of disadvantages associated with leasing physical offices. Some of the more prevalent include:

  • Large overhead costs with lease cost, maintenance, equipment, etc.
  • Less flexibility for employees with required traveling/commuting
  • Higher payroll due to the need to hire a front-office receptionist
  • Increased marketing costs as a result of required signage
  • Smaller hiring pool due to location requirements

In addition to the above, most small businesses simply do not have the revenue to lease office space in prime locations. And location certainly matters when it comes to making first impressions with prospects and customers. A subpar office address diminishes your brand and your value proposition. Prospects and customers may subconsciously look to other solutions providers. It is no trivial matter.

Going to the Virtual Office

In growing numbers, small businesses are rethinking their physical office spaces and opting for virtual offices. Twenty-two percent of companies using virtual offices today previously had physical offices. These companies are taking the cost savings and putting the capital back into the business, driving more revenue and attracting better talent who welcome the flexibility of a virtual office.

Working 9 to 5 is certainly a thing of the past, and business data serves as corroboration. Companies offering their workers the ability to work where and when they want perform four times better than those that do not. Part of it is that they can recruit and retain top talent with greater ease: 64 percent concur that is the case when they offer workers choice in terms of where and when they work. But there are other factors as well such as higher employee retention and lower employee absenteeism.

These workplace preferences are only going to grow. With nearly 40 million U.S. workers projected to elect some form of self-employment by 2019, the freelance segment of the workforce is exploding. These workers see virtual offices as an opportunity to network with other peers, prospect for new business opportunities, and work from a professional office environment.

6 Recommendations for Going Virtual

So what are the steps you need to take to ensure your move from physical to virtual space is successful? The following are six recommendations:

  1. Location. Location means almost everything when it comes to virtual offices. Make sure your virtual address is in a well-known location that demands respect.
  2. Business Services. Your virtual office needs to come with various business services such as mail receipt and forwarding, registered agent and license hanging, lobby directory listing, among other.
  3. Meeting Rooms and Day Offices. Though you no longer need permanent-physical office space, you still require conference and meeting room space for employee, prospect, and customer meetings as well as day offices for employees when they do need a physical office. Having a virtual office solution that also includes day offices as well as meeting and conference rooms for rent is an important value proposition.
  4. Remote Locations. As small businesses expand and grow their customer base, so do the geographical parameters of their business. This means you likely need virtual offices in other locations. Davinci Meeting Rooms solutions have you covered with 4,000 meeting rooms in 1,100-plus virtual office locations in over 30 countries.
  5. Technology Tools. To connect with other employees and prospects and customers, your employees require the right technologies such as audio and video conferencing, auto and virtual receptionists, as well as project management and communications tools. Rented meeting rooms and day offices also need to include many of these same technologies.
  6. Business Policies and Processes. Employees accustomed to working from a physical office need new policies and business processes for the virtual office such as when and where they should work, communications requirements, what can be expensed, etc.

Davinci Virtual has been helping entrepreneurs and companies of all shapes and sizes to find virtual addresses and offices that fit their business requirements and help them drive down costs while improving productivity and uncovering new business opportunities. For more information on Davinci Virtual Office solutions, download our Solutions Guide “Davinci Virtual Office Solutions: Boosting Businesses with High-Profile Virtual Addresses and Offices.”

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Enabling Business Expansion with Virtual Offices

Geographical expansion and securing operations in a specific location can be a daunting challenge for any businesses. Depending on the nature of the business, a move to a new geographical location requires a physical address, a local phone number, an address for receiving and picking up mail, an address for forwarding mail on request, and a local presence to drop off and pick up clients and prospects. It also entails a registered agent and license hanging, something made more difficult when the new location is in a different state than your business.

