By Kathy Kolbe and Amy Brusky

When I started my home business over forty years ago, I tried to keep my educational materials from taking over the family room. I hid rolling bookcases of inventory behind folding doors at the end of each work day, and carried equipment to an outdoor shed.

Making a point of having few signs of my real work in my only workplace was a symptom of a problem many home business leaders face: trying to keep the company from disrupting the family.

Home businesses are often born out of a passion to accomplish personal goals. Whether it is to make a product that improves the world, or to make financial ends meet, it’s a very personal, hands-on effort.

We are wired to operate according to patterns that the ancient philosophers pondered, and that law enforcement refers to as a person’s MO (modus operandi). MOs are determined by instinct-based needs, and driven by the conative or action-orientations of our brains.

When you are free to work according to your MO, you thrive. When you have to work against your grain, you stifle your potential.

Many people start home businesses thinking it will give them the freedom to do things their own way. When realities sink in, they often find they have been compromising far more than they realized.

Being housed in the home inevitably turns the business into a family concern. Yet, even with a separate entrance and sticking to regular working hours, it is often incongruent with family life. It is tough to manage the business and the family members’ needs and protect your freedom to be yourself.

Some of us create best in the midst of clutter. Our particular MO makes us energized by color, movement, and the  need to get our hands on a variety of stuff. What we have to tuck away in file cabinets and boxes might as well have been sent to China. What we can’t see and touch is not accessible to our minds.

Another MO needs order, stability and a quiet place to retreat. That MO can include the inclination to set priorities, but only check off the top three. Or to work all the way through the list before being able to relax.

Answer these questions to discover whether your home business is allowing you to thrive:

  1. Do you spend most of your time doing what you do best?
  2. Can you avoid doing things in ways that cause you stress?
  3. Do you decide how you will begin a work project?
  4. Are you able to do nothing – when nothing works?
  5. Do you feel you have to justify your actions?
  6. Can you set your own hours and rearrange your schedule?
  7. Can you design how you use your work space?

Few people can answer 100% yes to any of these questions. Thriving requires 50% positive responses for most of them.  For instance, you benefit from team synergy when  others initiate solutions; but there are projects that allow you to start off using your own methods.

No matter what boundaries are drawn, it is impossible for a home business not to impact every one living in the home. That means that there are a lot of differing MOs to be considered. Since they are not genetic, there are diverse needs within most families.

Home businesses work best when everyone living in the home supports it being there.

Lack of consideration for the MOs of any of the players can cause stress.

Don’t tell me to get my stuff out of your way,” a husband said when his wife complained about the difficulty of getting the house ready for company entertaining. “We wouldn’t be able to afford the food we eat,” he said, “if it weren’t for the business profits.”

Yes, she knew that. But it would have been much better to say, “Everyone knows that I’m doing the work I love to do, and you’re doing the work that helps me do it. How can your role be more suited to what you need to be doing?”

The secret: Acknowledge the contributions and sacrifices made by everyone who is impacted by the business being in the home.

The consequence of not having such guidelines can be the sadness of being told later, “It was never a question of whether I wanted to be in the businsess. I was forced to live in the middle of it. As a kid I felt like an indentured slave.” 

Avoiding guilt requires knowing others’ MOs, and adjusting to them.

You could put a sign in the kitchen that reads: “Help out or Get out.” Or, you could ask yourself (when you become cranky) which of the above questions you can’t answer affirmatively.  Then, you can fix it and thrive.

About the Authors

KK photo(2)Kathy Kolbe is the global leader in discovering and accessing the power of human instincts. She has done the brain research to prove the relevance of her Kolbe Theory of Conation to individual and organizational success. She is Chairman and Chief Creative Officer of Kolbe Corp. and co-author of BUSINESS IS BUSINESS: Reality Checks For Family Owned Companies.

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Amy Bruske is the president of Kolbe Corp and leads seminars for business leaders throughout the world. She was recently named Business Owner of the Year by the Phoenix chapter of the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO). Bruske is co-author of BUSINESS IS BUSINESS: Reality Checks For Family Owned Companies.

For more information visit

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