As I am currently trying to start my own business, while working full time for another one, I had to figure out how to run my business from remote location and with limited availability, all the while creating the impression of a fairly serious full-time business. At the same time, since I am financing this business from my savings, solution had to be cheap, scale-able (both up and down) and semi-permanent (no long contracts). To do so, I again leaned heavily on the modern technology. This is how I did it:
When creating the telecommunication plan, first thing you have to ask yourself is - what steps will my customers have to make to reach me. Obviously, making these steps as short and easy as possible, is a number one goal.

In my case, I knew that I will not be able to take direct calls unless they arrived at the time I was away from my current office (which is rare). So, I mapped the plan where I wanted customer calls to be answered by an auto-attendant and then if I am not available to take the call remotely, calls would hit the voicemail. I also wanted to offer enough information for customers just looking for the web address or basic information. Enter Ring Central...

Ring Central has has the SIP based option with physical phones for traditional businesses, but in my case, option I needed was their "Mobile" option. This service replaced physical phone system and phone sets with the virtual phone system, and it uses your cellular or home phone as the way to connect you to your callers.

I have seen some $100K traditional telephone systems that do not have all the options Ring Central offers. You can set-up as few or as many options as you want, including extensions, voicemail, auto attendant, call queues... Taking my example, if you call my phone number, you will hear 3 options - "Sales", "Accounts", "General Information'. If you press 1 for sales, you will go into a queue (with only one agent - me), which will attempt to ring my cellular phone and if I do not take the call, go to voicemail. Ring central manages the call for you, records the call if you want, allow for amazing features (such as ability to listen to people leaving a message in a real time and allow you to barge in and take the call if you want)...

Additional benefits of Ring Central include ability to send faxes from your computer, decent iPad app, call history details etc. 

Ring Central has some issues too... In my case, there is a pretty significant sound delay for incoming calls in some cases rendering them unusable. Their music on hold and recorded messages were apparently compressed so much that they sound terrible (I re-recorded my own messages and I do disabled music on hold). 

However, when you take costs in account (my plan is $16 per month, but they start at $10), this is a good startup option.

Second part of this equation is cost of using your cellular phone for all calls. In my case, I went with Virgin Mobile pay as you go cellular phone. Currently, I get very few calls, so their smallest $10 per month package fits just fine. As your business grows, you will be able to afford upgrades and better options, but at this time, pay as you go phone is just fine.

One knock against Virgin Mobile (at least in Canada where I am based) is their lousy online portal and lack of decent support for pay-as-you-go users.

Note: This is a non-sponsored article. I receive no benefit from Ring Central or Virgin Mobile Canada for this.
 


Comments

09/19/2012 3:09pm

That's great advice for start ups and small companies.

I have similar constraints with my small company and am using MyFax to receive faxes to my email on my smart phone and My1Voice to receive 1-800# calls to my phone in Canada. Prices are comparable to what you are paying and the convenience to be mobile is excellent. I would use them again for my next start-up.

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    Giving up a safe job and six-figure salary for the uncertain path of entrepreneurship! Read to see if I make it.

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