The Virtues of the Virtual Office

For some companies, the way the Internet has changed business means saying goodbye to the traditional office.

Chris Sugai doesn't care when his employees get their work done. In fact, he doesn't care if they come to the office at all.

"I really believe you hire people, you trust them, and you just say look, this is the amount of work you have to get done. Get it done," said Chris Sugai, president of Niner Bikes.

In 2004, Sugai started Torrance-based Niner Bikes, a high-end mountain bike company running in a virtual office system.

Now there are 24 employees working out of six different locations.

With California's higher cost of living, he found the Golden State isn't always so alluring.

"Hiring the right people means that if the best person for the job is in South Carolina, then, hey, you know what, somehow you figure out how to make that person in South Carolina work for your company without them moving," Sugai said.

So from Torrance to Taiwan, the staff of Niner Bikes keeps in touch primarily via Skype, and if their locations were ever compromised, not to worry.

"We purchased a Cloud computing software that basically runs our entire operation," Sugai said. "We could run to the nearest supply store, pick up five laptops, go to a hotel lobby and we could be up and running in about half an hour without any loss of data or information."

And as proof that the virtual office works, Niner Bikes is growing at about 100 percent a year, pulling in more than $10 million last year.

It even landed on Forbes 2011 list of America's most promising companies.

But there are downsides to having a virtual office.

"Trying to keep that threat of commonality through the entire staff is difficult," Sugai said.

And there are several new hires who have yet to physically meet the folks they work with every day.

Yet there's one employee who just can't seem to get the hang of telecommuting.

"My own personality type makes it difficult for me to work from home," Sugai said. "I get easily distracted."

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