Where should you locate your business?

In 2002, Bill Gates observed that there would soon be ‘two types of business. Those with an Internet presence and those with no business at all.’ But even in the days of the Internet, the physical location of your business makes a massive difference to your chances of success. Gordon Selfridge put it very succinctly when he explained the three most important factors in making sure his business was successful: ‘location, location, location.’

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1. You may need to maintain a physical presence near your customers. But that still doesn’t mean you need to have all your business where your customers are.

2. You can now have a ‘virtual’ office, with a postal address, receptionist and physical presence close to your customers, but keep your main base somewhere more cost-effective and service those customers remotely. ‘Virtuality’ means you can locate your business in many different places at one, and supply all those locations from the same, cost effective central distribution hub.

3. You need the right infrastructure nearby. Flexible workspace, communications links, fast WiFi, printing and office support will all make it easier for your people to get on with the job from day one. So you could even expand internationally, without having to worry about finding workspace.

4. You need to be where there are people who you can hire to do the task you need. (That’s one of the reasons why businesses in similar fields tend to set up in close proximity to one another. California’s Silicon Valley is one example, from the sphere of high technology. You may not want to offer them more money than your competitors, but you might well be able to offer them more flexible working, which can make you more attractive as an employer.

5. You might want to choose a location where you can get financial help to hire people, or to train them. There are many local and regional schemes that offer financial aid to attract start-ups – often they’re in depressed areas where wages are low in the first place. And in some countries, lower local income tax rates make it very attractive to start up in particular locations. One of the reasons why so many tech businesses set up in Seattle is because individual income tax is zero in Washington State.

Wherever you decide to locate your business, Regus can help you find flexible workspace on the right terms. We’ll even give you two months rent free to help you get started*.

(*Terms and conditions apply)

What is flexible working?

Flexible working is a way of arranging the number of hours you work – and where you work them – to suit your lifestyle rather than keeping them fixed.

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At Regus, it’s our whole reason for being – we exist to help people work more flexibly, by providing flexible workspace at competitive rates. That way, people can work remotely from their company’s central location, or their company can create its ‘own’ office within a Regus workspace without the level of risk or cost that would traditionally accompany such growth.

Initially, flexible working was considered as something that would appeal to one group of people: mothers with children who wanted to return to work.

Now it is increasingly being seen as a policy that that can bring benefits to almost any employee or employer, and is growing more and more popular all over the world – including in rapidly expanding markets like the People’s Republic of China and India.

Why does it work?

Why does flexible working work? Regus recently commissioned a major international piece of independent research into the question.

Three quarters of senior managers and business owners interviewed believe that it improves employee retention, while 71% of those who responded felt it made employees feel more loyal to their employees.

Among workers, 73% think flexible working reduces stress. But it’s also financially beneficial. Flexible working can reduce ‘empty desk syndrome’, saving companies money on property that isn’t fully utilised and freeing up money that can then be made to work harder to get employers closer to customers. It really does seem to be a win/win.

How can you implement it?

There are many different types of flexible working, from job sharing and part-time work to compressed hours, remote working and flex(i) time.

If you are an employer, you first need to work out which options are right for particular roles within your organisation and then consult your workforce about putting flexible working to work for you.

If you’re an employee, you should consider how you could perform your role better through flexible working and then consult your manager. (In some countries, employment law makes it compulsory to offer workers the right to request flexible working, so you may already have been thinking about it.) But however you decide to implement flexible working, you’re going to feel the benefits very soon.

If you want to implement flexible working in your business, Regus can help you find the right workspace at the right level of risk. We’ll even give you two months rent free to help you get started*.

(*terms and conditions apply)

Five apps no start up should be without

If you’re starting a business, there are some functions you just can’t afford to be without. You need a social media presence, to help people find out about you, talk to you, rate you and tell other people, for that you need something like HootSuite.

