To survive in a competitive world such as ours, all startups aspiring to make it through to scaleup phase need a lean mentality. Establishing a business presence and growing a brand requires agility, adaptability and a certain amount of savviness when it comes to hiring talent.
Sounds expensive, right? It needn’t be. With the right tools at your disposal, you can bolster your startup the lean way. Let’s take a look at how virtual offices, freelancers and building brand awareness can strengthen your startup without maxing out your budget.
1] Invest in a Virtual Office
A virtual office space is the perfect solution for lean, ambitious startups for a number of reasons. The truth is, virtual office packages include many of the resources businesses need to establish their presence, not least of all a commercial address.
For those who aren’t in the know, a virtual office combines people, places and technology to enable you to establish a business presence anywhere in the world.
How will a virtual office space bolster my startup?
On signing up for a virtual office, you’ll get a dedicated business address for your startup in a location of your choice, without having to lease an expensive full-time office. Virtual offices exist in almost every established and emerging market worldwide, so the world is quite literally at your feet, so to speak.
Because many virtual office packages include the option to hot desk and hire out meeting and conference rooms in the building itself, many people choose a location that’s within commuting distance of their home address.
Having the option to hot desk on an ad hoc basis can work wonders for productivity, especially if you usually work from home and could do with a change of scene every now and again. Similarly, being able to host meetings with important clients in a corporate environment will bolster your professional image.
These things aside, just having a business address that is separate from your residential one will benefit your business in ways that aren’t immediately obvious.
Firstly, having a business address in a recognized location will make you appear more credible in the eyes of your stakeholders. And this is one of the biggest challenges startups face.
Think about it this way: are you more likely to buy from a brand who operates from an obscure residential place or from a business area that has a prestigious reputation?
Having a business address can also be handy from a security perspective.
When registering your company, you’ll be asked to provide a registered agent address. You might decide to opt for an address that isn’t your residential one, because in the case of a legal proceeding, a clever lawyer might be able to prove that your LLC is not separate from your personal assets and therefore, might be able to reach into your personal assets. This is known as ‘piercing the corporate veil’.
We’re not legal experts, and advise that you speak to an appropriate tax advisor or lawyer to help you best understand your options to protect your personal assets such as any savings, your home, etc., when setting up your business.
Using a virtual office can also help you to build credibility when it comes to getting business credit. You can’t use your personal address or phone number on documentation, and having a commercial address and local phone number that isn’t a cell will increase your chances of getting approved.
A virtual office also includes a local or toll-free phone number, an online (VOIP) phone system, mail forwarding services and a Virtual Receptionist to assist with calls and inquiries.
2] Work with freelancers
One mistake startups sometimes make is that they over-hire too quickly in a bid to form the perfect team. However, hiring in house can be expensive and risky. Sometimes, professional relationships just don’t work out for whatever reason.
Hiring freelancers is a tactic often used by successful startups who want to ‘get stuff done’ without having to hire a full-time employee.
Creative and marketing roles are two examples of areas where freelancers can be really useful. For instance, if you’re planning to revamp your website, you can hire a team of freelancers for the duration of the project. You can always offer a (paid) trial before hiring if you want to see what they’re capable of first.
You’ll find experienced designers, developers, video editors and writers on websites like Upwork. Alternatively, ask your contacts for recommendations or reach out on professional networks like LinkedIn.
Freelancers enable you to scale your business in line with your company’s needs and budget. They also give you the opportunity to work with a wider pool of talent at a lower cost. As long as you communicate effectively and set clear briefs and expectations, you can end up forging career-long working relationships that add real value to your business.
3] Build brand awareness
It’s no secret that building a brand presence will help bolster your startup. More content can lead to more followers and more followers can mean more sales. However, businesses face two hurdles when building brand awareness: time… and money.
Yes, getting the word out there can be both expensive and time consuming, especially if you want to go down the paid advertising route, but there are a few free things you can do too.
The first thing is to establish a social media presence on the most appropriate platforms for your business. Focusing on a few instead of all will save you time and ensure you’re reaching a relevant audience. For example, B2B startups are likely to promote their brand on LinkedIn. Interior design companies will utilize visual platforms like Instagram, and so on.
Although so much activity takes place online nowadays, the value of face-to-face interaction shouldn’t be underestimated. Speaking at industry events can be a great way to promote your brand and expertise, and by attending them you can learn a lot from your competitors.
Just make sure you take your business cards along and follow any new contacts you make on social media!
Photo by Priscilla Du Preez.