The phrase 'working without walls' is a familiar one in flexible workspace circles. And where virtual offices are concerned, the borderless working concept really does know no bounds.
Pushing the virtual office boundaries once again is OfficeFront, a virtual office and flexible workspace company based in North London, which is led by industry veteran Peter Radcliffe.
Last year we heard about OfficeFront's new 'backup' call answering service. Designed for larger companies and business centres with a busy and sometimes overwhelmed front of house presence, it's a seamless secondary call answering service that kicks in if the main caller is unable to pick up the phone. The system re-directs calls to OfficeFront's switchboard where it is received by a receptionist in the company's name.
It's equally positioned for small companies with limited front of house resources as well as large corporate firms with busy teams.
European partner locations
Now, OfficeFront is extending its virtual office reach with a new international partnership scheme - complete with multilingual call answering.
"The Partner Program is created for owners of high quality serviced office or virtual office centres," Peter explained. "We are launching with 13 sites in the UK, 2 in Germany, 1 in Czech Republic and 1 in Eire. We hope to also have a presence in Holland and Belgium shortly.
"We intend to have a Partner in every major city in UK and Europe."
Here's how it works. Selected business centres across the UK and Europe are teamed with OfficeFront and other centres in the Program, enabling those centres to offer an expanded service to their clients. That service includes the use of meeting rooms and virtual office services at other sites across the network, spanning the UK and Europe.
The concept therefore allows all partners to benefit from an extended geographical network, and to offer a wider choice of virtual office locations to their clients. Payments and ID checks are handled by OfficeFront's team in London.
"With the Partner Program, we are creating a network that can collaborate on all areas of the business and enjoy larger company benefits, whilst retaining that personal touch. Meeting room hire is carried out by any Partner Program member via the Officefront site.
"This is not a brokerage, it is a partnership between like minded centre operators."
"Dedication, sweat and tears"
One of the standout elements of the Partner Program is its core requirement - only independent operators with "heart and soul" are permitted to join.
"All sites have to be owner-managed so the understanding for client satisfaction is more than just a training program - it has heart and soul," Peter explained.
"What is Heart & Soul? It is the effort, dedication, sweat and tears that have been spent building the business. This cannot be replaced by a corporate structure of transient staff, no matter how good they are. The single centre operators, mostly owner-managed, are the only centres that can offer clients that quality."
Since large groups have embraced the virtual office concept, smaller operators have become hindered by their geographical boundaries. OfficeFront's Partner Program helps to elevate smaller business centres and independents and enable them to compete with larger brands on an international scale.
Because of that, the Program is carefully structured - and centres are chosen based on quality and geographical location.
"The plan is to have one centre per town. Large cities like London will have several but they will be strategically positioned so as not to tread on each other's toes.
"We have already signed centres and we are talking with others