Attempting to manage multiple businesses with separate revenue streams has long been a challenge in the life of the entrepreneur. Rather than concentrating on a single sector, aspiring business professionals may turn their hand to any number of different enterprises.
Corporation and tax laws within different jurisdictions may require the registration of several business names and entities, in order to accomplish this. For the business owner, this can equate to simultaneously having several business names, business addresses, email addresses, and phone numbers – and the need to somehow administer all of them.
One way of doing this is through the use of a virtual phone system.
What is a Virtual Phone System?
A virtual phone system is one whose telecommunications infrastructure – including tools, trunking, and the allocation of telephone numbers – isn’t tied to specific hardware or cabling equipment. Provision of resources and services takes place via data transfer and in software, with the internet as the medium of transmission.
Using Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) technology, service providers are able to deliver telecommunications capabilities from the cloud to individual and corporate users. These capabilities may include fully featured business telephony suites and the provision of one or more telephone numbers, with extensions.
The Benefits to Business Management
For entrepreneurs and multi-part enterprises trying to manage multiple businesses, the advantages of a virtual phone system are many and include:
- Cost Savings: Instead of having to shell out for separate accounts covering several different companies, your virtual phone contract covers a single subscription, which is billed (typically monthly) for all the phone lines and services that you specify. As the virtual system uses VoIP to deliver those services, call rates (especially for long-distance and international communications) are drastically reduced – so much so that businesses on average report at least a 50% saving over traditional PBX (private branch exchange) phone systems.
- Brand Continuity: If there are elements of your business which have already established a client base using a known set of phone numbers, email addresses, and named contacts, you can take these credentials with you to a virtual phone system. “Number portability” is a standard feature of VoIP-based telecommunications.
- Business Continuity: Multiple business telephone numbers may be routed via the internet to a single phone (one that you designate), so that vital communications may be received at any time of day, and in any location. Separate caller IDs can be set up for each number you use, along with specific instructions on how incoming calls or messages to each number should be handled.
- Establishing a Regional Identity: Virtual phone providers typically offer a range of options for selecting business phone numbers, including local and regional area codes, toll-free and international numbers. This is especially useful if you have a number of different ventures in specific locations, and wish to establish a local presence there – perhaps to give residents a lower cost business option, or to get ranked in a particular area by search engines.
A network like Swytch offers subscribers a choice of UK-registered business phone numbers – a great way to establish a presence in UK and European markets, for example.
How It Works
Though exact configuration details will vary from service to service, the basic procedure for setting up and administering a single-owner virtual phone system that allows you to manage multiple businesses goes something like this:
- Make your selection of business lines: Port over as many of your existing lines as you require, then choose from the local, toll-free, regional, or international numbers on offer. Designate a main contact number for each business.
- Set your designated forwarding number: This is the single line (or one of several, depending on the contract) to which calls from the various businesses on your account will be forwarded.
- Configure routing conditions from your business numbers to your main phone: Set calls from each of your various business lines to be routed to your forwarding phone. You may be able to draw up forwarding timetables for the different lines, so that each line will route calls during business hours relevant to its specific regional number.
- Set conditions for “after-hours” communications: Calls received outside of “normal” business hours may be routed to a voicemail box that you designate. Each business line may be configured with a “We’re currently not available” notice or a specific message with instructions for after-hours callers.
- Set up caller IDs for incoming calls: This is the way you’ll distinguish between which of your businesses is receiving a given call. You can also set up queues of calls on Hold, if multiple calls come in to different businesses simultaneously.
- Set up separate voicemail boxes for each business: Each of your businesses can have its own voicemail inbox. Depending on the service provider, this may take the form of a single voicemail account with recipient names set for each venture, or the addition of dedicated inboxes for each business name.
- Add customised greetings: You can set up custom greeting messages and on Hold announcements for the auto-attendant/virtual receptionist that receives calls for each business and for each voicemail inbox. This may be in the form of audio files that you upload to the service, or messages recorded directly from your phone.
- Configure your virtual receptionist to handle calls for each business: Some services will give you the option of setting up unique call-handling procedures for each business. So one venture might be configured to transfer all calls to you, in real time, while another takes voice messages.
Virtual Offices & SEO
A bit of a caveat, to finish. Some enterprises rely on virtual offices and virtual phones to boost their search engine rankings in different regions or cities. Having phone numbers local to each area is a great way to achieve this in theory, but care should be taken to register a unique, dedicated physical address (rather than a P.O. Box, shared, or virtual address) in each case.
Otherwise, the algorithms and search criteria imposed by the likes of Google and Bing may combine all the businesses associated with a shared address under a single listing – which defeats the purpose of having separate business entities.
If you would more information on how best to manage multiple businesses with a virtual phone, or would like to set up a virtual number for your business, get in touch with us through our online contact form.