FOR SOME FINANCIAL ADVISORS, a full-time business address not only is a waste of money, it’s largely unnecessary.
Dave Patriarche, for example, founder of group insurance specialist Mainstay Insurance Brokerage Inc. in Thornhill, Ont., is often on the road for weeks at a time. He has a home-based office and the technological tools to access his home computer wherever there is Internet access.
“Who needs an office anymore?” Patriarche asks, “and who wants one?”
For the services that a real office provides, such as a professional address that will hold mail and the ability to print out documents for clients, Patriarche uses a service called Mail Boxes Etc., run by Oakville, Ont.-based MBEC Communications LP.
Patriarche depends on that business services centre to manage his mail. “If I’m away for two weeks, there’s no stockpiling [mail] at the door,” he says. “It’s all sitting at a locked box at their place. If I’m gone longer term, I can get them to forward it to me. They call me and tell me there is nothing in there but commission statements, or they will call me and tell me there is a package and to come and get it.”
Some advisors need access to real office space – but only for as little as 15 minutes a day – and are in no position to rent a full office. These advisors need office space and administrative services on a part-time basis only and can turn to services such as 401 Bay Centre Offices Inc. in downtown Toronto, for example, which provides meeting room rentals and mail, fax, reception and delivery services, and access to various administrative services.
Marnie Walker, owner of 401 Bay, says many small-business people, associations and other professionals need a place to use for courier deliveries and pickups or printing documents. Walker’s firm also has trained staff who can put together PowerPoint presentations, business plans, newsletters, name tags and promotional material.
“We do the back end for [clients],” says Walker. “We are the admin staff they don’t have.”
To build a business, you need to project a professional image, she adds: “With a Google search, people can see if you are working out of your house. People are looking to deal with an established business, and the whole image of a professional office space is very important.”
Joe Yukich, a chartered accountant and president of Joe Yukich Financial Services Inc. in Toronto, had been looking for some office space to rent for once a week. He turned to Intelligent Office, a franchise-based company that rents office space and provides administrative support in various sites across Canada.
Location and quality of the premises are important to Yukich, who wants to provide his clients with a clean, properly set-up office.
“I know you can meet someone at Second Cup. I’ve done that before,” Yukich says. “But for a lot of these discussions, you prefer to have them in an office.”
For Yukich, the costs involved in both money and time in maintaining a full-time office just don’t make sense. Now, he gets a fixed number of hours or pays by the hour for the office space he needs.
So, instead of going downtown every day, Yukich says, he goes to the office only when he has to meet a client.
Tim Quinn, owner and operator of three downtown Toronto branches of Intelligent Office, says the number of professionals who shun a full-time office is growing. They do, however, need all the amenities that go with such an office – such as mail service, a receptionist and a professional address – but without the overhead costs.
“Most people don’t require an office 40 hours a week,” Quinn says, “especially those in the investment field who are out much of the time meeting with clients.”
As well, some companies use an office service as a branch to test whether moving into a market full-time is feasible.
“It gives them a presence in a market for a couple of hundred dollars a month; in some cases, less,” Quinn says. “Whereas, if they had a full-time office at [downtown Toronto office tower] First Canadian Place, you’re talking about tens of thousands of dollars.”
Some shared office companies have affiliates across the country, so an advisor in Toronto who is meeting a client in, say, Edmonton, can arrange for the use of office space in that city.
When Avraham Byers, founder of Breakthrough Personal Financial Trainers first set up shop, he needed a cost-effective business location that included all the amenities of a professional office. He began as an occasional user of Intelligent Office and eventually signed a 12-month lease.
“You can grow your business while keeping your fixed costs low,” Byers says. “And as you grow, you can move into full-time space.”
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