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Home based Basics - Stay Home or Move Out? The "Rules" defined...

by Ronda L. Claire

Kankakee, Ill. (Sunday, Mar. 28, 1999) --


Home-based and happy, Mara had a decent consultant business going. Low overhead, online accounts on which she was well known for chatting, and business increasing by the month.

Mara figured that moving out of her home to a nearby office complex could only increase visibility and therefore her sales. She was expanding her services so she expected the increase in sales could take care of some of the higher overhead.

Mara rented two adjacent offices, one for herself the second for an employee or two and client meetings as well as storage of additional supplies. But the move turned out to be a little more than she had planned for. She needed a second computer, more paper, files, diskettes and other supplies, four telephone lines - two voice, one modem and one fax - and a host of other items.

Installation fees, payroll taxes, insurance coverage no longer a rider to her homeowners' policy, increased limits, rent due on time each month threw Mara into a near panic. Sales did not increase as planned although she networked to exhaustion.

Within a year she renegotiated the lease, dropped one office, let her employees go and hired on an Independent Contractor status.

Mara now knows privately that she was not ready to leave home. She realizes that more research and healthier funding would have been more than a plus. Even though sales do not show it, Mara does have a presence in her community. To go back home now could stain her image in the eyes of current clients and put prospects off. To save face, Mara decided to stay in her office location. However, the future of her business, without a dramatic increase in sales, is very cloudy.


Tom and Patrick, brothers and best friends. All the while they were growing up they insisted they would work together. Graduating from high school one year apart and going to college together, the brothers decided to fulfill their dream: they would start a business. Catering was a service that people needed. The boys were wonderful cooks and Pat was the business-minded one.

Raised in an affluent neighborhood by parents who were self employed and well connected, the one problem the boys would avoid was lack of funding.

The business started up - flyers were distributed, college friends were notified, yellow pages ads were purchased and the business flew. Employees were hired and given hours and hours of work, customer referrals were high and the boys were on top of the local business scene.

Within five months, however, things began to go sour - clients angry with one brother would have to be handled by the other, mistakes were frequent, pagers messages went unanswered, clients threatened lawsuits for breach of contract, bad checks were written for supplies and complaints of working a 90 hour week were numerous. On a day when two fairly good sized parties were scheduled - one during the afternoon and one during the evening, Patrick could not be found. He later admitted to being at a baseball game "because I just didn't want to miss one again!"

Although still in business in a storefront location, the brothers have set a "get out" date - the day they hope to celebrate 10 years in business ... then close. Time will tell if they make it.

RULE # 3: COMMIT YOURSELF...Sometimes after choosing self- employment, home-based or not, we wonder if we should commit ourselves (and not only to our business :) Commitment, people skills, perseverance and faith in yourself, your idea and your venture once the doors open.

A dear friend, a local restaurant owner, who has been a moral support to my business projects once told me of his thoughts not long after purchasing the place. "I stood at the alley door one day and watched the rain coming down," he said, "and I thought 'what did I get myself into?'"

Ten successful years in this area and since moving back to his hometown another four good years in a new restaurant.

Working 90 hours a week, no vacations and few days off are part of the stuff a successful business is made of.

Being committed to your business has to come first, sometimes before the family, and most usually before anything else. You will then be on a path which can lead you to success!

Not every business started at home and making the move to a storefront has the problems described above. But many things must be taken into consideration:

  1. rent/lease;
  2. insurance - limits of coverage and frequency of payment;
  3. location location location: how much traffic passes by the store you want?
  4. how much traffic can safely pull off the busy street and into and out of your shop?
  5. do you have the back up funding or credit to meet monthly expenses during a slow month?
  6. and if you do, how many slow months can you (or are you willing to) afford?
  7. how many phone lines will you need?
  8. will an answering machine be adequate, or is voice mail necessary? or an answering service to handle all incoming calls?
  9. will you need a downtown location or can you be a few blocks away?
  10. how far do you need to be from the post office or courthouse?
  11. if you are in a building, is there a clause in the lease regarding a competitor and how far away s/he must be, if 'allowed' at all?
  12. if you are in a storefront, what happens if your main competitor moves in across the street?
  13. how convenient is parking? will you allow your employees to park nearby? ie: in front? yes? how about your customers and prospects?
  14. are you ADA (Americans w/Disabilities) compliant? do you have to be? how much for the improvements and who is responsible, you or the building owner?
  15. what zoning permits will you need now that you are no longer home-based? how much are they and how often reviewed and renewed?
  16. is there a limit on employees? are you even allowed employees? can a special use permit be obtained?

Whew! Lots of questions, but most can be answered through research and that's even easy because you can telephone, e-mail or fax many offices. Or look for city websites and possibly find the answers there. A great place to begin with telephoning is the Mayor's Office. Find out who your Alderman (I don't play much with the language, but I still prefer Ward Representative, especially when a female is involved) is and give him or her a call. City Hall will be (or should be) especially happy to direct you to the right path for business locations and other information.

About The Author

Ronda L. Claire, is owner of Starlight Creations, Kankakee, Illinois. Ronda has been a home-based business owner since 1994, and established and published a newsletter for home-based (and otherwise) self-employed people since 1998. She has loved to write since childhood and has worked as a print reporter and correspondent for weekly and daily newspapers. Ronda loves being home-based in business and sharing her experiences with others who are or wish to be for their education and encouragement.

Tags: Home Office



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