Tag Archive: : home_office

8 Tips for Starting A Business

Seniors start more businesses than people under the age of 30! I know, I was surprised, too. It may surprise you even more that the ones started by seniors have a greater chance of success than those started by the young. These two facts taken together should show you that you are never too old to start your own business, and should also suggest that there may be more opportunities for seniors looking to fund a new business.


Here then are 6 tips to help you get started:


1. Pick something you are passionate about. Don’t just jump on the bandwagon of a product or service that is supposed to be “the next big thing,” instead, pick something you are passionate about. A new business will take a lot of time if you do it right, and you want to spend that time doing something you love.



It is also true that if you are passionate about something and you know that area well, then that experience will be a big leg up. It is also a major reason why senior entrepreneurs are so successful.


2. Don’t take a big risk when funding the business: When you are older, you have less time to make up for financial mistakes. Because a startup is, of course, somewhat risky, one way to hedge against that risk is by being prudent where



So, for instance, don’t look to take out a second mortgage on your home to finance your venture, and you shouldn’t tap into your retirement account. Instead, consider these options:

  • Talk to your state Department of Commerce and see what grants and loans may be available to senior entrepreneurs; you might be surprised.
  • Also, consider crowd funding sites like Kickstarter. If you have a unique idea, getting friends, family and the public to fund it is a more preferable way to go.

3. Come up with a strategy and/or business plan: Even if your plan isn’t to become a major global corporation, you need to treat your business venture as a serious proposition. This means that you need to sit and come up with a plan and a strategy. Your business plan doesn’t need to be elaborate, but you do need to have a strategy for how you plan on getting from A to B to C.


Click here to read more articles from small business expert Steve Strauss


4.  Learn to love the Internet and social media. Like it or not, the internet and social media networks have become the place for word of mouth marketing and business promotion. Forget placing ads in print magazines or making flyers, because that is yesterday’s news. You will get a far better response using, for instance, a Google or Facebook ad. So, take some courses online or at your local community college, and research just what is available to you in internet marketing.


5. Embrace the mobile revolution. I was recently at an Internet marketing event and they said that 60% of all email is now read on a mobile device. Similarly, almost half of all searches now are done on a mobile device. Whatever business you start must be searchable and findable by a mobile device.

Mobile is not only the future, it’s also the present.


6. Become a lifelong learner. One of my favorite business authors (Barbara Winter, author of Making a Living Without a Job), says that one of the best parts of being an entrepreneur is that you have to become a lifelong learner. If you develop the habit of always learning about business and what is coming down the pike, you will be well prepared to serve your customers.


The bottom line is that as a senior, you have valuable experience that translates well into the world of entrepreneurship. Use it wisely.


About Steve Strauss

Steven D. Strauss is one of the world’s leading experts on small business and is a lawyer, writer, and speaker. The senior small business columnist for USA Today, his Ask an Expert column is one of the most highly-syndicated business columns in the country. He is the best-selling author of 17 books, including his latest,The Small Business Bible, now out in a completely updated third edition. You can listen to his weekly podcast, Small Business Success, visit his new website TheSelfEmployed, and follow him on Twitter. © Steven D. Strauss.


You can read more articles from Steve Strauss by clicking here


Setting Your Employees Free (to Work): Creative Ways to Foster Your Staff’s Work/Life Balance

Setting Your Employees Free (to Work): Creative Ways to Foster Your Staff’s Work/Life Balance

“I believe that if you provide the right working environment, people enjoy work,” says Colin Earl, CEO of EnterpriseWizard, a web-based business solutions company in Silicon Valley. This attitude—fueled by the desire to avoid the sort of office politics Earl had experienced at a previous job—greatly influenced the United Kingdom native when he founded his company 20 years ago. The result: telecommuting, a relaxed dress code, and free food on-site are regular options for all his employees.

Although traditional business proponents might dismiss some of these choices as soft or unorthodox, Earl views them as necessary to the bottom line. If you offer your workers more flexibility and a better work/life balance, the chances are greater that they will be happier and more productive. In this vein, happy workers translate into healthy profit margins.

For employees with family obligations such as children or ailing relatives, having a work schedule that affords flexibility can be a lifesaver. But like other things in life deemed too good to be true, this goodwill needed to be harnessed correctly by small business owners lest they be abused. Telecommuters who routinely take off hours during the workday to attend to personal matters, or who otherwise fudge the number of hours dedicated to a project, for instance, are not good for the morale of other staffers—or the bottom line.

“The main thing is to make sure that the employee’s self-interest is aligned with the business self-interest and vice versa,” advises Earl. At the same time, he adds that it’s critical for small business owners to create a culture in which employees know that if they blunder, they will be penalized just as they will be rewarded if they do well.

