When it comes to investing in enterprise development (ED), issues like access to finance, skills transfer and development, and mentorship top the list. But what about operational and infrastructural support? Start-ups and SMMEs often need this just to get off the ground. Cost-effective virtual and serviced offices provide entrepreneurs with just that, and in South Africa this can be claimed back by big business against the ED investments on their BBBEE scorecards.

Virtual and serviced offices meet a critical need in the emerging enterprise sector – they provide instant access to vital but otherwise out-of-reach business tools and infrastructure.

These include technology systems such as reliable high-speed uncapped internet, UPS back-up, voicemail and call forwarding; support staff such as efficient receptionists and tech support; and professional spaces within which to work and network, including private office suites, meeting rooms and boardrooms.

All these offerings are brought together at one prime business address, providing start-up and fledgling enterprises with a professional image and the opportunity to conduct their business in a well-supported, structured and highly efficient business environment.

There are not only benefits for the enterprises using these business hubs, but for the investing corporates as well.

Two key features of virtual and serviced offices are their highly affordable monthly fees, and their short terms.

Unlike traditional commercial properties in sought-after locations that cost a pretty penny and lock users into long-term agreements, shared office hubs are up to 20% more cost efficient. Their flexible terms also mean companies can invest in emerging enterprises for as short, or as long, a period as they want, without worrying about having to maintain relationships with poorly-performing SMMEs just for the sake of a lengthy, expensive property rental agreement.

A core pillar of ED is creating sustainable enterprises. A large part of this responsibility is born out of the enterprise’s ability to operate independently, without constant corporate hand-holding.

Serviced and virtual offices wholly support this idea by encouraging entrepreneurs to run their businesses their way, in their ‘own’ space. There is a significant amount of pride and enthusiasm associated with working from these business hubs.

This, combined with the desirable opportunity to network with other like-minded entrepreneurs, is often enough to help budding enterprises over those initial set-up hurdles that often cost them their business dreams.

Companies investing in ED through infrastructural and operational support often do so by brining members of these enterprises in-house. But with serviced offices, this isn’t necessary. Companies get to maintain their commitment to the enterprise without the additional financial and or human resource burden of accommodating the SMME in their own workspace.

Through using the virtual, serviced or shared office model, big business is able to directly support and assist emerging enterprises, having a tangible impact on their day to day operations.

Because of this, all fees paid to these business centres can be written off as ED investments against the BBBEE scorecard, a perk further enhanced by the tax benefits associated with these VAT-registered organisations.

When searching for good, solid ED investments, companies should consider looking beyond regular SMME support initiatives to independent infrastructural and operational assistance that is not only sustainable, but truly empowering.