Here are five things to consider before you cut the cord.
Technology improvements have made it much easier for small businesses to communicate with customers at lower costs and with greater flexibility. Cell phones, Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), and virtual phone lines offer a variety of features, including integration with other software, easy setup and management, the ability to work anywhere, and low costs.
With these options available, do small companies still need a landline? Here’s what to consider.
Traditional office landline systems use expensive hardware and complicated installations, says David Mercer, founder of SME Pals, an online resource to help entrepreneurs and small businesses use technology. “Fortunately, with using cloud-based VoIP phones, it’s now possible to set up a system in minutes and with only a few dollars. That might have taken weeks and a lot of money before,” he says.
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One of the drawbacks to cell phones or VoIP is dependence on Internet connection and cell service, which aren’t always reliable.
“Whether a business is in the position of providing or selling services, crackly static, irritating echoes, and dropped calls make the company look incompetent and cheap,” says Ken Kilpatrick, president and CEO of Sylvia Marketing and Public Relations. “Presentation goes well beyond a nifty website, sharp marketing material, and great soundbites. A company’s presentation is all-inclusive. It involves every single aspect, and communication is at the top.”
Mike Catania, founder of PromotionCode.org, a website compiling discount codes to help consumers save money, says he thought landlines were no longer necessary—until Hurricane Hermine hit his business’ headquarters in Tallahassee, Florida in September 2016.
“We take for granted not only that cell towers are up and functional, but that we have an ample supply of electricity to power our phones,” he says. “In a natural disaster, it becomes abundantly clear that you can’t simply assume you’ll have access to basic services or the electricity to power even small devices. We were without power for almost a week, reliable internet for over two weeks, and without a landline for about a day. The landline made a huge difference in our ability to transfer work to our Las Vegas office and not close completely, which was imperative for September. That’s when we get the bulk of our Black Friday and Cyber Monday offers for processing.”
Using mobile, cloud-based communication technology allows you to work from anywhere, including at home or on vacation—for better or worse.
“I prefer keeping my work and personal life separate,” says Anthony Tuorto, owner of Tuorto Law. “When I leave the office, the landline goes to voicemail and I can address the message when I’m back on the clock. Some may not mind receiving business calls at all hours of the day, but I’ve always appreciated alone time after a long day at work.”
In some ways, it’s easier than ever for entrepreneurs to launch a startup—you can be off and running with a cell phone and a laptop. But don’t forget scalability.
“The biggest mistake I see small businesses make is they advertise their cell phone as their business phone, never taking into account: What if you grow?” says Michael Bremmer, founder and CEO of TQI, a technology advisory firm. “Virtual numbers and VoIP are very inexpensive. But more importantly, they are very flexible and allow a business to grow as it needs to. With a single cell number, all calls go to one phone and cannot easily be handled by others so that you can scale your business.”