Creating Balance

According to a 2011 study conducted by the Society for Human Resource Management, not having an equitable work/life balance continues to rankle employees. Among the findings, nearly nine in ten working Americans say work/life balance is a problem, and over half—54 percent—called it a “significant” problem. In addition, 43 percent of workers do not think that their employer is doing enough to address work/life balance issues.

To address this issue, businesses are increasingly turning to flexible hours and work from home solutions. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2010 nearly one quarter— 24 percent—of all employed persons did some or all of their work at home. (Men and women were about equally likely to telecommute.) Perhaps not surprisingly, entrepreneurs are leading this trend, as the BLS found that self-employed workers were three times more likely than salaried workers to have worked from home—64 percent vs. 19 percent.

PQ_WorkLifebalance.jpgEmphasize results over hours worked

Erik Huberman, CEO of Swag of the Month, a year-old retail discount company with a staff of eight based in Santa Monica, California, echoes Earl’s sentiments about accommodating workers to improve their work/life balance.

“If you are going to allow for flextime and remote work, make sure work is more about deliverables and specific goals,” he notes. “If you make it an hours thing, it’s easy for employees to get distracted. If they know what is expected of them, they will generally rise to the occasion.”

Cultivate the virtual world

To allow busy staffers to be occasionally off-site to tend to a personal obligation, train them in web-based programs such as Salesforce.com, Quickbooks Online and Google Docs. This will give them the tools to continue working when they’re not on-site and meet project goals without being at their desk or at a sales counter.

For James Sinclair, a principal at OnSite Consulting, a nine-year-old nationwide hospitality consulting firm, giving up office space three years ago and going virtual has been a boon for him and his staff of 65 full- and part-timers. Not only has it drastically lowered overhead costs for Sinclair’s business, but, according to him, it has also increased revenues by having employees in the field at all times.

“The ‘lightbulb’ moment came because I was virtual anyway,” recalls Sinclair. “I spend 200-plus days on the road so I had been virtual for years and been using a hodgepodge of technology to get data access anywhere, be paperless, and stay in touch with project management.” Coincidently, the lease renewal on the company’s office came up for renewal and because clients rarely visited, Sinclair thought the timing was auspicious to make the shift to virtual.

Using Microsoft’s Office 365 technology platform, which aggregates all documents and communications into one hub, Sinclair and his staff now work wherever they are. The end results have been worth it, he says.

“Now staff is managed on goals met and not hours worked or schlepping to the office,” he continues. “The result is that people became more available, more passionate about work, and more thrilled to be working for me and vice versa. My employee efficiency skyrocketed and, above all, I now have an advantage against my competitors. They could lure my staff with more money, but not with the lifestyle I can afford [my employees].”

Think like a maverick

If you’re serious about implementing ways to improve your employee’s work/life balance, then you will need to think creatively. Further, ask yourself how these changes will be both in your company’s and in your employee’s best interests.

“Disregard the norm,” urges Earl. For instance, in his ongoing quest to appeal to both his employees’ and his company’s best interests, Earl says he offers his staff free food.

“People tend to work a little later when they’re not hungry,” he says. “When it’s 5 p.m. and they have a snack they’re more likely to work until 6 p.m. I’ve been to companies where employees had to pay for their own coffee.”

Improving an employee’s work/life balance hinges on how flexible a small business owner is willing to be. Taking the time to be clear with your staff about expectations is key to your success in managing any new work arrangements. Expect a few hiccups in the beginning, but keep in mind that in our world of 24/7 instant communication, allowing flexibility for your employees has never been easier.

If you are thinking of offering telecommuting as a viable option for your employees, check out the following articles for helpful tips.

Five Things to Make Your Home Office Work for You

Five Things to Make Your Home Office Work for You
by Erin McDermott.

Nick Loper is a mover and shaker at his home office. Actually, these days, mostly a mover.

Back in December, he found a treadmill on Craigslist, and with a little DIY derring-do, he rigged his workspace to it. Now the CEO of ShoeSniper.com is walking 8 to 10 miles a day while he runs the shoe-shopping website from his place near San Francisco.

He’s had to learn to steady himself while walking and typing, got a bigger computer monitor that was easier to see at the top tier of his desk setup, and admits it’s been a bit tough to ignore the numbers on the exercise device’s panel. Even so, he’s hooked. “It’s kind of addictive to watch the amount of calories you burn as you go,” he says. But overall, it’s working for him, and Loper even recently punched another hole in his belt—on the good side. “There have been times since, when I’ve been away, working in a hotel, and I feel like I should be doing more, and being up and moving.”

It’s never easy to get your workspace just right, more so for anyone who regularly works from home. With the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimating there are now some 18.3 million home-based businesses, more people than ever are out there trying to project the professionalism of the office onto their home base.

