Archive for the 'Home-based business' Category

Can you make teleworking work for you?

Here’s a scenario that every small business owner fears: A key employee resigns because he or she cannot continue to come to your place of business to work for reasons out of their control, such as an illness or a family issue. Is there another answer besides accepting the resignation?

With the exciting recruiting resources available today, you might discover that the best prospect for a job opening you have lives in another state, or even another country. What if they don’t want to move? What’s your next move?

One word answers both questions: Teleworking.

New technology and evolving management paradigms make stories like these have happy and productive endings through teleworking.

A marker of the 21st century workplace, teleworking is where an employee works off-site full or part-time (aka tele-commuting), most often from home. But in order for such an arrangement to be successful, two things must happen:

First the easy part: You must have the necessary technology and tools, which you will have to provide your teleworker.

  • Computer capability and Internet connection are the minimum.
  • Your teleworker will need the right set up, like office furniture, etc., to make their off-site working environment as productive as possible. And it’s not unreasonable to ask to see how the space is organized.

Now the hard part: Can you handle such a management relationship? Consider these four ground rules to execute a teleworking relationship.

  • Find out if, and what work can realistically be done off-site.
  • Determine how to coordinate all work, off or on-site.
  • Establish expectations for scheduled communication, plus production, execution and delivery of work.
  • Talk with other employees about why this employee is being allowed to work remotely, so they can support the new plan. If handled properly, you’ll get major points for being such a cool, 21st century manager.

Execute your teleworking plan with the expectation that adjustments will almost certainly have to be made. So schedule periodic reviews with your teleworker to discuss how things are going.

By the way, if you’re still having trouble imagining having an employee who’s not sitting under your roof, add up how many hours in-house employees work and communicate without actually seeing each other. I’ll bet that number will surprise you.

It might make you feel better knowing that the teleworking model is now being implemented by thousands of small businesses like yours every day.

Write this on a rock … Teleworking can work. Can you make it work for you?

You say your business plan every day

Do you have a business plan? What? In your head? How’s that working for you?

Don’t know how to get one started? Well consider this conversation that happens many times, every day, between business owners just like you and the people they meet.

Friend: “Hi Joe. Heard you started a business. What’re you doing?”

Owner: “Oh, hi, Sue. Yeah, John and I are selling square widgets to round widget distributors.”

Friend: “What? How’re you going to do that?”

Owner: “We discovered that no one has thought to offer square widgets to these guys. Our research found that round widget companies not only need square widgets sometimes, but they’ll pay a premium for them.”

Friend: “I thought you couldn’t get new square widgets anymore?”

Owner: “Well, we discovered that round widget companies don’t need new square widgets, so we’re buying seconds, cleaning them up, repackaging and delivering them to those customers.”

Friend: “Sounds like you’ve found a niche. How many can you sell in a year?”

Owner: “We’ve identified the need for 15,000 this year, and with the trend in the market, we think we can double that within three years. Gotta go. See ya later.”

Let’s look at what just happened. Without realizing it, Joe essentially said his business plan to Sue. In two minutes Joe identified the business, management team, industry, market opportunity, customer profile, vendor profile, pricing strategy, market research results and, finally, growth plans. All that’s left is to add a few other elements, write the narrative and project the numbers.

Since you’re probably having similar conversations that means you’re saying your business plan, probably without realizing it, every day. But is that a useful form?

There are a bazillion reasons to put your plan on paper, but we only have room for the three most likely:

  • To get a bank loan
  • To attract investors
  • Because it’s an essential management tool

So now that I’ve convinced you how important this management tool is, when you do yours, don’t make these mistakes:

  • Don’t wait until you need a business plan to start one.
  • Don’t wait until you have time.
  • Don’t make it harder than it has to be.

The words of a conversation like the one above are the seeds from which you can grow your business plan. So just start writing what you already know, like Joe said.

A written business plan will help you achieve new levels of management professionalism and success. Here’s a good place to see something less than a bazillion sample plans without any commercials: www.bplans.com.

Write this on a rock … You already say your business plan every day. Now write it down.

Dispelling the myths of ownership

As the economy recovers, you’re likely to meet a starry-eyed human babbling on about becoming a business owner.

Probing for the object of this person’s entrepreneurial infatuation will precipitate the what, where, how and when questions and, finally, the most important question: Why do you want to own a business? Answers to this last question, unfortunately, often produce what I call, “The Myths of Small Business Ownership.” Here are four:

Myth 1: When I’m an owner, I’ll be my own boss.
That’s right; you won’t have an employer telling you what to do. But you’ll trade that one boss for many others: customers, landlords, bankers, the IRS, regulators, even employees.

Modern management is less “bossing” and more leading, managing and partnering. In a small business, everyone must wear several hats and the dominator management model doesn’t work well in this modern multi-tasking environment.

Myth 2: When I own my own business I won’t have to work as hard as I do now.
This is actually true, you will work much harder. Ramona Arnett, CEO of Ramona Enterprises, said it best: “Owning a business means working 80 hours a week so you can avoid working 40 hours for someone else.”

