Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Is a Drummonds, Tennessee online business real?

In a previous post, I looked at some virtual businesses, including one in Tucson, Arizona and one in Ontario, California. I was looking at these businesses that did not have a true physical location. While such businesses may provide their services to a particular location, you cannot walk up to the business and obtain those services.

I thought I'd look at another example - a virtual business that is associated with a physical location.

Virtual Accounting Services, with an address of PO Box 29, Drummonds, Tennessee, is listed with the Better Business Bureau. At the time that I am writing this post, Virtual Accounting Services has an A rating with the Better Business Bureau - and the only reason that it doesn't have an A+ rating is because it has only been in business since 2009.

Because the BBB website is designed to assign businesses to a particular location, Virtual Accounting Services is listed under the "West Tennessee, North Mississippi & East Arkansas BBB."

But when you start reading the testimonials, it becomes clear that there are people far away from Drummonds who are using Virtual Accounting Services. Tracy Corley is (was?) the head of Tsuluwerks in the state of Washington - which, last I checked, is a long way from Tennessee. However, Corley has written a testimonial for this Drummonds-based company:

“I don’t know if I want to recommend Jenny too highly, as I don’t want her to get overworked by other clients! After an exhaustive search for bookkeeping help in my region, I finally launched my search nationally and found Jenny and Virtual Accounting Services. She is helping me get my books updated and is keeping me on track to ensure that the cash flow is always positive. I appreciate that she is proactive and lets me know of ways that I can reconfigure systems to ensure I’m getting the best ROI. I can trust Jenny to get the job done, and highly recommend her and Virtual Accounting Services.”

The "Jenny" referenced by Corley is Jenny Furst, a Certified QuickBooks® Advanced ProAdvisor. Because Furst provides bookkeeping services - and not, as far as I know, tax services - her general bookkeeping knowledge can be applied equally throughout the United States. People contact Furst via telephone or via a web form; these contact methods can be easily used from anywhere in the United States.

But we as human beings still have an old-fashioned expectation to know WHERE a business is located. Part of this is legal; Furst's company is licensed to do business in a particular state (Tennessee), and if someone ever wanted to sue Furst, they'd need to know where to file the papers. But part of the issue is that we expect a business to be located someplace - and we think that a business a business.

Obviously this issue is not unique to Jenny Furst. A number of businesses have people who do not work at the corporate headquarters, or in any type of an official "business" area. For example, there are many people employed by Yahoo who work from home - for now. Of course, in those cases, the company itself has a brick-and-mortar presence with a physical address, and it's just the employees who don't have a cubicle or access to the company coffee machine or photocopier. And there are businesses, such as the ADT branch that I discussed in my previous post, that have regional offices that are the size of a mailbox.

But are we as humans prepared for situations in which an entire company exists only in the cloud? Will we think less of a company because it cannot be listed on Google Maps? Let me return to something that I said previously:

Is an online business real?

If you are in the business of shifting paradigms around, then the answer is clearly yes. Online businesses are the future, you say. 21st century capabilities enable people to conduct business without being trapped by the hoary old limitations of locations. Online business is the wave of the future, and we should encourage it.

But there are other people (wearable devices firmly on their foreheads) who are forced to disagree. Location is key, they say. 21st century capabilities enable advertisers - I mean people - to obtain valuable metadata based upon your location. Location-based business is the wave of the future, and we should encourage it.

In short, is the future Second Life, or is the future Foursquare?
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