Welcome to your new office. Desk not needed
Treend has two bungalows on Main Street for office space but in reality he runs his company largely as a virtual business -- a paperless, Web-based affair conducted mostly through the Internet with employees able to work anywhere there's a high-speed connection. He contracts for his communications -- phone answering, call routing, faxes and voice mails, as well as outbound sales calls -- with a Salt Lake City company called Davinci Virtual. And when he needs local meeting space, he can rent a conference room from Davinci Suites.
"Operating nationally, it gives us more of a corporate feel we needed in dealing with people across the country," said Treend, whose business sells insurance to commercial child care operations. Although the tools are there for companies such as his to go virtual, there still are some lingering issues from the "old" brick-and-mortar days -- the service and respectability a physical presence affords.
Enter two Salt Lake-area companies and others that aim to fill in the gaps in the new ways companies operate. Davinci Virtual provides communication services and can help book a conference room in all 50 states and several foreign countries, while Davinci Suites offers office and meeting space, and services such as a mailing address locally and in Las Vegas and Albuquerque.
The companies are separate entities that grew out of a company jointly operated by Sam Souvall and Bill Grodnik. They split the company last year. Souvall's interests were more in the real estate end of things and he operates Davinci Suites. Grodnik had a vision for taking the services model national and even global in the form of Davinci Virtual.
Davinci Suites offers virtual businesses a way back into reality, with office and meeting spaces, receptionists and other services. Clients can rent by the month or by the hour. The company has four sites around the valley that cater to virtual companies, or to an individual or small groups of professionals running a business without the benefit of an office. It rents out executive suites for as little as $500 a month , which includes receptionist services, e-mail, Internet access and such. A corporate identity with a business address, meeting space and support services and staff starts at $95 a month. Conference rooms can be had for as little as $25 an hour.
"I had a sort of vision of what it could be," Souvall said, "that businesses would come together. You would create the space, the services and the support, and make it as easy as [possible] for businesses to do just what they do." It also was the economies of scale that interested him. "You create Fortune 500 infrastructure, and you get to sell it a piece at a time," Souvall said.
But Souvall also sees a higher purpose for his business. It has helped create communities of like-minded people who can meet at Cyber Cafes in Davinci Suites offices for a cup of coffee and more. "I've noticed they really use our cyber cafe," he said of the company's clients. "They do business together. They laugh together. They share problem-solving things. It's really gratifying. That's what I hoped it would turn into." Dave Jones operates Pathway Associates as a virtual company that offers consulting services to nonprofit organizations. He and four partners use Davinci Suites for meetings and also have their phones answered while they work mostly out of their homes and travel to clients' offices. "It's a very cost-effective way to work," he said. "We can pass those savings on to our clients."
The arrangement allows the company to expand or contract as needed to respond to business needs, said Jones. "I think what we're doing makes sense. It's more of a reflection of the way business is done today."
Grodnik formed Davinci Virtual and, through partnerships with local office building operators, has grown the business so it books services and space across the nation and in several foreign countries.
"Our business has really gone from nothing, to we'll be doing $10 million in business this year," said Grodnick, president, CEO and majority owner of Davinci Virtual.
From an office in Sugar House, (also a Davinci Suites location), Davinci Virtual offers a call center that answers phones for clients, provides other communication services (for as little as $100 a month), and even makes outbound sales calls. Through Davincimeetingrooms.com, it also books rooms at 700 business centers. "You can basically book a meeting room from New York to L.A. tomorrow at 9 in the morning," Grodnik said. Davinci Virtual and Davinci Suites maintain a cordial business relationship, and the two executives are friends, the two say.
"We're sort of the physical expression of their offering," said Souvall of the companies' relationship. Souvall said his business had a rough time about a year ago after an Albuquerque bank cut off a line of credit. Forced to reinvent themselves, Souvall and his company listened to clients and implemented a flexible model, where services are sold as needed, and not necessarily for long lease periods.
"There was a lot of comfort in thinking, 'I've got that guy on a one-year lease' and so to give that up was really a change," he said.
The new model has begun to pay off. Souvall said the company just had its best quarter ever.