By David Saul, managing director, Business Environment
Entrepreneurs are increasingly telling me that they now consider coffee shops to be inappropriate venues for holding business meetings.
In fact, some might be surprised by the fact that such a large majority of small business owners wouldn’t organise a meeting in a café.
However, given that those I’ve spoken to have raised very real — and business critical — concerns, perhaps the only real surprise is that there isn’t a total consensus on the matter.
For instance, the business people I’ve spoken to are worried about losing valuable information by having their laptops stolen, along with their ideas, because of eavesdroppers.
Another frequently raised concern is the level of noise in coffee shops — which can be distracting.
When you look at these concerns, it isn’t surprising that so many entrepreneurs are taking their meetings away from coffee shops.
Consider the potential cost to a business of a competitor overhearing a key strategy, or losing a laptop, which would be particularly damaging if data wasn’t backed up and password protected.
Or, perhaps less business critical, but still an important issue, consider how being regularly forced to work at a reduced level of productivity because of noise levels would affect an entrepreneur’s business.
Once these issues are factored in, it’s hard to imagine the circumstances that would lead an entrepreneur to decide to work from a coffee shop.
Perhaps, for a start-up, there’s a perceived cost issue. Those trying to get their business off the ground belie they can’t afford to pay for proper meeting rooms or office space.
That’s a perception that could well be misguided — it ignores how much is spent buying coffee and how much is potentially lost as a result of unproductive business meetings.
Even so, there has long been a catch-22 for start-up businesses — they don’t feel they can afford professional meeting space until they’re running a successful business, which they’re struggling to do because they can’t meet clients in a proper working environment.
The benefits of proper meeting space extend far beyond just avoiding the security risks and distractions of coffee shops. In terms of the practical benefits, there’s the improved broadband quality and the ability to photocopy documents and easily charge laptops and phones.
The need to be connected in a variety of locations is becoming increasingly important, with research by the International Data Corporation (IDC) indicating that the number of mobile workers will rise to 1.19 billion by 2013 , accounting for almost 35 per cent of the global workforce. It’s clear that access to broadband and the ability to stage meetings with clients on the move will be key for many SMEs.
The other major benefit is to do with perception, which should never be underestimated.
The difference between meeting in a coffee shop and a meeting room is the difference between instilling confidence in a potential client that you are capable of carrying out a job, and of not doing so.
To put it another way, it could well be the difference between winning and losing new business, which is essentially the difference between the success and failure of any new venture.
Recognising this, we created our &Meetings packages, which offer purpose-built, flexible meeting rooms in London, Bristol and across the South East, available to hire from just £5 an hour.
These can be hired by the hour, half-day and full day, booked online in under three minutes, and are completely inclusive, meaning no extra cost for refreshments, Wi-Fi and presentation and TV screens.