The irony is you will actually want to work harder when you understand that everything in your business belongs to you. Even the irritating, frustrating and frightening challenges will take on a new perspective when you realize that you also own the opportunities you turn them into. You’ll turn the lights on in the morning and off in the evening not because you want to work more, but because you won’t want to miss any part of your entrepreneurial dream coming true.

Myth 3: When I own my own business I can take a day off whenever I want.
Well, maybe. However, you may find that your business has such a compelling attraction that you won’t want to take off. Indeed, it’s more likely that whatever interests you had as an employee will become jealous of your business.

Myth 4: When I own my own business, I’ll make a lot of money.
If the only reason you want to own a business is to get rich, you probably won’t be a happy owner. It’s true ¬ you actually could get rich. But it’s more likely that you’ll just make a living.

Being a successful business owner first means loving what you do. Pursuing wealth should be secondary and, ironically, is actually more likely to happen when in this subordinate role.

Consider teleworking

What do you do when a key employee tells you that, due to circumstances beyond their control, he or she is now required to stay at home at least part of the work week? If you don’t want to lose a valuable team member, the 21st century answer to this management challenge is teleworking.

Teleworking - where an employee works full or part-time off-site, perhaps from home - is becoming much more prevalent in the marketplace. In truth, the need to be able to work off-site isn’t new, but only in the past few years have the technological tools been available to make teleworking a viable management option. Here are some thoughts on how to establish and execute a teleworking relationship:

The first step is to determine, with the prospective teleworking employee, how much work can realistically be done off-site. Then determine how the off-site and on-site schedule would be coordinated.  Anticipate the need to make adjustments, so schedule a periodic review with your teleworker, to discuss progress and modifications.

Next step - the tools. Get your teleworker a notebook computer (which will allow work to be taken back and forth) and pay for a broadband Internet connection at their home.

Finally, talk with your other employees about why this step is being taken so they can support the new plan. If handled properly, I predict you’ll get major points for being such a cool, 21st century manager.

If you have trouble imagining having an employee who’s not under your roof, here’s how to get over it: think about how many hours a week your key employees are in your building without you actually seeing them. I’ll bet that number will surprise you.

Recently on my radio program, The Small Business Advocate Show, I talked with TJ DiCaprio, Microsoft’s Senior Director of U.S. Small and Mid-Sized Business Marketing, about the results of a recent study on technology and teleworking. I also recently interviewed long-time Brain Trust Member, Jeff Zbar, on teleworking as part of a business interruption strategy. Take a few minutes to listen to each of these discussions, and, as always, leave your comments or experiences.

Why you should have an employee teleworking strategy with TJ DiCaprio

Making your business ready for an interruption with Jeff Zbar

How small businesses produce sales by producing words

For a dozen years, I’ve been telling small business owners that one of the keys to their future success is the ability to create content to post online, which means they, or someone they hire, has to be able to write.  Alas, not nearly enough small business owners have heeded this advice.

Now, in this age of social media, my admonition on this topic are no longer recommendations, they’re imperitives.  If you can’t write about what you do, how you do it and about your customers’ experiences with your company, you’re going to be less competitive as each year goes by.

Recently, I talked about this on my radio program, The Small Business Advocate show, with a long-time member of my Brain Trust, Jeff Zbar. Jeff and I talked about innovations like local search, driven by words you post your businesses online platforms, are a key to success for even the smallest of small businesses.

As the Chief Home Officer, Jeff is a newspaper and online columnist, corporate copywriter, author of several books and home business and small business expert. Take a few minutes to listen to this interview and, as always, leave your thoughts. Listen Live! Download, Too!

The accidental small business owner: “Hobbypreneur”

A carpenter by profession, William Ackerman, was also a pretty good guitarist.  So much so, that he was in demand by his friends to bring his guitar and entertain at to their gatherings, which he did.  Soon, Will’s music, including his original songs, was in so much demand that he had to start recording his compositions on a cassette (yes, this was in the 1970s) and send them to his friends to play when he couldn’t be there in person.

As his guitar/songwriting hobby started to get out of hand, it occurred to him that this demand could justify more of his attention, and thus, Wyndham Hill publishing was founded from Will Ackerman’s hobby, to produce and sell Will’s music as well as other artists, most notably, George Winston. At one point, Wyndham Hill was the only record label that customers bought because of the quality and genre of the product, regardless of the artist.

Will Ackerman’s story is just one of a legion of other accidental small business owners that have recently become known as “hobbypreneurs.” Steve King, a partner at Emergent Research, joined me recently on my radio program, The Small Business Advocate Show, to talk about what he learned about hobbypreneurs when he conducted Intuit’s New Future of Small Business Report: Like Will Ackerman, many small businesses are started by people who turned their hobby, often accidentally, into a going business concern.

Take a few minutes to listen to what Steve and I talk about and leave your own experiences as a hobbypreneur. Listen Live! Download, Too!




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