The biggest difference between starting a business from home today and when I first started in 200o is the technology. Back then blogging hadn’t been invented, many people were nervous of using a credit card online and most hadn’t even heard of Paypal. Thankfully, technology has made life for small business owners much easier and cheaper than ever before. So when I got a chance to interview Simon Burckardt, managing director of internet telephony service Vonage UK , I said “yes!”
Here’s what I asked Simon…
1. Internet phones have made life so much easier and cheaper for home businesses, I remember when I first became self employed you had no choice but to get a second phone line physically installed in your home! But I find many new home business owners still aren’t aware of how much things have moved on. Can you tell us what Vonage offers to home businesses and freelancers?
When starting up a business there are so many things to think about, plan for and organise, that often the simplest things like setting up a dedicated second line does not get much thought. As a result, home-based business owners tend to go for the options they already know: getting a physical second line installed or using their mobile.
What Vonage offers home-based businesses and freelancers is the ability to have a second phone line in the home without the hassle of installation or the high cost of constantly using your mobile phone. In the case of mobile phones, business owners may also find that that using a mobile indoors may lead to dropped calls due to poor indoor coverage and that the lack of a geographic number conveys a less professional image. The Vonage service is so simple to use that all you need is an existing broadband connection and a home phone handset; there is no need for PCs, headsets or microphones.
Because Vonage understands that cost is a key factor when setting up a business, we make sure we provide affordable price plans to suit home-based business owners. When you compare our plans to setting up a second phone line with BT, you are looking at over a £300 cost saving.
2. I hear you used to run your own business from home before becoming Managing Director of Vonage UK. Could you tell us more about this and tell us your top piece of advice for those of us running our own home-based businesses?
I have always worked in Telecoms, and prior to Vonage I founded Route 30, a consultancy company providing Marketing and CRM advice to the Telecoms sector in the UK and globally.
The main piece of advice I would offer any small business is that you need to look at all of the options before making a decision. Things like technology have advanced so much in the last year alone, that anyone starting their own business has to make sure they are keeping their eyes out as to new tools that might work better for their business model. Thankfully, the internet allows us to be better informed of the options available, with a number of free and readily accessible resources that small businesses can use as a starting point.
3. Tell us about future trends – what’s the next big thing that home business owners should look out for in terms of technology?
The home-based business of today is one that is not just working out of their home office, but one that can be in touch with client while on-the-go. That can mean anything from accessing email and phone calls while doing the weekly shop or being able to work remotely while visiting suppliers abroad.
Technology is pushing the boundaries of what is possible. In our case, we ensure to adapt and anticipate the needs of the home-based business owner by offering features that enable greater flexibility. Because Vonage only needs a broadband line and a handset, we have customers who take their phone line with them when they are abroad, meaning they don’t have to pay for hotel phone call rates or roaming charges. Even when they stay in the UK, the Vonage service can automatically redirect calls to your mobile after a few rings on the home office phone, so you don’t miss that important call.
We definitely see the market moving in a direction that offers tools that enable small and home-based businesses to meet the demands of a truly global marketplace.