Utilizing an Entire Community as an Office
Home may be where the heart is, but if you really want to expand the impact of a home-based business – it’s time to get out in the community. We live in an interconnected world that brings us closer to our friends, family, and clients than ever before. Not only are they all only as far away as your phone – but on a variety of platforms and means of communication, from Facebook to LinkedIn to text message to the old fashioned art form of verbal communication. This convenience makes remaining inside of your bubble too easy.
However, the key to making a home-based business work is to take it outside of the home. When I first launched Welcomemat Services, I thought of my home-based business as extending to my car, a variety of community spots where I could work, and my go-to local client meeting places. We continue to instill the networking mindset in our franchise owners during training, as we’ve been fortunate to grow to a system of more than 50 local owners.
So, if you are just starting out as a business owner or have an established and successful home-based business, it’s important to keep these “hubs” in mind:
- Home Sweet Home – This is where it all begins and ends. It’s important to differentiate between “home” and “business” if both parts of your life share the same real estate. Maintaining work/life balance and having freedom to work your own schedule is a driving factor of a home-based business, but it’s easy for those areas to blur together. Establish a set schedule for when you are “work you” and when you are “home you”. Obviously there will be a need for flexibility, but the closer you stick to those goals – and communicate this with family members – the easier it will be to be productive in your work and attentive in your role as a member of the family.
- The Car: Your Mobile Office – One of the first things we train Welcomemat Services franchisees to do is to treat their car like an extension of the office. Presentation is key, so regular car washes are a must. In addition to the image you present with a clean exterior, an organized and clean interior will also reflect well on you and your business. But that’s just the beginning. I learned early on – after showing up for meetings and searching for a pen, or realizing I was on the last page of a notebook – that there is a “business survival kit” necessary to be prepared and professional. From those early days, we now have a tub that we have separated out into a filing system with folders to keep organized, backups of the tools of the trade (pens, notepads, even tissues and makeup) – really everything you need to make a solid presentation to a potential client. Many times, I would be fumbling to keep my calendar organized while on the phone in the car. We have now set up training based on a very simple strategic process for keeping a clean and updated calendar, even on the go.
- Your Home Away From Home – Sometimes the monotony of working inside of the home can stultify creativity and require a change of scenery. This is when it’s important to have those go to locations to really focus on business. I had a local coffee shop where I knew I could grab my usual corner table and get in the zone, with caffeinated fuel not far away and an environment that lent itself to productivity. I know of other entrepreneurs that would find a “home away from home” at a restaurant where the staff knew their name and usual order, some who enjoyed the library as a peaceful place to work, and even a guy who used to head out to the beach to get some fresh air and let his ideas breathe. It’s always best to have a few options depending on your mood – but the continuity and familiarity will help your brain know that it’s time to get down to business.
- Away Games – Meeting On Their Turf – To really create a community-wide office, go out and make connections. Make time to show commitment to a potential client or business partner by dropping by their place of business. With Welcomemat Services, I know that the key to my success, and the key to success for our franchisees, is to get in front of people and show a genuine commitment to the community. The great thing about becoming “a regular” at the businesses of those with whom you work, is that nearby business owners will take notice. In any business, being available and physically demonstrating your commitment to them will lead to success – and might also lead to additional business from the neighbors and connections of the client or partner. Further implant yourself by offering small gifts. A thank you email is nice, but if you pop by to deliver it in person, along with a small token of gratitude, then you will be more deeply ingrained in their minds as a true partner.