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Blog Archives

Intelligent Office: Your Staff. Your Office. Your Success.

Posted on December 20, 2012 by

What do you think of the new Intelligent Office tagline?  In my fourth year as owner of Intelligent Office of Alexandria, I think the tagline hits the nail on the head in describing how we are a different and compelling virtual office solution for our clients.

First, consider the word “your”, repeated three times in the short tagline.  This business is all about our clients’ needs.  We strive to create a virtual and physical environment that is warm, welcoming, and “yours.”  When you walk into our office, we want you to feel at home.

Our staff is your staff, too.  If you call your doctor’s office in the evening, you know that it takes little  prodding to get the person on the other end to admit that they are “only a call center.”  When we take your call or greet your guest, we consider ourselves to be employees of your company for the duration of that interaction.  Our clients train us as they would an in-house receptionist, we talk in the first person, and we care deeply about creating a great experience.

I stood at the front desk one morning when a client of one of our attorneys walked in the front door, looked around, and declared, “wow, she has really grown her business.”  Of course, he did not know that his attorney occupied only one office in our suite.  During that interaction, the entire office belonged to that attorney, and we were there to help her make a great impression.

Let’s look at the other words in the tagline.  “Staff”.  Why would an office suite lead with “staff?”  Our staff is our advantage.  Our competitors are very concerned with filling 50 or more offices in their huge suites.  We focus on service.  Our staff is vital to helping our clients grow.  One typical client for us is a busy sole proprietor, trying to do it all.  We often start by answering some phone calls and transferring them to a cell phone.  But over time, we might start keeping a calendar for our busy client, answering questions about her business, doing some sales intake calls, and helping prepare some outgoing direct mail.  New clients often walk in looking for an office or a meeting space, but they walk out with a team focused on helping their business grow.

“Office” speaks for itself.  Our virtual clients come and go as they need working or meeting space.  There’s always a hot cup of coffee, a fast internet connection, and a comfortable chair waiting for them.  Their guests walk into a beautiful lobby to be greeted by friendly professionals.  The environment exudes success, and their meeting is off to a great start before they sit down.  Our full-time tenants enjoy a warm, collegial environment.  They chat with other clients in the kitchen, attend our frequent business seminars, and maybe even grab a quick workout at our building’s fitness center at lunchtime.  It’s their office.

“Success” is my favorite word in the tagline.  We always hate losing a client, but when we lose a client to success, we can live with that.  We have had clients start with us and grow so quickly that they have leased their own large offices elsewhere.  We’ve had attorneys, home improvement companies, government contractors, and therapists come to us as one-person shops and leave after their businesses had grown to several employees.  As the owner of Intelligent Office, I enjoy sitting with these other business owners and talking about how we can help them grow.  We enjoy doing our part to make that happen.

And so there you have it.  Intelligent Office:  Your staff.  Your office.  Your success.  The new tagline.  We hope you like it!




How to Get the Most from Your Virtual Receptionist Services

by Christie Spalla

I have been employed with Intelligent Office of Alexandria for 5 months now, and have been working as a receptionist for the past four years.  I have seen – or rather, heard – it all.  Recently, a new client was in our office completing their orientation when they asked, “What can I do to get the most out of the virtual answering services?” I’ll bet that we can do a lot more for you than you thought! We can take down estimates, look up login information, book your appointments – whatever you need us to do so you can save time and increase productivity. Below are some additional tips to enhance your business’ first impression and make sure your clients receive the absolute BEST service possible.

  1. UPDATES. First and foremost, the #1 request we have of our clients is to keep us up-to-date with your schedule. The importance of status updates became even more apparent during the recent Hurricane Sandy: several businesses closed for a day or even two, and notifying us of their decision to close helped us greatly when fielding their calls; those who did not notify us, however, were left at a disadvantage because their clients could not be given accurate information. This meant that clients would leave messages expecting a call back when in fact no one was even in the office. Remember, even though we are virtual, we are a member of your staff too—so don’t forget about us!
  1. KEYWORDS. When learning about your company, we take down a detailed list of keywords to ensure that your calls are directed to the correct staff member. These can range from general departments (Accounting, Human Resources, etc.) to specific call requests (ie “The John Doe case.”) Many callers will not know specific names or extensions to ask for, but as we ask questions and hear their stories, these keywords help us direct their calls more efficiently. Without knowing who handles which types of calls, we may have to try dialing staff member after staff member until we find the right person; it goes without saying that this can end up being a frustrating and time-consuming endeavor for both our team and yours (not to mention your customer!) Think of us as your in-house receptionist; train us as thoroughly as possible to ensure the best results.
  1. VOICEMAIL. If we cannot assist a caller but you or your staff are unavailable, we generally ask them to leave a message in your voicemail that you can retrieve at your convenience. However, if your voicemail is full, we have nowhere to direct them! In my experience, clearing space for your messages keeps your clients satisfied and restores their confidence that their issue will be addressed, as opposed to just leaving a message with the receptionist. Also, since we frequently intercept your sales calls,
  1. DIRECTIONS. One drawback of us being in a remote location is that we’ve likely never been to your actual location. Oftentimes if a client has an appointment at your office, they will become lost and call for assistance. Providing us with details such as nearby businesses (“We’re right past the Chipotle”) and available parking options allows us to seamlessly navigate your clients without letting on that we are not physically sitting in your office.