Apps no business should be without

Given that you’re almost certainly involving a website, then you’re going to need some SEO to make sure people can find you, so iSEO and LinkJuice will help you to do that. Then you’ll need an IT department when you’re on the road, and LogMeIn can help you take your desktop and your documents with you so you’re never duplicating any effort and can access them securely from your iPhone or iPad (but then so can Google which is what this blog was created with, and it can help you organise yourself and store everything on the cloud too).

You’re going to need people to be able to pay you, which means Square could come in handy if you’re in the US, Canada or Japan, and Intuit in the UK. You’re going to need to organise yourself and your time, which is where Evernote can prove its worth. RedLaser will help you save money on everything you buy – or help you convince your customers that you’re already giving them the best value they could ever get, anywhere.

And finally, you’re going to need a way to organise all your passwords for all your apps and all your documents where no one else can get their hands on it – which is where 1Password can come into its own. (Although it isn’t free, it could still save you a lot of time and money…)

Where do the best business ideas come from?

Entrepreneurs often come up with solutions to problems that annoy them – Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger founded Instagram because the pictures they took on their mobile phones always looked terrible and they wanted to make them look good. Pierre Omidyar founded Ebay by selling a laser pointer he was planning to throw away. Also, you don’t have to be young to do it (despite the Zuckerberg/Schmidt/Brin/Gates examples).

Best business ideas

Statistics show that twice as many successful entrepreneurs are over 50 as are under 25. They never, ever come from a futurology study or research into a gap in the market: Henry Ford once remarked that if he asked people what they wanted, they would have said ‘faster horses’. No one would have predicted the coffee house boom or the rise of craft beer brewing, let alone the rise of the internet.

The best ideas don’t happen overnight, but they often come in our dreams. Russian scientist Igor Mendeleev spent years thinking about ways to organise chemical elements, then woke up one morning having dreamt the solution. It’s called incubation, and it’s the way our unconscious mind turns our rational thought processes into something new and distinctive.

So you always need to sleep on your best ideas, literally. And then you’re going to need to be very, very persistent, and remember Samuel Beckett’s words: ‘Try again. Fail again. Fail better next time.’

What’s the one thing no business traveler can be without?

Today’s business travelers expect to slip seamlessly between cities, countries and even continents. But what are the absolute essentials without which business on the move would completely collapse? We’ve been searching for the most important items for the business traveler, and we’ve come up with the following five. 

1. Wi-Fi In every piece of research we have commissioned or read, easy access to the Internet comes top of the business traveler’s list. Indeed, quality of Internet access and ease of using it is becoming the key one factor that determines which hotel these travelers stay in – and even which airport they fly from – on business.

2. A quiet space to work in The internet may be high-tech, but the second most important item for business travelers is as old as travel itself: a quiet chair and table to work. According to research businessmen and women value lounge space so highly that they would even be prepared to pay for it themselves. The United Nations Department of Economics and Social Affairs also found that 36 per cent of people from Generations X and Y say they prefer to work in the lounge, rather than in a private room, as opposed to just 17 per cent of older people.

3. Something to drink We all work better when we’re hydrated, especially when we’re on the move and hopping in and out of planes, trains and automobiles. But a growing number of us have also come to depend on a ready source of hot drinks – coffee and tea – to keep us going through the day. So it’s hardly a surprise that knowing where they can find a decent café comes high up on so many business travellers’ lists.

4. A printer that works Even in our increasingly paper-free world, there comes a time when we all ‘need a hard copy’ of whatever it is we’re working on. A PDF just doesn’t have the same magic as a beautiful piece of paper. And it’s an awful lot harder to sign. So every business traveler needs a place to print things out – confidentially.

5. A private place: It’s amazing how much you can achieve in the ‘third space’ when you’re travelling on business. Even so, there are still times when we need somewhere discreet to talk. Travelers cite price negotiations, feedback sessions and even presentations as stages that can only be properly handled in private.

Do you agree? Do you disagree? Use the comment section below to let us know what you think.