Location, First Impressions, and Meeting Rooms

It is undeniable that the address of the location is critical. “Getting off on the wrong foot” with a customer or prospect by listing an address that detracts from your brand or failing to have a local address can have adverse effects. Indeed, it takes a matter of a few seconds for someone to form an impression about your business—and your address plays a pivotal role. Further, once those impressions have been formed, it is extremely difficult to change them. The proverbial saying, “location, location, location” rings very true.

Moving operations to a new geographical location often means you need day offices, conference rooms, and meeting spaces. Ninety-five percent of business professionals concur, believing face-to-face meetings are key to building long-term relationships. Some of the possible scenarios include:

  • Local employees who work periodically from home offices who need day offices and conference rooms for internal and external collaboration sessions and meetings.

  • Day offices and meeting rooms for remote employees when they are traveling and onsite in the new location.

  • Customer and prospect meetings in the new location that require conference rooms with requisite technologies and business services.

  • Meeting rooms for interviews with job candidates.

Getting Beyond Physical Offices

But here is the problem: leasing physical office space is cost-prohibitive, and businesses often delay expansion plans because of the cost. Office space ranks as one of the top expenditures for businesses (behind employee wages and inventories).

The solution to this problem is a virtual office solution, one that also come with meeting rooms, conference rooms, day offices for rent. This gives businesses the flexibility to accommodate employee, customer, and prospect requirements while controlling costs. Additionally, offering workers the ability to work when and where they want rather than from a physical office also allows businesses to attract better talent.

Companies seeking to expand their business to new locations without the expense of a physical office but with a great address and day office and conference rooms for rent should take a look at Davinci Virtual Office solutions. Nearly 40,000 entrepreneurs, startups, and small businesses, and even mid-and-large-sized companies have turned to Davinci for help and over 1,100 locations in 30-plus countries. Our Davinci Virtual Office Solutions Guide spells out why and when organizations should leverage virtual office solutions and the benefits they gain. It also details our virtual office solutions.

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Choosing the Right Type of Bookkeeping Service

Bookkeeping is a marathon, not a sprint. The task begins as soon as you start to put money towards your business and will follow you throughout your journey as a business owner. Just like a spouse, you don’t want to make this decision lightly.

Fortunately (unlike finding a spouse), there are only three options to choose from—each with its own strengths and weaknesses. It’s important for business owners to be familiar with each of these different options and how they will affect their business.

The “Traditional” Method: Accounting Firms

The most traditional method of bookkeeping is to hire an accountant or accounting firm, your traditional mom and pop shops/freelancers.These guys offer great benefits over the DIY self method—like the fact that you’ll barely have to lift a finger and you’ll also be privy to expert insight (pending they’re qualifications of course).

Of course there are also some drawbacks such as high hourly fees and slow turn around times. Transparency is low, many times business owners are never quite sure of what’s included in their services, and what’s being billed—causing a lot of anxiety when it comes to seeking out answers. Communication is also one way, meaning you send them your information and they send you their work in return. There is no way to monitor things as they progress, as is the case with digital dashboards. This lack of real-time analytics can make it difficult to set a steady course for your monthly budget.

When it comes to the traditional method, business owners will have to consider whether or not they want to hire an in-house bookkeeper or an external accounting firm.Both methods can be expensive with hourly consulting fees  and salary/benefit considerations for in-house hires. In-house accountants can be a solid option if you own a large operation and need constant oversight. Smaller businesses however, might find that costs don’t outweigh the rewards when it comes to hiring a full-time accountant.

The "Semi-Traditional” Method: DIY Software

DIY software is an increasingly popular option, giving business owners a great UI to track their finances. Companies like Quickbooks provide robust software that can help facilitate advanced accounting functions. Not only are many of these types of tools extremely helpful, they can also save money when it comes to hiring a traditional accountant. Although this is a great option for accountants, it may not be optimal for business owners.

Having a good piece of software doesn’t make you knowledgeable about the US tax code, regulations or requirements. Business owners can miss out on deductions, disqualify themselves as a compliant business, and face IRS auditing through improper tax filing. Having simply taken an accounting class in college is no substitute for the wealth of knowledge an accountant brings to the table. 

