Profit Minded

How working in a cafe can caffeinate your business

From document scanning to teleconferencing to generating legal contracts, just about any business function can now be conducted via mobile app. No longer do you need to be in an office to make photocopies, send a fax, or share files with colleagues.

But just because you can run your business from a coffee shop, should you?

“Absolutely!” say Mike Pugh and Kyle Flowers of j2 Global, a company that provides cloud services to small business, including eFax and eVoice apps. They are cheerleaders for working from “the coffice.”

“If you’re looking to work in an out-of-the-box environment, the coffee shop is a perfect one,” says Flowers. While the confines of a traditional office can squelch creativity, Flowers says that the sights, smells, and sounds of a coffee shop can spark it. What’s more, he suggests, “The rhythm of a busy atmosphere really helps people to stay in tune and operate at that energetic pace.”

To be sure, not every job or every task is suited to the coffee shop, and not every coffee shop is suited to the mobile worker. Use common sense, Flowers advises. If you’re in a low key café and you’re going to stick out like a sore thumb making a call, it might not be the right place to do business. “But if you’re not the loudest person in the room, then go for it,” he says.

Feel guilty taking up a table for hours on end? Don't. Flowers says a busy atmosphere translates to success for a cafe. “You’re actually contributing to their marketing” by keeping the place looking busy, he argues. Of course, hogging a table becomes abusive when a steady stream of other customers can’t find a place to sit. “Maybe that’s a situation you need to rethink,” he says.

When it’s electrical outlets, not seats, that are in demand, Flowers says there’s no better way to make new contacts than by offering a place to plug in. He suggests carrying a power strip.

Pugh offers these additional tips for running your business from a “coffice.”

1. Use cloud-based apps to stay accessible to customers. You can maintain a business-class phone system on your smartphone, tablet, or laptop with an app that lets you route calls made to your business number directly to your mobile phone. Apps also offer call screening, conference calling, voicemail transcription, and a virtual personal assistant to keep you organized while you juggle a latte and an egg sandwich.

2. Let your smartphone be your fax machine. No need to visit to the copy shop when you work in the coffee shop. Get an app that allows you to edit, sign, and forward contracts or purchase orders right from your mobile device. You’ll receive faxed documents via email attachment on your mobile device.

3. Consolidate your phone numbers with a virtual phone system app. Hand out one number, and callers or faxers can reach you anywhere. A virtual phone system will route voice mails directly to you and let you screen calls. And having just one number will let you streamline your business card and email signature.

4. Go ahead, meet your clients at the coffice. Meeting on neutral turf and sharing a cup of coffee and a pastry can put clients at ease before you get down to taking care of business. And document management apps will let you edit and execute contracts on the spot from your mobile device.

5. Think of the money you’ll save. If you’re worried what you’ll spend on lattes and scones working in a coffice, think of what you'll save on paper, toner, fax machine repairs, and landline bills by using free apps. You can even save on cell phone minutes and data charges by making VoIP calls over the free WiFi at your coffice.

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