Money Matters

Suite Savings

Have you ever wanted to invite a client to a meeting in your office, but couldn't because your office was the spare bedroom in your house? How do you project a corporate image while staying within a small-business budget?

Many office buildings set aside a portion of their floor space for executive suites. Businesspeople can rent the office space they need, whether it's one suite or several. Prices vary, depending on which part of the country you're in. In fact, prices can even vary within the same city.

For instance, a 60-square-foot suite without a window in one part of Baltimore runs around $400 a month, while a 300-square-foot, double office, corner unit with a large window overlooking Baltimore's Inner Harbor can run about $2,500 a month.

Suites can usually be rented on an hourly, weekly, monthly or annual basis. Instead of buying or leasing equipment, businesspeople can use the suites' office furniture, computers, telephones, fax machines, and audio-visual equipment. Rather than paying and managing a full-time office staff or maintaining a reception area and conference room that sit unused much of the time, businesspeople can simply pay for the suites' clerical support and extra office space as they use it.

Jeannine Windbigler is the executive director of the 500-plus-member Executive Suite Association in Worthington, Ohio. Her association receives between 70 and 80 calls a month from businesspeople wanting to know where to find executive suites in their area.

"Executive suites allow a small-business owner to have a person answer their phones, have access to a conference room, have use of secretarial services, and more--all on a small budget," says Windbigler.

Computer networking consultant Larry Tedrow, an ExecuCenter executive-suite tenant in Columbia, Maryland, says, "We didn't want to sink a lot of money into hardware and personnel, but we still needed to project a professional aura. We looked at about five different places with different offerings and decided an executive suite was just what we needed."

Avoiding isolation is another reason for the success of executive suites. Tenants can network by interacting with other tenants. Ann Esposito, general manager of three ExecuCenter executive suites in Maryland, says, "Beyond the nuts-and-bolts work, the manager tries to create a social environment where the tenants feel comfortable and can interact." Much of this interaction takes place in the community lunchroom. At ExecuCenter, regular breakfasts are sponsored by the company to encourage networking.

And, finally, if you're comfortable in your home-office space but could use an administrative hand now and again, you'll find it refreshing to know that you don't even have to rent an office space to take advantage of many executive suites' services. Often, businesses can use the secretarial support, conference rooms, and mailing address on an "as needed" basis. --James Rada Jr.

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This article was originally published in the March 1997 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Stressbusters.

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