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Look Big - Even if You Are Small

By Terry Van Horne |

How to Make Your Startup or Small Home Office Business Be Perceived as Bigger and Save Money Doing It

Importance of the Business Location Decision

Whether your business is a startup with venture capital behind you, a professional freelancing or a tradesman with a home-base, one of the first decisions you make is where the business is located.

Office space will often be one of your biggest fixed expenses, so it is important to think through what the total costs are in terms of public perception and budget.

First impressions can be where the sale is lost or it can be a catalyst on the path to a successful outcome to your meeting, phone enquiry, walk-in sales or just about any contact with a potential or current customer or client.

The way the phone is answered or the first impressions your place of business makes on a potential client can be the difference between success and failure. When your phone is answered in a professional and business-like manner or your clients see a well-organized office, the perception of your business is more positive. People associate these characteristics with much larger businesses.

What are Your Business Location Needs?

Here are a few things for you to consider for your business location:

  1. Do you have a private area for phone calls and working undisturbed?

  2. Are you always able to answer the phone and if not who could?

  3. How effective would an answering machine be for your business when you can’t answer the phone?

  4. Do you need to meet clients in person?

  5. Do you get courier pickup and/or deliveries?

  6. How safe is the mailbox where payments and documents are delivered?

  7. Does the nature of your business require extra security for delivery of documents?

  8. Will you provide walk-in service?

The questions above take into consideration how initial contact would be made. The answers are the basis from which to make a decision whether the business should be home-based or in another location and also what your needs would be in an alternate location.

Home-Based Business Considerations

You may base your businesses from the home because you do not meet clients enough to warrant the expense of an office. You could meet them in a restaurant or coffee shop but there is no guarantee you will not be disturbed; your client becomes distracted by the activity in the venue for the meeting or wonders why a professional is meeting him in a public place.

Another consideration for many budding entrepreneurs is how the business will be affected by being in your home. If you have small children you must consider:

  1. Children may not understand that you can’t be disturbed especially if they are not used to you working from home.

  2. Children may answer your business phone even if you have a separate line.

  3. Children, dogs and more can be heard at the most inopportune times.

  4. Some loss of privacy for the home and family with your business in the home.

  5. Will the phone number and address be stable (Important for marketing and repeat walk-in business)?

Services That Improve the Perception of Your Home-Based Business

The considerations above are just some of the conditions that may warrant the extra expense for a mail service or PO box, or phone and reception services. Renting meeting or boardroom time until the company grows and moves out of the home may also merit the extra expense.

All the services above are provided by a variety of solutions from virtual assistants and offices, local business centres, PO boxes at UPS and phone answering and messaging services. All of these services have positives and negatives which is why these decisions are important. Include some thought about future business needs, not just your business needs today.

PO Box Address

You can call the PO box a suite, an apt or whatever you like, however, that is an old tactic that people are wise to. A search of Google Maps will quickly show that the address is in a UPS store or similar establishment and people will wonder why you hid that fact. It will also mean if you need phone services it will be another vendor to manage.

Virtual Assistants and Virtual Offices

Virtual assistants and virtual offices are very popular with many businesses. Some of these services are offered as standalone services offering mail or phone services with an assistant to do the occasional tasks that you do not have the equipment, skills or time to complete. Virtual offices don’t provide the assistant but do offer the mail or phone services and in some cases meeting and boardrooms. These offerings do help you to:

  1. Work more efficiently.

  2. Provide very professional phone answering and mail services.

  3. Project a professional image.

  4. Provide resources that amplify the apparent size of your organization.

  5. Provide low-cost solutions for issues with phone and mail and to a lesser extent, a personal assistant.

Virtual services provide some great benefits but:

  1. Often these services do not allow your business to expand into office space when growth demands.

  2. Do not enable you to maintain the business address.

  3. Some do not give you control of your business phone number so you lose it when you move.

Business Centres

Business centres may be the best alternative location for the home-based business because they provide all of the services above with extra bonuses that include:

  1. A more prestigious address than a PO Box or virtual office.

  2. A service that may let your business keep the phone number when you move (whereas many answering services may not).

  3. Meeting rooms or boardroom space if you need a place to meet a client.

  4. Quick access to additional space when your business outgrows your home or in some cases the space you are using.

  5. A network that includes professionals services like accountants, bookkeepers, web and graphic design, etc.

For instance, Telsec Business Centres is located at 1 Yonge Street and a simple mail service can be obtained for $30/month! This is a well-known location and historical landmark on the longest street in the world! Imagine what a client thinks when they see that your business is located in such a prestigious building and location.

Location Choices for Your Startup

The requirements are different for a startup as they are usually ready to move into an office space of some sort. Assuming your business does not require retail space, a conventional office space or a business centre is pretty much what a startup is limited to as far as choices for a location.

Office space considerations are very similar to those of the home-based business, the difference being the reason for the space. You must consider the cost in time and money to furnish and equip your new office space.

Business Centre Services That Reduce Expenses Over a Conventional Office Space

Business centres cut many office expenses because:

  1. Your office is furnished so you do not have to buy or rent furnishings.

  2. All the expensive business equipment (copiers, phones, etc.) is included.

  3. All reception and message services are included in your rent.

  4. Secretarial and other business services are available at a reasonable cost.

  5. Business centres are far cheaper than conventional space (often 1/3 the cost).

  6. More flexible terms of leases or rental agreements on duration and square footage.


I have personally used all but the conventional office space option as a location for my business. Even though my current home address is zoned commercial, the living room could be a public area with the addition of a door between it and the rest of the apartment.

In my experience office space in a business centre enables you to set up your computers and you are pretty much ready to go to work with professional reception and messaging. Using the other services available allows you to amplify how big your business looks.

Canadian, Eh!

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