By: Joanie Ogg CTC, MCC
Working from home is wonderful! However, there will be times when you simply must meet clients somewhere outside of your home or at their home or office without breaking the bank. I don’t know about you, but I am not comfortable bringing business associates into my home. I consider my home to be just that, HOME. I would not trade having my office at home for all the money in the world. Well, let me re-phrase that to say for all the tea in China. With all the money in the world, who would want to work anyway? Seriously though, the convenience factor having a home-based office is wonderful, however it may not be the ideal place to meet with clients.
Here are some ideas for places you might not automatically think of where you could consider hooking up with clients.
Your Home Office
Many agents have gone to the expense of building a professional office set up to meet clients in their home. This is a great investment for many reasons. First, it reinforces your professionalism and need for an environment for success. It also reinforces your professionalism to your client who can see the level of your commitment to your business. Tom and I both have separate offices in our home and when folks see the hundreds of cruise group pictures on Tom’s wall, it removes all doubt that he is not an expert on cruising. Having an entrance separate from your home also demonstrates your commitment and is well worth the investment.
Your Host Agency
One of the largest benefits of using a local host agency is the opportunity to meet clients in their office. This is especially beneficial if your host provides you with an office set up to use while you are in their office. Many agencies have such a set up for their independent agents. There are also many host agencies that use a “rent a desk” business model that might be an appropriate way for you to establish your business. Work from home, but meet clients by appointment at your “office”.
Your Client’s Home
Never overlook the extreme advantage that you have by bringing your travel agency into your client’s home. With your notebook computer, a mini or “hot spot” device and a small portable LCD projector you can do professional presentations that will dazzle your client. Add a small portable printer and viola, you have a complete travel agency that will close sales.
Your Local Chamber of Commerce
Believe it or not, some chamber offices have meeting rooms that are even equipped with computers and other office equipment that might be useful for your meeting. You definitely should join your local Chamber of Commerce and participate in their mixers and other activites.
Hard to believe but yes, some banks can actually be an option for a meeting place. Smaller local banks are probably your best target. Many banks have conference rooms that are hardly ever used. Next time you are in your bank, ask if it is possible to make this type of arrangement.
Your Country Club, local business club or other private clubs can be excellent ways to meet with your clients and also meet new clients to boot. While some are quite expensive if you can find one that matches your budget that has meeting facilities that you can use, it may be one of your best choices.
The Local Library
Many local libraries have small rooms that are available to use for a meeting with clients. As a community member (and a library card carrying citizen) you should be able to reserve a room and with branches in many cities, this makes a good choice to make it convenient for your clients.
A Co-Working Facility
This is a very cool option. Co-working has become very popular as a solution for those small business owners looking to just pay a drop-in-fee to access a professional office space. They have conference rooms, office equipment and will often rent out an office space for the day or week. Just Google “Co-Working Facilities in (your town) to find out the options that are available to you. San Diego has numerous facilities in the downtown area.
A Restaurant Banquet Room
Have you ever noticed those rooms off in a corner of many restaurants where there is no one sitting? Well, these are often available for free usage as long as you order some food and drinks. This is a great option for putting together a gathering of customers to promote a special cruise or leisure package.
Just about every hotel has meeting rooms and they are very perishable. Booking a meeting room at the last minute means that you should be able to obtain one at a very reasonable price. Tom used a hotel in Mission Valley and got to know all of the employees and sales staff. He used it to meet potential clients in the bar, restaurant and used an occasional meeting room when he needed to make a more professional presentation. It was great for the hotel and for Tom. Pick a hotel that has easy access and free parking to make it easy for your client.
Starbucks, or Other Coffee Shop
Have you ever visited a Starbucks where there wasn’t a business meeting going on? Free wi-fi, tables and chairs and all the coffee you would ever want make coffee shops are great place to meet new or existing clients. You can easily cover your marketplace by selecting and becoming familiar with coffee shops in various areas, so that you can suggest a meeting place near your client for their convenience.
An Executive Office
An executive office can be a great tool for small businesses that want to limit their start-up costs and establish themselves with a professional image. Additionally, you might find it will enhance productivity. Essentially, an executive office acts as an extension of the business’s physical presence, which for the purposes of this article is your home! An assistant at the “Executive” location handles incoming calls and answers them in your company name. They are set up to receive and forward email if you wish, snail mail and of course the occasional outdated fax option. You pick and choose the options you need and voila, you have a staff and a location to use for meeting clients. A Google search for “Executive Office” in San Diego brought me a long list of options. Companies such as HQ with over 1,000 different business centers nationwide can offer meeting rooms, offices and much more! Regus offers everything a home based travel agent could every want in numerous locations throughout the U.S..
Book stores are another excellent place to meet clients. Many of them also have coffee shops either adjoining them or right within the facility. Both Barnes and Noble and Borders have wi-fi available and B & N have partnered with Starbucks to make it an excellent choice for meeting clients.
3 Places to Never Meet Your Clients
If your office is located in your bedroom, sure you are comfortable working there but most clients are going to feel queasy about meeting you in your bedroom. Also, the client seeing your work place up close and personal may not solidify the idea that you are successful and prosperous at all.
Your Hotel Room
Hotel rooms make horrible meeting places for the exact same reason as your bedroom does. Very few clients would enjoy meeting where you are also sleeping.
Never meet someone in a parking lot. This presents a very disturbing reality to your client no matter what kind of car that you drive.
No matter where you choose to meet with your clients, be it your club, their home, your host agency, a Starbucks, local restaurant, library, hotel or perhaps in your home office or your clients home, the important thing is to feel confident, professional and comfortable with yourself and your surroundings. Your attitude, knowledge and love of travel are sure to make the sell.