In the words of Jerry Maguire, “Help me, help you.” We here at Intelligent Office of Alexandria want nothing more than to provide the best virtual reception services in the area, and these tips can help ensure that we are able to continue offering the highest-quality support to your clients.




How much does an executive office space in Alexandria, VA cost?

Executive office space can fit many budgets.  When you are shopping for space, you should first consider all of your reasons for getting an executive office.  Do you need the trappings of a class A building and a prestigious address to show off to your clients?  Or will any quiet space work for you?  Do you need to be downtown?  How much space do you need?  And what amenities come with the space?  Do you need private space, or would an open work area do?

For the purpose of this article, we’ll consider an executive office to be a fully dedicated private office space that you keep under lock and key.  In other words, we’re discussing an actual office, not a “shared work space.” 

Why prices vary so much

When people look for executive office space in Alexandria, VA, they find a wide variation in price.  Commercial rent is a primary driver of prices of executive office spaces, and in Alexandria rents can range from $14 per square foot to over $50 per square foot.  The price of your executive office will include an allocation for a share of common space in the executive office suite.  It may also bundle in costs for the receptionist staff and amenities like internet, phone, furniture, and parking.

Executive office suite providers also employ different pricing strategies.  Some may advertise low base prices but then charge extra for amenities, including basics like internet connection and use of a kitchen area.  Others may provide all-in-one pricing.  Either pricing strategy has advantages and disadvantages.  In the former, you may end up stuck paying more than you had bargained for if you get lured in by a low price.  In the latter, you may end up paying for some amenities that you won’t use.

What do I get for the price?

So, what’s the price of an executive office in Alexandria?  You can expect a range from $700/month up to $1600/month.  For $700 you may get a private space in a class B building with no or few amenities.  For $1500-$1600 you’ll get a space in a class A building, probably sharing the suite with attorneys, CPAs, successful government contractors.  You should be proud to show off that space to any of your clients. 

On many occasions, we have prospects come in to look at offices, but with some discussion we discover that they don’t really need a full-time office of their own but would be better served by using an office on an ad-hoc basis and becoming a virtual client.  But that’s a discussion for another article.

Please stop by and see our space at 2331 Mill Road, Suite 100, Alexandria, VA.  Call 703-224-8800 to schedule an appointment, or learn more at

2/14/2011 Cupcakes vs. Lawn Care - Judging at the NFTE semi-finals

As someone who became an entrepreneur when I was well into my thirties, I have always wished I had started a little bit younger.  That’s one reason I was so excited to join the panel of judges at the NFTE regional semi-finals on January 25. 

The National Foundation for Teaching Entrepreneurship, or “Nifty” as it is fondly known, ( promotes entrepreneurship in lower-income high schools.  NFTE trains teachers on their proprietary (and award winning) curriculum, and also partners with local entrepreneurs who visit the classrooms regularly to work with the students on their business plans.  Intelligent Office of Alexandria recently started providing remote receptionist services for the DC office of NFTE. 

The event on the 25th featured short presentations of the top 25 business plans selected from DC-area schools.  Led by the dynamic Julie Kantor, the event was part pep rally and a celebration of the achievements of these top students.  But the competition was serious as the students vied for the opportunity to advance to the regional finals and attend a business trip to NY. 

My panel of five judges was tasked with picking the best of five business plans to send to the finals.  We were instructed to exclusively focus on the business plans and to disregard whether or not the student had actually started the business.  Still, it was hard to ignore the fact that our first presenter had already made several thousand dollars from his lawn care business.  The student started his thriving business with some help from his Dad.  He showed us that he understood the “unit” economics of a lawn care visit and talked about his plans to continue the business through college and beyond.  He handled some tough questions well, and in the end we agreed that he was our most polished presenter.

Our next three presenters all did great jobs as well.  One talked about her Henna business, another was a budding photographer, and the third had plans to build an app that would help merchants attract young people to their places of business. 

