MOBILE OFFICE

Advances in communication technology, entrepreneurial creativity, and the ever-more-hectic pace of modern life have all combined to encourage the development and refinement of mobile business offices. Indeed, entrepreneurs have been a driving force in the creation of computers, telephones, and other office equipment that are both effective and portable. "The goal of providing portability and adequate power to meet business people's needs also has led to a substantial degree of convergence among mobile computing, organizing, and communications technologies," wrote Tim McCollum and Albert Holzinger in Nation's Business. "This convergence now enables small-business people to compute and coordinate wherever they are, using one of a few coordinated devices and either traditional wired or new wireless telephone networks."

Mobile office technology allows entrepreneurs and other businesspeople to access data or information from their place of business in any location. This versatility can be vital in closing a deal, delivering a report, or saving a presentation. Of course, many businesspeople rely on portable office equipment primarily during transitional periods, such as at the airport or in a hotel room during a business trips. But observers have noted that mobile office technology has also become an essential performance tool for sales representatives, business planners, and busy entrepreneurs. Moreover, some enterprising small business owners have learned to synthesize communication technology with today's system of roadways to create truly mobile businesses that do not rely on a central office.

MOBILE BUSINESSES

In recent years, increasing numbers of small businesses—both start-ups and established ventures—have devised systems wherein they can successfully deliver their products or services through a mobile facility or office. "Many entrepreneurs find that packaging a business in a van, truck, bus, or car is a way to rejuvenate an existing firm or launch a new one," confirmed Carol Dilks in Nation's Business. Dilks noted that enterprises that are conducive to mobile office treatment are numerous, including optical services, maid services, lawn maintenance, veterinary services, and a host of others. Indeed, many observers suggest that any limitations in mobile businesses that currently exist are present only because the right entrepreneur has not yet come along to figure out how to deliver the product or service "on wheels" in a profitable way.

Entrepreneurs with mobile businesses also point to several major advantages associated with such arrangements. Mobile businesses do not have the expense of maintaining a store, which—with rent, furniture, utilities, and other costs—can be a very expensive part of operations. In addition, owners of mobile businesses report that they register savings because of reduced rates of theft and insurance. Finally, these business owners contend that by going to the customer's home or business, they 1) immediately establish their interest in satisfying the client, and 2) create a dynamic wherein both the businessperson and the customer can concentrate on one another rather than peripheral distractions such as other customers. Business consultants warn, however, that mobile businesses need to adhere to a very high standard of professionalism to calm possible customer fears about legitimacy and quality. "People like to know there's an 'entity,' " one executive admitted to BC Business. "It makes them more comfortable and confident to know a business has a real office, not just a phone and a computer somewhere."

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