Wednesday, August 22, 2007/
Working from home is a serious business, so you may need to make some changes to the way you approach other SMEs.
Working from home is a serious business
I was not surprised by the reaction to an earlier blog by one of my business associates who suggested that work from home was more of a hobby than real work. Such attitudes should not be regarded so much as arrogance as ignorance.
What surprised me was the follow-on proposition that people who work from home were unlikely to make serious business decisions and were not really significant business-to-business prospects.
Research undertaken by Morgan Research shows that people working from home are three times as likely as the rest of the population to have made a significant business decision than the general population and to have made decisions about hiring people and recruiting staff to support their business interests.
These workers were also three times as likely to have purchased office equipment, a couple of cars for the business and undertaken market research to expand their business.
It would seem that the big end of town is more comfortable with reaching out to established businesses than extending their service offers outside of the established business territory. This places a heavy emphasis on personal search-and-struggle to get a home-based business up and running.
Managing the home team can be the hardest part of getting going. Not only is there a heap to learn about establishing a new home business, but also it involves a constant effort to open business and trade accounts with other businesses that want more than the average reassurance about lines of credit, terms of trade and operating conditions.
This can lead to a lot of stress and repercussions in the home during the transition from previous employment in the wage slave business to the self-employed status of the home-based worker, who has to balance longer term business investment decisions against the reality of the maintenance of cash flow.
The saying goes that the only person who likes change is a wet baby. Sound business planning is essential to work out what is necessary and what would just be nice to have now. This is the only way to make sure that the process will not be detrimental, but lead to positive changes in the quality and diversity of the new patterns of home life.
A lot of people tend to focus on their newfound freedom without realising that there is no one around to set priorities, assist in making choices or taking control of the customers while you are out canvassing for the next job. Without a small panel of mentors and business advisers, there is the risk that the sales rep who is flogging her pet solution or commission project gains acceptance as an “independent” source of business wisdom.
The key consideration is to set up your own home business team on board the train before it leaves the station. It is really important to make sure that family and friends are involved in the process and have a chance to express their views and opinions and express their feelings about the new developments. This builds understanding of the reasons that you must defer expenditure, work out where you are going and make a step-by-step plan for the growth of the enterprise.
This is the first key to managing the transition from a start-up operation to a small home-based business. This is no time to be laissez faire about the outcome – you can’t let it happen without planning each and every major financial decision and gaining an understanding of how to avoid unforeseen risks and negative consequences of operating from home.
It’s great when the home team is on your side. Encouragement at just the right time can make the emotional difference between being discouraged from continuing and making that extra effort to see it through. It’s not just your immediate family (spouse/ partner, kids) but also your extended family (in-laws, your parents, brothers and sisters, and friends, any one who cares about you and on whom the change will affect).
Talk it through. Start with your immediate family and the people who live with you in the house. You may need your spouse’s/ partner’s agreement to pay the household bills while you get going. But he/she needs to understand what will be different with you doing this new venture.
Your friends and family, love ‘em as much as you do, will more than likely have a view of you and a perception of you that they are happier to maintain, and if you start doing things differently, they may not like the changing perception or the changing you.
Putting it another way, if people see you as dependable, reliable and a bit of a doormat, and suddenly you branch out into the risky, entrepreneurial world of setting up your own business or suddenly working from home, they may think you’ve lost the plot and should be searching for your marbles, because you’ve obviously lost them too.
The important thing is to let everyone have a chance to find out what you are up to, so they can feel comfortable with the change. You never know, relatives can be a good source of seed funding if you need it or are having cash flow difficulties – but if you do go that path, make sure it’s with a written loan agreement, or equity deal so that every one is treated fairly.
Getting your partner on board can make or break the home-based venture in the same way that partnerships can break down in any business over conflicts about future directions. Having a supportive environment can literally make or break your optimism and drive to see it through.
Dr Jane Shelton not only runs a business from home but is doing business research into people working from home. She is managing director of Marshall Place Associates, Melbourne’s independent think tank, and CEO (honourary) for ‘Life. Be in it.’ International. Shelton has a Doctorate in Business Administration at the Australian Graduate School of Entrepreneurship (AGSE) at Swinburne University of Technology after a Master of Arts in Public Policy at Melbourne University and a Bachelor of Business in banking and finance at Monash University.
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Lisa Gorman writes: Hi Jane. Enjoyed your article… I’ve been based from home for 16 years now… don’t think I could ever go back to a big corporate office, although I visit them to meet with clients from time to time. Just love looking out on my Japanese cherry blossoms & mountains here in Wentworth Falls.