“The recession has made more companies open their minds to the cost-savings that can come from working with telecommuters,” says Sara Sutton Fell, chief executive and founder of FlexJobs.com, an online job-service site dedicated to flexible work situations. Sutton Fell walks the walk, too: She’s worked from home for almost six years. From a loft above her detached garage in Boulder, Colorado, she manages a staff of 24 other home-office dwellers, half of whom she’s yet to meet face to face. “My kids know I’m up here, but they know not to interfere,” she says, “It’s still a better alternative for me.”

What works best for these home-based entrepreneurs? Below are a few suggestions to make your home office hum:

A backup system…and a backup for your backup

It’s every computer user’s worst nightmare. Last year, Sutton Fell’s hard drive crashed. Unbeknownst to her, her data-backup system wasn’t working properly either. “It’s embarrassing to even admit this,” she says. She ended up losing a good amount of data. Now, in addition to her crucial two monitors she uses to accommodate all of her open tabs and her website, she also has two backup systems for her data.

But what if your home and home office are destroyed? First, make sure that your home insurance is up to date and get a rider that covers your work setup. Then consider something similar to Binary Formations’ Home Inventory. This software helps you catalog everything in your home and home office—information that’s crucial if the unthinkable happens. “Most people think ahead to get riders on jewelry, but not many think about their home-business equipment,” says Diane Hamilton, Binary Formations’ managing partner, who, along with husband Kevin, runs the company from their Virginia home office. “You should think about the coverage for your workspace whether you work for yourself or work from home for someone else.”


If you deal with a lot of paperwork, you’ll need plenty of things like tabbed folders and file cabinets. But if you’re trying to go paperless, several small business owners recommend taking a look at the products from Neat. That company’s mobile scanner and software products can build a searchable directory of receipts, business cards, and important documents. And if you’re a really big thinker, unleash your creativity and surround yourself with one gigantic big dry-erase board, using new whiteboard paint products to turn your office walls into a wraparound notepad.

PQ_Homeoffice.jpgA map of your day, week, month

Psychotherapist and relationship coach Toni Coleman says it’s critical to establish a structure—with your routine, with your schedule, and with your family and friends. “To be really good at working from home, you have to be really good at getting into ‘the zone,’” she says. “However you set that up physically, you have to be able to do it mentally. And you have to clarify that with everyone around you.”

The mother of four operates her practice out of her home in McLean, Virginia, and says she sees clients get into trouble all the time as gadgets blur the line between business and life. She advises her clients to create a schedule and a routine and stick to it—shower, dress to get into the professional mind-set, grab your coffee, and then get into your office and go to work. Good planning is everything, Coleman says. “If you’re disorganized and you go to sit down and realize you’re out of ink, and want to run to Staples, it will throw off your whole schedule. You have to resist that urge and stay focused.”

A door

For nine years, Lori Karpman ran her management consultancy from an area off the kitchen in her Montreal home. She had all of the professional trappings, but she lacked the ability to shut herself off physically from the rest of her household. Though she says she’s always been very disciplined about her hours, there was no stopping her kids or other sirens of domesticity from testing her concentration. Karpman moved to a new home with a dedicated workspace about a year ago, and raves about the mental break that the door on her new home office provides. “When my day is over, I turn off the lights, shut off the ringer on the phone, and close the door—I’m not at work anymore and I’m really home,” she says. “It’s important to say that space is your workspace—not your living space. Psychologically, it makes it seem so much more professional.”

A release

Got a picture on your desk to remind you of your work/life balance? Or a window that provides an inspirational view? Or iTunes cued up for a five-minute Motown session to recharge during the 2 p.m. doldrums? The isolation of remote work has its own set of stresses. John Paul Engel, marketing consultant and chief executive of Knowledge Capital Consulting, says he overcomes the pressure of 24/7-availability by going for a run outside his Sioux City, Iowa, home office to clear his head—and to engage both sides of his brain to sort out a problem. Others swear by sitting on exercise balls to physically vent and stay fit in the process.

The key is to make whatever works work for you, like Nick Loper and his treadmill desk. And now that he’s on his feet all day, does he test his wares on it? “No,” he says, before adding, “but I guess that could be a good writeoff.”

I’ll be Home for Business: 5 Popular Home-Based Careers

By Sherron Lumley

“I’m at work all the time,” says Beth Rountree, owner of Beth Rountree Design in Austin, Texas, a home-based graphic design business specializing in print media. “I had my daughter in 2000 and was on maternity leave when I got my first client, then it ballooned into a business,” she says. “Having the flexibility to stop and be with my family for dinner is huge for me,” she adds.

More than half of all U.S. businesses are home-based, according to the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA). For some people, the dream of working from home stems from a desire to be a stay-at-home parent, others want the opportunity to pursue what they love, and then there are those who just want to avoid an unnecessary commute. Although the reasons behind it are many, operating a business from home is a rewarding, yet challenging, balancing act that many people are choosing to pursue across a broad spectrum of industries. Here’s a look at five popular choices, followed by a word of caution about fraudulent work-at-home schemes.

