Most small businesses start out in the home garage, basement or spare bedroom. It’s iconic for startups. Sometimes it’s because the business is a part-time side venture that doesn’t warrant a separate facility. But often it because the entrepreneur simply can’t afford the additional cost.
Fair enough. But at some point it becomes necessary to move out to your own place. Sometimes the question of when to do that is obvious, but home businesses can overstay their welcome. Here are some signs that it’s time to make the leap.
Building product in front of the TV isn’t as much fun anymore – Manufacturing or retail businesses that make or store inventory often get started in a remote part of the house like the garage or basement. But as the business grows, inventory can overwhelm your living space. If parts or product are strewn around the house, its likely time to reassess. The key is to consult others living in the home. You may not mind the extra clutter, but likely they do, and may be too supportive to complain. If that’s the case, find a path to independent space. Like a grown child who enjoys their mom making dinners and doing their laundry, it can be difficult to move out, but at some point it’s “time to launch”.
The barking dog is sending the wrong signal to your prospects - We have all been there. An important and serious phone conversation is suddenly interrupted by a dog who starts barking loudly, maybe triggered by someone at the front door. Or the young child who needs to talk to mommy no matter what she is doing right now. Business people are usually forgiving, but a point can come where the lack of professional image is hurting your brand. Eventually you may need to portray to your customers, prospects, employees or partners that you are building a serious business. An attractive “storefront” or workspace can make a difference. For instance, there is a reason most real estate professionals drive fancy cars.
You need to get out of your pajamas – Yes, if you are on a conference call others can only see your head and shoulders. And working from home can save some dough on wardrobe costs. You can even jump right into work without worrying about shaving or fixing your makeup and hair. After all you don’t have a band of co-workers to impress. But like the previous point, at some juncture you need to consider your brand.
You can’t get work (or family) out of your head - For some people, mixing home and office is like keeping the tinder and the matches together in the same place. Doable but difficult. You may find it tough to separate yourself from your work when your office is just a few steps away. There's always the lure of unfinished business tasks during your downtime. Unable to escape for some mental rest and relaxation, you could end up burned out and overwhelmed. Conversely if you can't block out an overgrown lawn or piles of laundry from your mind, you may find working at home a not-so-productive work environment. Separation has the benefit of being more able to focus on work when you are in the office and on the family when you are at home.
Working alone can be lonely – Working from home generally doesn't provide as many opportunities for social interaction as working at an office. If you thrive on ambient noise and conversations throughout the day, you may feel lonely in a home office.
Working from home has lots of benefits: less cost for everything from office space to wardrobe and food and beverage spending, a more flexible work schedule (such as working evenings and weekends or when the kids are asleep), and less commuting time. It can even have a tax benefit. Depending on your business and legal structure, you may be able to report a portion of your electric bill, heating expenses, etc. as an income tax deduction.
If you have to work from home, try very hard to create a private space reserved for doing your work where the kids, the dog, and household chores won't hijack your attention. You also may need to set boundaries for friends and family who might believe you can drop what you’re doing to interact in the middle of the day. In addition, setting up a schedule for your work can help you draw the line between “home” and “business” so you stay on task and don’t neglect your personal life.
But as the business grows up, remember that we all need to move out sometime.
For more than 50 years, SCORE has helped more than 11 million aspiring entrepreneurs and small business owners through mentoring and business workshops. More than 11,000 volunteer business mentors in more than 300 chapters serve their communities.
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