Even if you feel confident enough in your accounting, there is no more precious commodity than time. Any business owner will tell you, that as they’re business takes off—they find themselves being stretched in a million different directions. Knowing what your skill set is, and how best to add value is key. Bookkeeping is a time consuming task—business owners need to ask if reconciling transactions is the best use of their time. 

The "Fully Automated” Method: Software as a Service

The third and final option (which no suprise, we’re big proponents of), is SaaS (software as a service). This hybrid option provides the best of both worlds, giving users access to customized software as well as a dedicated bookkeeper. Instead of having to reconcile your own transactions, a bookkeeper (accountant) will do it for you. Some of these services like Bookly, offer unlimited consultation at no hourly cost. Instead they prefer the more modern “Netflix” model of a monthly flat-rate fee. This means business owners can ask away without fear of being billed.

This option will not be for everyone, for example—extremely large and complicated corporations or accounting firms. However for the other 90% of business owners—this bookkeeping framework is likely to be the most inclusive and cost effective. It offers all of the all of the aforementioned benefits without the bad, providing transparency, updated analytics, and a high tech solution with a human touch, not to mention it’s extremely cost and time effective.

If you’re interested in starting on your free trial with Bookly, or you just want to ask some questions—setup a consultation with one of their onboarding specialists today.

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How Virtual Offices Can Enhance The Meeting Effectiveness Of Remote Employees

Employees who are supported; perhaps encouraged or required to by some organizations today; and can work remotely, enjoy a number of advantages to bank on, as long as they deliver the goods on what’s expected of them to produce. Most relish the fact that they can work at their own pace and basically make their own schedule that suits their critically important work-life balancing needs. And they save on commuting time and costs, to boot. For the ever-increasing socially and environmentally conscious class of workers populating today’s newer working ranks, it saves on carbon foot-printing, which makes them, and Mother Nature very, very happy.

But, remote working, especially from home, isn’t always the utopia that many regard it as being. Meetings with colleagues and clients, for instance, often are inappropriate or inconvenient to conduct, or for a client or colleague to attend, at one’s home-office. And if the meeting is done virtually through Skype, FaceTime or some other basic, video-telephony, or even through some other more elaborate visual teleconferencing technology – some very vital communication cues often gets lost in translation.

Technology can remarkably replicate much, but not all vital communication elements when people meet and speak. Some claim that up to 50% of all vital interpersonal communications are non-verbal, and that is only in-presence capturing and emitting of such crucial body-language communication is the true way to optimize on the purpose and desired impact of a meeting. Reading and sending non-verbal reactions that can only be observed or delivered in-person are certainly key to a well-conducted, fruitful meeting.

Furthermore, the informal ‘before-and-after’ interfaces of a meeting, in many instances, are as critical, if not more, than the meeting itself. The natural flow of an appropriate, in-person greeting and ice-breaker; or maybe a post-meeting spontaneous cup of coffee, or invitation to lunch or a beer after-work, goes a long way to solidifying the impact that one is looking to achieve as the goal of meeting. A central purpose of a meeting is to establish or reinforce relationships, which is achieved much more effectively and poignantly in-person.

Add all these factors up and the sum points to the fact that some meetings don’t lend themselves for home-office treatment. Even the most devoted and frugal of home-based employees need to have a Virtual Office somewhere that’s convenient for them, and for the bulk of their clients and colleagues, to at least occasionally meet at when face-to-facing it is really the prescribed way forward for optimal results.

Go ahead – work from home. But also make sure you, like most astute businesspeople today, get yourself a professional Virtual Office that can serve as your home-away-from-home officing base and provide you with the services, reliability, the spark that’ll lift you on the V.O. Operator’s shoulders, and serve you well when you need to meet and impress others -- at a fraction of the cost of what a full, dedicated, yet often unused office, will run you.

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