You will always remember your first love, your first home, and your first office.
Most entrepreneurs start their businesses from home working on them in the evening hours and on weekends while holding down a day job. If this is your story, having an income you can rely on while making your business plans is a great stress reliever.
In this common scenario, you certainly have more flexibility in terms of when and how you launch your products and services. And there is less risk should you have made any errors in evaluating your market, potential customer base and competition. What you’ll have less of is the time and energy to work on your business. All the more reason to make every minute count. You may also experience a reluctance to let go of your safety net should fear of change or the unknown cast a shadow on your entrepreneurial dreams.
If you’re working on your business full time and have no other source of income or a large nest egg to fall back on, you’ll be highly motivated to get revenue-producing products and services into the market out of sheer necessity. You can expect to experience certain levels of stress and anxiety until you find out whether or not your ideas are going to produce for you in the way that you want and need them to.
In both these cases, you’ll be tempted to skip operational planning in favour of getting some fast action going, letting fate show you the way. Please, don’t! This is the surest path to business failure.
So, if you can not afford to lose the time and money you’ll be investing in your business, you’ll need to spend some of your energy planning how you will operate in the start up years and beyond.
Your top three considerations
When you’re starting out in your business you need to keep three things in mind:
(1) how you want to live
(2) how you plan to grow and
(3) what you can afford.
Running a company of your own means that, for at least a couple of years (and possibly more), your personal life is your business life. Setting up an office at home does help with minimizing expenses but, unless you are extremely well disciplined, it also means more mess and blurs the lines of life’s demands.
Locating your office in a place in your home where you can shut the door and not have to look at all those papers calling you 24/7 is important to your mental well being. Your bedroom is the worst place of all to set up shop because the energy of the business, positive or negative, and the equipment you use to run it, will interfere with your sleep and ultimately your health. It’s not good for your personal and sexual relationship(s) either.
Another consideration is how many people who work with you can do so comfortably in your home? You’ll need to know how quickly you are likely to want to involve others in your business so you can plan having space to work accordingly. If you live in a small space, you’ll need to know your next step and timing office-wise so you can budget appropriately. For most new business owners, this means planning for office-sharing or space-leasing in the future.
If you don’t have a lot of clients coming to you, you won’t need a posh space so keep your search focused on key requirements such as convenient access and room to grow. There are plenty of business owners with extra office space they’d love to rent out to help cut their own costs. Many are furnished. A shared office space arrangement with another established entrepreneur might work well for you if you don’t want to set up a home office but don’t want to take on a lease either.
And if you have an online business, you may only need additional facilities from time-to-time and a really good business address. Space leasing, from companies like Execusuite, is an affordable option that presents a far more professional and credible image than merely separating life from work with a post office box number.
Two pitfalls to avoid
Regardless of whether you decide to operate from home or from some other location, learning about zoning laws and licenses is an absolute must. If you launch a home-based business in an area that doesn’t allow them or rent space that isn’t zoned for the type of business you are running, you can expect (at some point) to incur financial losses in fines and relocation costs.
Research this thoroughly before you set up shop. Check with your municipality so you’ll know for a fact what is and isn’t allowed. And while you’re at your city or town hall, take the time to find out about any business licenses or permits you’ll need to operate within the law. Not knowing the law is never an acceptable defense and each municipality has its own rules.
If you’re not going to start up from home and have found what you think is the perfect location for your office, you can expect to be asked to sign a lease. Negotiate this so that you allow as little personal liability as possible in terms of guarantees. Before signing the lease, have your attorney review it. And before moving into the space, take plenty of pictures of the condition it is in prior to your moving in. When vacating, take plenty of pictures of how you left it to protect yourself in the event of questions about damages done to the property while you were a tenant.
Desk vs chair vs tech toys
It’s never wise to blow your start up capital on fancy office furnishings. And there’s no need to do that when great finds can be had from Craigslist, the classifieds and local auction companies liquidating furniture from businesses that are downsizing, relocating or closing. Hotel liquidators are another great source to look into.
You deserve and should have a beautiful space to work in; you don’t want to go bankrupt in your first year because you spent too much on mahogany and not enough on marketing.
In terms of equipment, the reliability of your computer is critical but just about everything else is optional – except perhaps for the comfort of the chair you’ll be sitting in to work. You will be in that chair for long hours at a time in the early years. Your back will thank you for choosing a chair well. In fact, you should spend most of your office furniture budget on the right chair. Get a folding table from Costco to use for a desk to make up the difference if necessary. They work every bit as well as a fancy desk.
Hang that shingle proudly
Remember that signage is important to your business success too so use it effectively to promote your business even if it’s home-based. Signage includes your company logo, phone number, web site and tagline – whether or not you use it on an actual physical sign. Put a great deal of thought into your business cards too — you’ll be using them strategically. Don’t leave a bad impression when you could be making a good one that rises above the rest.
And stop rolling your eyeballs at the idea of having business cards. They’ve come a long way. The evidence is here. There are plenty of other inspirational sites out there if you don’t see anything that moves you here. Better to have no card than to have a poorly designed and cheaply made one.
Today’s version of signage would also be your About pages, your email and forum signatures, and your social media profiles. Give them all their due respect.
You can use non-traditional ways to promote your web site too – for example www.smartstartcoach.com used to be promoted everywhere I went in tasteful white vinyl lettering that ran across the trunk of my car where it could easily be read by those with whom I was sharing the road. Unfortunately, the brain injury and other complications resulting from the accident have left me unable to drive. Guess I’ll need to do something else now. It’ll be fun thinking about other ways to accomplish the same objective. I’m exploring a few ideas already.
How are you setting up for your first year of operation?
More next time. Until then, remember to LOVE YOUR WORK, whatever it may be.
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