When Your Business
Outgrows Your Home
by Wendy Priesnitz

Q: My home-based business is now three years old and growing quite nicely. My question is: How do I know when my business has outgrown my home office?

A: Each business, family and workspace is different, but there are some signs of pressure that should alert you to the fact that it's time to start looking for commercial space for your formerly micro-business.

The first consideration for any business is its customers. So when the fact that you're working from home begins to impact on your customers, it's time to look for other office arrangements. A consultant colleague of mine worked happily at home for over a year, until his wife had a baby. One day, he was on the phone negotiating a big project and the baby started wailing in the background. That's when he knew it was time to relocate. If the fact you're working from home prevents you from giving a client 100 percent of your attention, you shouldn't be there.

Another sign that it's time to move on involves your family's needs. Has your home business grown to the stage that you can't tell where your business ends and your family begins - or where your office ends and your home begins? Getting to this stage is a slow process and that's why I call it "home office ooze."

You start out working in a spare bedroom. Then you move some files into a corner of the basement, and when that's full, you use the garage. Then you hire an employee and set up an office in the family room. And so on, until you begin to wonder if you can take over the living room too. If you are invading someone else's home territory, it's time to move on.

Many people move their business out of home if/when they hire employees. It takes a special type of person to be willing to listen to family squabbles, feed the cat when you have forgotten, and dodge children's toys on the way to the washroom. Most people are happier working in a conventional office environment if it is someone else's business.

And lastly, don't forget the other group of people who can be impacted by your home business: your neighbors. They may be quite happy to tolerate your one-person endeavor, even if your home isn't zoned for business. But they will probably balk when your company starts to receive a steady stream of delivery trucks or when five employees park their cars on the street all day.

Many businesses can continue to be home-based almost indefinitely; however, it's wise to be alert to the pressure points in your life and business that suggest you should look for a more traditional workspace.


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