By Lauren Bailey
While most small business owners are satisfied with operating their start-ups within the confinements of their own home, that doesn't mean that they're necessarily comfortable with opening their doors and using their living room to meet with clients, investors and/or customers.
The reasons vary.
Your home may be cramp and small; you may have a large family roaming around at all times (which can sometimes be seen as unprofessional); or you may have an unkempt home office. Whatever the case, there are still some viable options to consider when trying to determine an alternate location or meeting spot.
To see what some of the more popular choices are, continue reading below.
1. Coffee Shop
This is probably the most obvious and the most cliché option, but meeting at a local coffee shop can still be quite effective. All you need to do is a buy some beverages (one for you and your client) and you can use the space for as long as you'd like. Of course there is a downside to popular retail chains like Starbucks—depending on which time of the day you decide to meet, you may very well have to fight for a seat. Or, you may end up at one of those teeny tiny round tables that only has enough space for your smartphone and cup of coffee. Not to mention it can get pretty noisy with all of the incoming customers, thus it may be hard to have a decent conversation. If you'd prefer, agree to meet at a quaint and equally as attractive coffee shop to negotiate business instead.
Giving your client the option of having a “business lunch” or “business breakfast” are typically always a success—not only can important matters be discussed, but discussing them over food typically can lighten-up anyone's mood. In short, food makes people happy, which means your chances of persuading your client or investor to agree to certain terms and conditions for example will be greater.To sweeten the deal even more so, it's recommended that you allow your client/investor to choose the restaurant. Do set some limitations however (unless you have the funds). A good way of doing this is allow your client/investor to choose between three restaurants that you have hand-select. That way, they have some control but you are staying within your budget.
The reason why dinner meetings are not suggested is because experts say dinner is typically seen as more “formal,” which can create an uncomfortable and stressful experience for some parties— especially if the client/investor feels awkward participating in small talk for example. Always remember to save your receipts and include the date and matters of business discussed—small business owners can get tax deductions for business-related meals. If you do not want to be surrounded by a bunch of people while you eat you can even try to rent out a restaurant's banquet room. Even some inexpensive restaurants like Panera Bread have banquet rooms you can use reserve.
3. Co-Op Office Centers
The growing trend is using co-op office centers to conduct meetings. These services typically will give you a small office, including a desk and a few chairs, for a small fee (some as low as $15 an hour). Others even offer special daily and monthly packages for those who know they'll be busy with clients during a particular month or week.
4. Hotel Conference Rooms
Meeting in an actual hotel room is too intimate and it could put your safety at risk, while meeting in the hotel lobby or foyer is too amateur. A better alternative is booking a conference room within a hotel. Depending on which hotel you look into, you can reserve a meeting/conference room for about $200-$300 a day. While the price may seem steep, do take note that most conference room packages include access to Wi-Fi internet connection, access to technology such as a TV and DVD player for presentations/video conferencing, office supplies such as notepads, and will even include catered food.
5. City Hall
While some city halls only allow non-profit organizations and home owner associations for example to reserve meetings in conference rooms, most city halls do in fact have community centers that are open to the public for a number of events, including wedding receptions. Fees will vary. Another place to check is your local chamber of commerce.
6. The Bank
Depending on how large or how small your bank is, it may very well have a conference room or a “community meeting room” that you can use as well—some banks will even let their clients use it for free as long as they call and reserve it far enough in advanced.
7. Public Library
You will definitely have to use you indoor voices if you decide to meet here, but agreeing to meet at the local library or a bookstore like Barnes & Noble is also another option to consider. Not only will you have access to free Wi-Fi, you won't be harassed to purchase anything, but some experts like to say that being surrounded by books makes people feel smarter and more willing to get down to business.
8. Club House
Typically most home owner association communities and apartment complexes will have clubhouses. These clubhouses can be reserved for a small fee (or at no cost at all) for a variety of events, including birthday parties, baby showers, and yes of course most importantly, business meetings.
9. Bonus. Your Home.
I know what you're thinking, “I thought I made it clear I didn't want to host a business meeting at my house.” If you've exhausted all other options, your house can still be a great possibility if you decide to host a video-conference meeting via Skype, Oovoo, or some other service instead. Select a room that looks the most presentable (do a little tidying up if need be) and that has good lighting. Note that sometimes technology can be unreliable and your video conference call may be dropped or your internet may just decide to stop working that day. That said, you'll need a backup plan in case something goes wrong such as going to your neighbor's house or even McDonald's—yep, they have free Wi-Fi too.
This guest post is contributed by Lauren Bailey, who regularly writes for best online colleges. She welcomes your comments at her email Id: blauren99 @gmail.com.