Finally, we heard from a young woman who had identified a strong need in her community, a ward in DC with no cupcake stores.  Since my own neighborhood, Clarendon, in Arlington, is about to get our third cupcake store, I could hardly imagine the hardships faced by this community.  Our young entrepreneur walked into the room with a rack of cupcakes which she encouraged us to sample as one of her entourage passed around napkins.  She talked of learning to cook with her mother.  She showed us a high margin business and her plans to sell her cupcakes at churches and neighborhood events.  She charmed us by talking of donating a percentage of profits to Make a Wish Foundation, who had granted her brother a last wish of a puppy. 

Our panel of judges debated at length and eventually we proudly sent our cupcake entrepreneur on to the finals.  I left the event that night completely jazzed about the work that NFTE is doing, and since the event I have connected with the NFTE teacher at TC Williams High School in Alexandria to plan a class visit.  Intelligent Office of Alexandria is very proud to call NFTE  a client. 

12/7/2010 Sales Lab's Talk Your Business

Intelligent Office of Alexandria hosted Dick Davies and Sales and Sales Lab as Dick presented his popular “Talk Your Business” seminar. There is no doubt that Dick is a prodigious talker, but this morning he also got all of the seminar participants talking, too, as we practice introducing ourselves and using the power of stories to illustrate why we are excellent and to accelerate the sales process.
This was actually my third “Talk Your Business” seminar, and while the material may be the same, I have benefited each time from the practice, feedback, and listening to others in the room. I had a few key takeaways this morning:
• “Why are you excellent” is a great question to answer during an introduction. And for me, the best way to answer it is to think of it from a customer’s perspective. (“Why do our customers think we are excellent?”) As someone who tends to shy away from boasting, I find it hard to brag about my business, especially to someone I’ve just met. But I can easily reflect on comments we get from our clients (who really do love us), and then it’s just reporting. Even better, our clients tend to love us because of our staff, and I share their enthusiasm, so now a very tough question has become, for me, an easy talking point.
• “Why are you here?” is another question that Dick recommends you answer in your introduction. It sounds obvious, but “I’m here to meet some new clients” cuts to the chase and gives your counterpart a nice opening.
• Tell stories. Stories are so much more memorable than lists of products or capabilities. A story gives your counterpart an opportunity to reflect on how your service or product could help him. Tell the story of how you helped your best client. Dick’s format is simple – (a) their problem, in 1-2 sentences; (b) your solution, in 1-2 sentences; (c) their result, in 1-2 sentences.
• Rehearse. Your introduction and stories get better with practice. Be an actor. Talk, talk, talk.

12/2/2010 Kacy Paide's 100 ways to organize your office

We enjoyed a nice presentation by Kacy Paide this morning.  Kacy calls her company The Inspired Office.  Her Powerpoint slides were primarily photos  – before and after – of the work spaces of a few of her many clients of the past ten years.  The “after” pictures were indeed inspiring – tidy rows of well-labeled files, neatly stacked boxes, hanging file systems that resembled pieces of art.  Several of the slides showed organizing products that Kacy loves.  Her enthusiasm showed me that she probably loves shopping second to organizing.

Kacy handed all the attendees a document titled “100 Ways to Organize Your Office.”  Some of my favorites:

#94 – Be Decisive.  Every paper that’s out represents an unmade decision.

#79 – Everything needs a designated home.  Everything.

To me, these two lessons go hand in hand.  #79 is one of the first things I learned in my career when, as a young Navy Ensign, I was drowning in a sea of paperwork.  One of the few useful pieces of advice I learned from a lunatic boss was,  “Everything needs a place, Matt.”  My place was somewhere out of the Navy, eventually, but the lesson stuck.

#92 – Make it a rule to toss junk mail immediately

My problem is that my wife and I do not agree on what is junk mail.  I think of catalogs as junk mail.  She thinks my Sports Illustrated is junk mail.  We have not found a way to reconcile this issue yet.

#38 – Create a “Kudos” or “Yay” file to collect all papers and cards that praise you.

I love this idea, and in fact learned it a long time ago from an old girlfriend who called it her “love letters” file.  Any time you need some cheering up, that’s the place to look.

#33 Have a designated notebook just for ideas.

I’ve started using my cell phone for this, as I’ve lost so many ideas that were scribbled in generic notebooks and calendars.  Now I’ve got an idea list on my iphone.

#29 – Donate foreign currency to Unicef’s Change for Good program.

I have won, pesos, thai bhat, rupees, pounds, and some currency I cannot identify sitting around my house.  Ican’t wait to look up this website.

#13 – Never Face a Wall.  Face the room and ideally, the door.

I learned this one in a delightful little book about Feng Shui for the office.  Of course, a beautiful executive office suite can help you find peace!