1. Service Businesses

For John and Laura Roberts, owners of Burnt Ends BBQ in Portland, Oregon, their part-time venture started from a hobby. “Our business grew out of our experience competing in professional barbeque contests,” John Roberts says. “People started asking us if we catered, and now we have an office set up within the home,” he says.

Pull-Quote—Tall.pngRountree and Roberts give a peek at what its like to say, “I’ll be home for business,” in the service sector, which accounts for more than half—52 percent—of all home based-businesses in the United States, according to a report for the U.S. Small Business Administration Office of Advocacy.

“A big advantage for me,” says Rountree, “is being home for my family and being able to be active with my kids.” But there can be drawbacks, too, she acknowledges. “The downside is that I have to wear so many hats,” she says. “Also, you never know when you’re going to get paid. That’s a tough pill to swallow. You go on vacation—you don’t get paid.”

The Roberts couple adds, “One of the challenges is that we are fitting it around our other work schedules.” In addition to the demands of running the catering business, including marketing efforts such as creating brochures, placing local advertisements, and updating their web presence, they are still maintaining other full-time jobs outside of the home.

2. Construction

A distant second to the service industry, representing 16 percent of home-based businesses, is construction. Though only one-third of carpenters are self-employed, an overwhelming 93 percent of them are home-based. Similarly, of all the general contractors in the country, approximately one in four are home-based businesses, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. For more on working out of one’s home in the construction industry, the SBA provides information and resources, including relevant details about issues such as energy efficiency, federal contracting, and hazardous materials.

3. Web Stores

Retail trade accounts for another 14 percent of home businesses and Web-based storefronts have become even more popular among the work-at-home crowd in recent years. In Do-It-Yourself Web Stores for Dummies, author Joel Elad says, “Your ultimate goal as a web store owner is to purchase your inventory via wholesale channels.” For product sourcing, he lists a few websites to get started: Worldwidebrands.com, Whatdoisell.com, and Liquidation.com.

4. Finance, Insurance and Real Estate

Finance, insurance, and real estate make up five percent of home-based businesses. These require licensing by various national and state agencies based on educational requirements and exams. About one in ten professionals in this sector works from home, with the highest percentage found in real estate. The National Association of Realtors (NAR) lists many types of real estate businesses including residential, commercial and industrial brokerage, farm and land brokerage, and appraisal.

5. Transportation

Transportation ranks fifth place for home-based businesses, comprising four percent. A popular new concept in this category is non-emergency medical transportation, helping those who need assistance, such as people who use a cane, walker or wheelchair. Check with the local department of health-and-human services for specific requirements, which vary state by state..

You can also check out our earlier article on the too-good-to-be-true nature of many work-at-home schemes.

Keeping it legal: Zoning laws

Most if not all cities in the U.S. have zoning laws in place regarding which businesses can be run from home. “In terms of zoning, the potential issues for home businesses include: exterior signage, parking, noise, pollution, fire and hazardous substances, employees working in the home, client visits, deliveries and shipping, water runoff and drainage,” say James Stephenson and Rich Mintzer in the Ultimate Homebased Business Handbook. Check with city officials to learn what local laws are in place governing home based businesses in your location.


There are home office tax deductions available for home-based businesses in every industry. To learn more about them, visit the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) web page on home office deductions. “Generally, deductions for a home office are based on the percentage of your home devoted to business use,” the IRS says.

(Home-based) Buyer Beware

There are many models for home businesses and buying a legitimate work-at-home franchise is an option gaining momentum, but an ounce of prevention against fraud is a must. The SBA counsels prospective entrepreneurs to investigate any franchise opportunity by asking previous and current investors about their experiences and having an attorney review the offer. Get all the facts about the franchise, including a written substantiation of any income projections or profit claims, which the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) requires that any franchisor must provide upon request.

So, if that work from home medical transcription job or online Mystery Shopper opportunity sounds to good to be true, it very likely is. Doing your due diligence is the only way to know for sure. A good place to start one’s search is the FTC’s Scam Watch site, which explains how to avoid bogus business opportunities and offers key clues for spotting fraud, such as claims of exorbitant or guaranteed pay as well as promises of ideal work situations. It also lists the most popular work-at-home schemes in its top 10 online scams.

To determine if a home-based business franchise is a legitimate opportunity: investigate, investigate, investigate. Start with a reliable source such as the Better Business Bureau or FranchiseDirect, which is a BBB-accredited company that provides a directory of legitimate franchises for sale, including a home-based category. Only then will you begin to know if you’re ready to say, “I’ll be home for business.”