Embarking on a new business venture can be exciting and yet overwhelming. There are so many things to do, that simply deciding where to put your focus and spend your time can be difficult to manage. In this article, we will tackle one of the early considerations for most new entrepreneurs: where should you base your business?
Should You Work From Home?
Even if you are disciplined enough to work from home, it will require communicating with those around you that home time is not always playtime. I once lived in a very active social community, and since my neighbors knew I worked from home, they would often stop over to ask me if I wanted to go for a walk in the mornings. Most of the time I really appreciated it since I can often forget to tear myself away from the computer to get some exercise. However, I did not find having the doorbell ringing to be such a welcome distraction on those mornings when I was on a conference call or in the middle of recording a webinar.
I needed to address this issue, and it needed to be handled delicately so as to not upset my well-intentioned friends. I started by first describing to my friends what exactly I do for a living. I explained to my neighbor friends that some mornings I am on a phone call or web session with a client and that it is not fair to my client to be interrupted. Armed with this new information they could gain a better understanding of how their good deed could be seen as a disruption. I also managed the situation one step further with a solution to meet all of our needs. I agreed to meet my walking buddies on the corner of our street by 8:00 AM if I was available. This allowed me to block this time off on my calendar so that my daily exercise routine was as important as any scheduled meeting. We all agreed that if I were not there by 8:00 AM, they would simply assume I was unable to walk with them that morning. When you work from home, even something this simple may need to be managed.
If you are easily distracted or do not have a quiet space to focus, then working from home is likely not an option for you. The good news is there are options available. I had a friend who could not work from her house because her husband’s job was also a work-from-home position. As much as she loved him, she quickly learned that he was her distraction. My friend was in the early stages of her publishing business, and her finances were very tight. She found a perfect solution for herself. She packed up every morning, made her lunch as if she was heading to the office and simply landed at the local public library. She now had a low-noise environment with minimal interruptions complete with high-speed internet and clean restrooms. Whenever she needed a break, she would stroll through her favorite fiction section. Because she loved to read and write, she was actually able to derive energy from the library setting. Her creativity would flow by being around all those great authors and books.
If the library is not your place, then consider basing your office out of a local coffee shop. Your local Panera offers its own WiFi or your Internet provider may have a hotspot available at a mom and pop coffee shop. A word of caution though: if you are using public wifi anywhere there is always a security risk. Research apps that will allow you to create a private tunnel, which allow you to encrypt your sensitive data while still taking advantage of the free public WiFi. I personally use an app called TunnelBear, but there are many out there you will want to research before you find one that you feel comfortable using. You may even consider using your cell service as a wifi hotspot. It can be a higher cost, but definitely more secure.
Hotel lobbies are another fantastic option for some types of businesses, as most are suited for and welcoming to business travelers. Most hotels don’t mind you using their lobby without booking a room, as long as you are frequenting the hotel vendors like Starbucks to buy coffee.
I often to meet up with my executive coaching clients at a local full-service hotel lobby. It is a convenient halfway point between my home office and that of my clients’. We often meet on Sundays since that is the slowest day for the hotel. By selecting this low traffic day, we typically have more privacy, and sometimes we can even have the entire dining area to ourselves.
Shared Office Options
Depending on the type of business you have started and the growth stage of your company, you may want to consider a shared office space. In a space like this, you can have that often-missed water-cooler chatter, and you can even collaborate with other entrepreneurs. Many partnerships have been formed in these early technology incubators. In a shared office space facility, your options can be as simple as renting a desk, chair, and WiFi. Or you can add on to your rental and have access to conference rooms. You will not have to look far to find shared spaces these days, as they are popping up in every major city and the downtown areas of even suburban towns.
I live near the city of Raleigh, NC and we have a fabulous space called HQ Raleigh. Not only do they rent out the interior space, but they have outdoor spaces for those months that the weather is lovely and you want to enjoy the sunshine. HQ Raleigh is also active in helping the entrepreneur by offering training on topics from building a social media following to how to sell your services. They also offer structured networking in the community so you can meet other local businesses even have opportunities to showcase your business. Not all shared spaces are this active so make sure you inquire as to what exactly a rental offers and weigh it against what your return on the monthly investment will be. The good news is if you live near a major city you likely have more of a selection.
Another option you have is to lease a private office space. There are entire buildings that are dedicated, small “Class A” rental suites. Many independent financial advisors use this type of professional office space. How do these differ from the incubator-type shared office space? Consider this option if you will want to impress clients with professional decor, security, elevators, and other built-in amenities. Do you want to hold client meetings in your personal office? Do you have the need for professional administrative services or require dedicated telephone services? If your business requires a high-end look and more privacy, then this is an option. This alternative can also work out well if you know you will grow quickly but are not sure how much space you will need just yet. I once worked for a tech start-up that used a space just like this as we scaled from three little offices to two whole floors before we found a permanent space.
Barter for Space
If cash flow is an issue, consider what services you have to offer in exchange for rent in someone else’s space. I once bartered part of my consulting fee for a private office in one of my client’s Class A office suites. We had security, cleaning services, a great view, a kitchen, a receptionist and access to two impressive conference rooms. Any of these previously mentioned options will do until you start hiring staff. At that point, you may want to consider some other options for the company’s location.
If you need more space than I did you may want to consider a sublease option. Companies often lease space based on future projections, and if those projections are wrong, they will end up sitting in a long-term lease with extra office space. In the early 2000’s I visited many companies that had whole floors going unused. Businesses have gotten better about projecting and not creating this glut of space, but you may still find room in someone else’s warehouse or office suite. This can save you money in the early stages.
Choosing where you need to work is only a small step in starting a business. To learn more about how to “Start-Up Well” check back for more articles in this series dedicated just to you, the new entrepreneur.