EAST MANATEE -- Bernie Croghan, whose ComCenters have provided office space and staff services for small businesses and those working from home for more than a decade, is adding a ComTank and Co-work Center for 2014.
"Our virtual office clients are increasing regularly without us having to go out and find them. An increasing number of small businesses have found they don't need an office to be successful. We have taken note," Croghan said Friday.
ComTank, short for ComCenter Community Think Tank, will offer participants a series of business forums led by experts, as well as an opportunity to network, and to share knowledge and ideas. That can be valuable for someone leading a relatively solitary existence working from home, Croghan believes. No selling will be allowed at ComTank.
ComTank rolls out with a launch party 5 p.m. Tuesday at ComCenter 70, 6150 State Road 70 E.
ComTank returns 7:30-9 a.m. each Tuesday afterward. On Jan. 23, Eric Gilbert will present a program titled "Plan Your Market Success" on Jan. 23. Richard Randolph presents "Business Model Canvas Introduction" on Jan. 30. And Feb. 6, Sara Hand will discuss "Project - Process - Product." Weekly programs have been mapped out through May 1.
Every fourth week could feature a special speaker outside of the three-person rotation, Croghan said.
In conjunction with the debut of ComTank, ComCenter is also introducing its Co-work Center.
James Munch, virtual services manager, says the Co-Work Center will offer clients who work, a place to sit down and go through their mail, use tables wired and powered for the internet, and build relationships with others who might be in the room,
"We want clients to be able to take away ideas. You get together with others who may not think the way you do, and you may come away with a life-changing idea," Munch said.
Croghan describes the new services as value added and free to his clients. For others who may wish to become clients, a number of plans are available starting at $50 a month, graduated up to $200 a month.
"We have been practicing this all fall. We invented it, practiced it, and now we're going forward," Croghan said.
Jennifer Golden, the virtual assistant manager, said the idea is to provide small businesses with "more help, not more staff."
ComCenter is also adding new technology. One of the new capabilities could provide clients with a second line on their smartphones. A caller would be greeted by a live operator on the ComCenter staff, who would transfer the call to the business person, said Zelda Layhew, ComCenter manager.
By the type of ring on their cell phone, the client would know whether they were receiving a business or personal call.
Technology available at ComCenter would also allow faxes or voicemails to go automatically to the client's smart phone, Layhew said.
"You can reserve online a room at ComCenter, come in early to prepare, check in with the bookkeeper, dispatch your mail and then get on with your day," Croghan said. "Then once a week you come in for networking and to meet new prospects. That's how we make their week more productive."
ComCenter can also make the sessions available by videoconference to its Lakewood Ranch facility at 9040 Town Center Parkway.
For more information, call 941-782-1234 or visit www.comcenters.net.
James A. Jones Jr., East Manatee reporter, can be contacted at 941-745-7053 or on Twitter @jajones1.