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Virtual offices can offer cost savings

By Michelle Swafford / Staff Writer

There's a new option for small-business owners who want the perks of a large firm without the accompanying costs.

It's called a virtual office, and it's a trend that is increasing in popularity for small businesses that only need an occasional office or conference room.

The newest player to offer such space locally is Salt Lake City-based Davinci, which opened 45 suites and virtual offices -- 13,000 square feet of space -- in December at 1539 W. Warm Springs Road in Henderson. The local office has acquired about 100 clients.

A virtual office offers a fully furnished office and conference room that can be rented by the hour and access to office equipment such as high-speed Internet, fax and copy machines. It also provides a business address for mail and a receptionist to answer phones.

The cost for a Davinci virtual office: $30 an hour for the office, $25 an hour for a conference room that seats four (larger ones are available for higher hourly charges), $50 a month to use the business address or $175 per month to use the business address, two voicemail boxes and a receptionist to answer calls and forward them to the business owner. Taking calls could also include setting up appointments and taking orders, depending on the service purchased.

"Not everyone needs an office," Davinci co-founder Bill Grodnik said. "Davinci is designed around flexibility. Here you can rent one office when you need it."

By comparison, a traditional office often has a three- to five-year lease for a set amount of space, while a virtual office can be expanded as needed and rented on an hourly basis, he said.

Flexibility in a professional setting is exactly why Doison Dillon, owner of Interior Compliments in Henderson, opted for a virtual office in lieu of leasing an office each month.

"I've been a decorator for 15 years and my business consultant said instead of starting big to start small," she said. "As a decorator I really didn't need a space because I go to my clients' homes; I take them shopping."

She uses Davinci's virtual office for the conference room, receptionist services and business address.

"I think it's a wonderful thing," Dillon said, adding that she enjoys not having high rental costs each month. "You've got everything except a physical space to go to every day."

The potential drawback is that some clients are frustrated because they cannot reach her directly when they call, she said, countering that most people wouldn't want a decorator that's sitting in an office all day answering phones.

Davinci -- named after Leonardo da Vinci for his innovative nature -- plans to open offices in central Las Vegas and Summerlin later this year as well as other parts of the country, Grodnik said.

"We just want to be in the burgeoning areas; markets that are growing," he said.

Davinci also offers executive suites, which offer shared space -- common areas, a receptionist and office equipment -- on a monthly or yearly basis.

Ben Stilltoe, director of business development of Complete Home Loans, said he rents five executive suites for his small business to save money and because Davinci gives his company the flexibility to grow.

For start-up companies, " you can't find a better setup," Stilltoe said. "You have the ability to grow without moving."

In a cost-comparison study by Davinci, it is estimated that a businessperson could save more than $3,000 a month by renting shared space for $1,450 per month versus leasing traditional space for $4,590. That includes an office, a conference room, staff and common areas, a receptionist, a phone system, high-speed Internet access, office furniture and equipment.

Davinci isn't the only company offering virtual offices to help small-business owners.

Vicki Pullen, owner of VLP Investments LLC in Henderson, is building an office building with virtual offices in the Water Street District -- Henderson's redevelopment area. The building, called Pinnacle, will be built on the corner of Water Street and Atlantic Avenue and is scheduled to open in mid-September.

Michelle Swafford covers health care and small business for In Business Las Vegas and its sister publication, the Las Vegas Sun. She can be reached at (702) 259-2326 or by e-mail at swafford@lasvegassun.com.