Starting a Business? Take a Page from MacGyver's Book

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As for your personal mobile phone becoming your business phone, not to worry. Your old mobile number will still work too, so it’s easy to distinguish between business and personal calls. The phone number is just the peg on which to MacGyver the service.

Skip Leasing Office Space

The first two ideas enable this third one. There is something thrilling about having an actual office to go to; nothing says “legitimate” like a separate office. But if you’re trying to conserve cash in a tight economy, consider passing on leasing one office space for your organization in favor of some thrifty alternatives.

An obvious one is to have everyone work from home. There’s no cost for the space, and you can use an online service to store and share documents, creating a de facto network for the organization. You’ll also save on many of the things you don’t think of at first, such as office furniture, decorating expenses, coffee for the office (along with a coffee maker), a common copier and more.

If you feel you personally need an office that’s separate from your home, see if you can sublet space from another company in your area. With all the downsizing that’s occurred recently, especially in service-oriented businesses, many companies are probably paying for empty space. If you can sublet one of those empty offices you’ll both win. And with the virtual phone service you won’t even have an impact on their phone bills.

You can also look into common office space – the type where several organizations share certain resources, such as a common lobby, conference rooms and admin support – while occupying different offices. Often they come equipped with furniture and other office equipment, helping you keep your costs lower. Shop around a little and you may find a great bargain.

Shopping around also applies to traditional office space. The down economy has created a lot of empty spaces that are costing commercial real estate companies money. Lots of it. Nationally, a little more than 13 percent of office space is unoccupied now. In some regions, though, the figure is almost double that.

Ask around to see where space has been empty for a long time and put on your negotiating hat. Right now commercial real estate companies may figure some income is better than none, and you can move in to space you normally couldn’t afford as a startup.

Beat the Odds

The key to MacGyver’s genius (and popularity) was how creative his solutions were. He didn’t have James Bond’s Q Branch creating devices for him. He simply improvised using whatever he thought would work.

Remember that most small businesses fail within the first year because their spending outpaces their income. The best way to beat those odds is to keep your spending to a minimum. With a little creativity (and a little help from the right technologies) you can MacGyver together an office that is both fully functional and economical. And one that will serve as a launching pad for when the economy gets better.

This story, "Starting a Business? Take a Page from MacGyver's Book" was originally published by CIO.

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