The Home Office Dilemma: Not Being Taken Seriously

by Ted Tate

I don’t get any respect!” A famous comic made this theme almost
household words, yet on a serious note it often applies to the many
thousands of men and women who have chosen to operate a business
from their home! Even the publisher of Home BusinessÆ Magazine
shared an uncomfortable experience with me not too long ago.

He was at a party when an old friend asked how his magazine was
doing. The publisher told him Home BusinessÆ Magazine is an
established national and international publication circulated
through newsstands and subscriptions. He described how the magazine
is a substantial publishing business and yet many work on it from
their home offices.

To his surprise, his friend responded with a slight sneer, asking
sarcastically, “I guess that’s OK for a part-time effort, how’s your
regular job going?” The publisher bit his tongue not to say what was
racing through his mind, “Since I make a lot more money than you, I
can work full time from my home and give up that ‘day job’.”

What many people don’t know is that home businesses represent a $450
billion dollar economic sector in the American economy.

Home based businesses are becoming more and more popular. Their
advantages are many, such as no day care worries, commuting in heavy
traffic, office politicsÖ in short, no Dilbert-style existence.

Furthermore, many traditional office-based businesses have started a
trend towards decentralizing their operations. Employees perform
work at home, with contact by electronic computer modem to the
office. This permits companies to hire employees who could not work
in a traditional office such as mothers with small children,
handicapped individuals and many people just plain sick and tired of
the rat race.

Many home based business entrepreneurs earn full time incomes with
part time, flexible hours. On top of that, no rush hour madness!

This wasn’t possible just a few years ago. Modern computer
technology has made running a business from home a realistic
consideration. Computers, fax machines, telephone modems, cellular
telephones, voice mail systems, inexpensive copying machines and
several other office electronics have made working from home both
realistic and profitable!

Many in the general public still, however, do not take home-based
businesses seriously. Some, those who work in traditional offices,
also may feel a bit of envy, a little frustrated that they still are
in the nine to five rat race while the home based entrepreneur
enjoys a better way of making a living.

They also may feel being professional is only possible when you work
in a store front or formal office and dress a certain way. Many
people don’t have the ability to separate in their mind the personal
aspect of living in a home with the business aspect of working from
a home. Here are some specific ideas on how to run a home business
and be taken seriously.

ï Make it a point to tell people you have a home business and share
the pride you feel.

ï Run your home business professionally, like any business.

ï Have specific hours you are available to answer your business
phone. There are many people who won’t leave messages on voice mail.

ï Don’t try to do business on the phone with kids screaming or
playing noises in the background.

ï Don’t use a tape answering machine, they scream amateur. Get
connected to professional voice mail or invest in the new answering
machines that sound like voice mail.

ï Have a separate phone for business, always answer professionally
and never let kids answer it. Return calls promptly.

ï Network by joining your chamber of commerce and also by joining
any professional trade associations for your industry. See if you
can form a sub-group for home-based businesses. (You’ll be surprised
at how many there are.)

ï Be sure your business cards, letterheads, brochures and other
printed matter look professional. Many potential clients will judge
you not by where you work from but by the image you project.

ï Dress professionally when you meet people. Casual around the house
is fine but never when you are doing business in person.

ï Have a specific work space or room where you do business from.

ï Invest in a computer if you don’t own one. It doesn’t have to be
the newest, just current and one you can operate.

ï Invest in good accounting software and keep your financial records
up to date so you can easily apply for loans, credit or set up
merchant accounts for taking bank cards. There are several excellent
programs available; Quickbooks by Intuit is by far the most popular
with small businesses.

ï Invest in a fax machine. In day to day business they are

Finally, if you are going to be taken seriously by others, take
yourself seriously.

ï Invest in the basic tools any home office should have in order to
be productive, a computer, laser printer, fax machine, separate
business line and professional telephone answering. I know you can
start up a small business without these, but you immediately place
yourself under a handicap. All of your competitors will have them
and all the advantages that they bring.

ï Be willing to learn new skills. If you have to take a course in
learning to use a computer or in learning to sell or anything else
that will help you succeed. Colleges, universities and high schools
have non-credit night classes. Libraries and book stores are loaded
with great books and tapes. The only thing that holds you back is

ï Establish regular business hours and stick to them. There are all
sorts of distractions working from home, but a professional learns
to stay focused.

ï Never, ever apologize for working from your home! There are
thousands upon thousands of other men and women all over the country
who earn their living working from home. Be proud to be one of them.

Ted Tate is author of: Just Sell It: Selling Skills for Small
Business Owners, John Wiley Publishing, NY in bookstores now. He
also gives sales and business training seminars, workshops and
speeches at conventions, meetings and in house training programs. He
can be contacted at Tate & Associates, P.O. Box 954, Mentor, OH

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