Despite lower prices due to the deep recession, rending an office in Manhattan can still be well beyond the budgets of many small businesses.
Yet some companies that really want to claim a Manhattan presence rely on a crafty solution: Instead of renting office space, they effectively rent an office address.
A company based in, say, Maplewood, NJ, or Dallas, or anywhere, really, can sign up with a virtual office firm. Customers can pick from actual Manhattan office addresses that can be used on business cards and correspondence.
For a fee, a virtual office firm makes it seem that your business is operating in Manhattan.
Virtual office firms also offer virtual phone service: Calls to a New York phone number are answered with your company’s name – or forwarded to wherever you really are.
End result: You’re a player in Manhattan.
“The past year or so, with a lot of companies cutting back, has been good for us,” he said.
At VH International’s facilities in the Flatiron district on Broadway, the most regular clients are lawyers, sales people and accountants at tax time.
. “We’re seeing a lot of lawyers breaking away from larger firms, or being laid off, going solo with us,” Richport said.
Users adapt the service to their needs.
Jack Smith, a lawyer who works from his home in midtown, has been a customer for six years. His high net worth clients live primarily in the five boroughs and many travel frequently.
“They enable me to be very supportive of each client’s needs. I can rent a larger room to assist for tax audit matters or a smaller, more intimate private room to review a will or an estate. It makes it an exceptional value relationship for me and my clients, and I don’t have to charge to cover for an unreasonable expensive infrastructure.”
Guy Brisson, marketing director in Montreal for Softmotion, a firm that produces animated images that change or move as it’s viewed from different angles for architects, advertising agencies and arts clients, meets several customers a month at VH International. “They are my managers in New York,” said Brisson. “It allows me to spend quality time with clients without the distractions of a restaurant, hotel or other facility.”
He’s used projection equipment for Power Point presentations, as well as catering and mail- forwarding services.
Another virtual office provider, Prime Office Centers, has three Manhattan locations and about 300 virtual clients, as well as 250 on-site tenants. Many clients are from “out of state who would rather work out of an office than Starbucks. We get a lot of those, said Colleen Hickey, a Prime manager.
“We offer solutions to people who need to downsize from a traditional office,” she said,” but still want to keep an office presence that includes all the amenities of working at a larger company.”
Customers “ come in, set themselves up, and when their guests arrive they get the impression this is their place of business.”
A sampling of virtual office costs in Manhattan:
At VH International, prices start at $25 a month with a 12-month agreement. Includes an actual business address and basic mail service. Minimum terms start at $40 a month for three months. Extra services are a la carte.
Prime Office Centers offers various levels of virtual office services, starting at $175 a month.