Please see my tips for successfully running an organization from a home office – published today on the Citibank Small Business Resource Center website:
9 Must-Haves for Your Home Office
By Mark Mallardi
Over the past 10 years, I have operated several start-up companies from my home-based office, working with virtual teams distributed across the US, Europe, and India. Having a home-based business has many advantages, not the least of which is the ability to more effectively control your workday than is possible in a corporate office setting.
I’ve learned, though, that it’s important to have certain basics in place in order for your business to be more successful.
1. A line of demarcation. Should a pitcher’s family members or pets be able to walk between the lines of the baseball diamond during the game? Of course not. Similarly, you need a place where you can work quietly behind closed doors, creating a clear separation that says, “I’m at work.” If you leave the lines too blurry, you risk distraction, interruptions during critical business conversations, or worse. (One exception to this rule: if you have a mellow dog who enjoys sleeping close to you as you work—like my 15-year-old Rottweiler, Klaus Von Bear—you have the perfect office companion.)
2. A solid all-in-one printer/scanner/fax machine. Don’t skimp here or you’ll deal with interminable paper jams, inconsistency in quality of printing, limited scanning capacity, and so on. Spend more to get a reliable, workhorse machine that will stand the test of time.
3. A land line. Most of your meetings will likely take place on the phone, and connectivity and reception are generally more reliable on a land line.
4. Videoconferencing. Your setup can be as simple as using a free or low-cost app and your webcam but, increasingly, colleagues will expect you to have this capability. Of course, be sure to approach a videoconference as you would a face-to-face presentation or meeting, with the same level of preparation and the same professionalism that you would display in person.
5. Good lighting. The quality of your lighting will make all the difference in your productivity (and mood) on those days you spend 10 to 12 hours in the office. I use a combination of lights: a tall, floor-standing lamp that diffuses mellow, low-glare lighting up, over, and around my work area; and a high-intensity desk lamp that provides solid, bright-white spot lighting directly onto the desk and keyboard.
6. A large external monitor, a full external keyboard, and a wireless mouse. Don’t attempt to work solely from your laptop—it will drive you mad! From small, closely set keys to small screens that force you to hunch over the laptop in order to see what you’re doing, the same laptop that can be a lifesaver when you’re on the road can drive you crazy when relied upon as your primary computer.
7. Water. In a home-based office, it’s all too easy to overdose on the coffee or soda that’s readily available in the kitchen. I’ve learned that while caffeine and sugar provide a temporary lift, those spikes in cognition are fleeting at best, and are followed by periods of fatigue. Regular consumption of water, on the other hand, will keep you properly hydrated and help you to maintain clarity of thought throughout all the stresses the workday can bring.
8. Creativity enhancers, such as squeeze balls, a wall-mounted basketball hoop, a desktop pool table, and so on. These devices are great for temporarily taking your mind off of work and freeing it up for inspiration. Having them in your home office enables you to benefit from a break without derailing your workday the way leaving your office has the potential to do.
9. “Corporate” trappings. Use inexpensive strategies that give a professional impression for your home-based business.
First, rent a P.O. box or mailbox. I don’t recommend using your home address on your website or business card—for privacy reasons and because it’s usually fairly obvious that it is a home address.
For a distributed or virtual team, I recommend having each member of the team have his or her own local P.O. box or a mailbox, the kind that’s available at the retail mail shops that can be found in virtually every neighborhood. Use that P.O. box or mailbox on your business cards also—and by all means, have those business cards professionally printed.
Finally, make sure your phone system is business-appropriate: caller ID should show your or your company’s name, not your spouse’s, and your outgoing voice message should be crisp and professional.
Mark Mallardi is CEO of Listen for Life, a nonprofit music-media organization dedicated to the preservation and advancement of music culture worldwide. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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