#10 – Create a “Museum” file for your keepsakes.

Such a great idea, for all those old documents that you can’t seem to throw away.  There are some random documents that I get connected to.  An expired passport, a newsletter I wrote at an old company, a favorite paper from college.

#7 – Eliminate the ugliest thing in your office.

That would be me!

Kacy can be reached at 202-262-1207, or

11/23/2010 What I Learned from Marc Slavin of MarcParc

We host lots of seminars at Intelligent Office of Alexandria, and I sit through almost all of them.  For some reason, yesterday’s lunch meeting of TECA – The Entrepreneur’s Club of America – really resonated with me.  I think it was because Marc Slavin, the founder of MarcParc, came in with no notes, no pretention,  and no agenda other than to tell his story and motivate some others.  I took away several nuggets that I found thought-provoking.  Here are the top six:

(1)     If you want your kid to be an entrepreneur, then be an entrepreneur.  Marc’s grandfather started parking cars somewhere around 1920.  Marc grew up in the business, working with his Dad and his uncle, and so his preparation was complete by the time he went out on his own.  It’s in his blood.

(2)    There is always someone who helped any successful person.  Marc believes that the notion of a self-made person is a crock.  He still remembers, and thanks, the person who gave his new company its first shot at managing a garage.  I’ve been thinking since then about people who have helped me along my journey, and they are plentiful.  I have some thanking to get done.

(3)    Do one thing well.  Marc got that advice from his grandmother, and it has defined his business.  This goes hand in hand with the next point:

(4)    Business is simple.  Don’t overcomplicate.  Park as many cars as you can, and take in more money than you pay out.  In today’s landscape of consultants, distractions, and data, sometimes that simple notion can get lost.

(5)    The most important thing is people.  I hear that more than any other advice in my frequent interactions with successful entrepreneurs.  Marc says that when he hires someone, especially at an executive level, he does not expect to have to motivate them.  They should show up motivated.  In return, he focuses on taking care of his employees.  And when the wrong person is in the job, move fast to make a correction.

(6)    Live life well.  The business is important, but Marc makes plenty of time for family and his hobbies.  He takes most Fridays off and just got his pilot’s license.  Easy to say when you have achieved the level of success that MarcParc has achieved, but Marc has lived this way throughout his career.

March 10, 2010:  We hosted an engaging seminar today delivered by Vinay Kumar, an associate at Winning Ways, Inc.  The title of the talk was "Selling for Introverts."  Vinay is very well known and respected and a frequent speaker in the local Association community, so it's hard to believe he is an introvert.  Yet he told stories from early in his career of the dread he felt at picking up the phone for sales calls, or showing up at a networking event where he did not know many people.  Many of us in the room could relate.  By the end of the session, the introverts in attendance understood how they could see their introversion as an advantage in sales.  Thanks, Vinay!

February 5, 2010:  Great tip today from the Institute of Management Consultants:

We love hearing stories like this, as it gets right to the core of our business - helping our clients become more effective.  Our most basic reception services save our clients time by enabling them to avoid many time-consuming nuisance calls and choose which calls they want to take without ever alienating a caller. 

But the clients who benefit the most use higher value added services, such as estimating, scheduling, and event registration.

For example, we offer estimating and scheduling services to a moving company.  Our team of receptionists has undergone extensive training with the company.  When we receive a call, our receptionists walk the caller through a multi-page questionnaire.  "How many bedrooms do you have?  Apartment or house?  Is there a freight elevator?  etc etc.  At the end of the call we produce an estimate of the cost and schedule the appointment.  When the questions get over our head, "Let me get my manager to help us with that." 

We are helping this company stay lean and mean and NEVER miss a sales call.  Could your company benefit from a service like this?

February 1, 2010:  Intelligent Office of Alexandria, VA, ( will host the new Alexandria Chamber of Commerce Internet Engagement Group on February 2.  To mark the occasion, we have launched our new blog with this posting. 

Intelligent Office (IO) is a franchise operation offering professional office and meeting space, back office services like Remote Receptionist Services, and "Business Identity" packages, so that small businesses can have the benefits of a professional business address, mail services, etc.  We help small companies enhance their presentation and professionalism and thereby gain credibility with their clients and prospects.  Our clients include attorneys, government contractors, consultants, medical professionals, moving companies, cleaning companies, and more. 

Our blog will focus on issues relevant to small business, particularly those with a focus on creating back-office efficiencies and a professional image. 

If you happen to catch this in time, please join us for the kickoff meeting of the new Chamber group tomorrow morning.  If not, we hope to hear from you in the future.

Picture of Franchise Manager
Matt Whitaker
Owner, Alexandria
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