In the second part of the home business series, Noorjehan Arif discusses how to tackle the problems, which inadvertently crop up every now and then
Running any business from home is never a smooth sailing, to say the least. There are a myriad of problems which pop up, and at the end of the day, you might start wondering, if you have bitten off more than you can chew. The good news is you can manage it. What’s important is to know the issues and how to tackle them.
Kids, Kids Everywhere
A business cannot be run from home, if you are constantly involved in why Ali snatched candy from Sarah. However, it is helpful if you entertain the idea of employing your own children in your home-run business. Have you ever played house with your siblings? Then why don’t you teach your own children to play office? Children love to act like elders and mimic them. If you pick up the newspaper during your morning tea, will Ali do the same? Hasn’t Sarah always yearned to pour tea for you? This is, then, the best time to teach your children some business management skills.
In cases, when you do not want your personal and professional life to clash, because Ali is misbehaving, while you are discussing a critical project with one of your customers, you can bring them as partners instead, or ask your spouse to take some of the work responsibilities. Even your maid could work part time for you, filing and taking some phone calls you want to avoid, or you can take in young interns, who are ready to do all sorts of odd jobs for you.
If all else fails to enlist good help, technology can be your next best friend, or perhaps in this case your secretary and employee all in one. You can use an answering and caller identification machine to capture your calls, a laptop to take your work along when you have to wait for your child’s school to be over, a personal digital assistant (PDA) to keep track of meetings, reminders, calls to make and other odds and ends. You have several other options available as well, like a virtual assistant online that can do all sorts of documentation and typing work.
Take the example of Shahnaz, who had a partner in her business, and, hence, responsibilities could be shared. However, in partnerships one needs to be careful and vigilant, particularly in cases, where money is directly involved. Irfana had her sister working with her, who eventually took over the management of the parlour, while Irfana could be more proactive in terms of the strategic planning of the business. But Irfana was still extremely careful, as she used an auditor friend to audit the revenues of the parlor every year.
Once the business is running, the autopilot is set and all things are smoothly proceeding, with everyone knowing their responsibilities, it becomes easier to take on the ‘curveballs’ in a more headstrong manner. Curveballs, such as Ali being down with fever, or Sarah sick with measles, can easily be overcome, if things are running smoothly. However, there are several problems that need to be addressed, before a newly launched business can be run smoothly.
Financial aspects of the business have to be well thought out and a complete budget needs to be set, before embarking on the business. The primary reason for a budget is the fact that financial elements make or break the business. Improper management of cash and revenues may result in bankruptcy in an adverse scenario, and micro managing cash to meet expenses in a less adverse condition. The Internet offers several books and websites with templates and help material for the purpose of creating a budget and evaluating it.
Demarcating Work and Personal Life
Another problem one encounters, when running a business from home, is juggling work and personal life. Boundaries tend to merge, when, for instance, Ali has to be picked up from school and a customer wants to have a meeting at the same time. Time management is often an important and, at times, the most critical element. Shahnaz and Irfana both had a separate business outside of their house, but their overlapping suggestion was to have defined time blocks for work that takes higher priority. If one has a driver to pick up children from school, then the next priority is the customer’s meeting. But if a driver is out of the question, the priority will be the children. Such times can be blocked and made non-negotiable on the table, when dealing with customers.
Stress, motivation and efficiency problems can also result in cases, when a loved one is sick, or when children have vacations or when other personal and family issues crop up. Defining a time boundary, when you plan to work solely on your business and allocating the rest to personal life, can help define and set limits to the interruptions that are allowed during ‘business hours’. It can also reduce the amount of stress and guilt that one may feel about neglecting family life.
Moving on to issues regarding setting up the business, incorporating it, registering brands and trademarks, there are quite a few organizations that one has to go through and deposit guarantees and cash in order to get things going.
Marketing your Business
Marketing and publicity are another element in one’s business that involves a lot of effort and hard work. Even though Ali, Sarah, the spouse and the nosey neighbour mean well, when they go around claiming your business and your work to be top class, marketing is much more detailed and hectic than that. Networking comes into play, when one has to promote the business and make it top notch.
Shahnaz and her partner are socialites and love to socialize with all sorts of people. They decided to put their networking skills to good use, when they opened their boutique, and promoted it with the use of the business cards, which they sent out to each and every person they knew. In a very short time, the boutique had customers raving about their clothes and handbags.
Irfana, on the other hand, utilized the locality in her favour and sent each and every house near the parlour a flyer to market the services being offered. Marketing worked – the place was thronging with women of all ages. Depending on the circumstances and the type of business, there are various elements of marketing and publicity one can employ, from publishing an advertisement in a newspaper or magazine, to utilizing a social network, to simply putting up a web presence. Using a small website, or even marketing through online advertisements can bring in a good amount of sales and publicity.
In the next issue, we will take the financial aspect of a home business a little farther and discuss how to make a business plan