A home-based business often sounds very appealing to those stuck in traffic-filled commutes or working fixed-hours in offices, but is the grass greener on the other side? Franchise Expert Pam Gordon helps us explore whether a home-based business may be right for you. We consider the positives and possible negatives of a home-based business as well as addressing how franchising could provide a solution.
I have been in franchising for 18 years and was previously with HSBC so had a great grounding in customer service, relationship building and cross-selling, spotting opportunities; all of which has served me well in franchising.
I have worked with many franchisors across different sectors and in distinct roles from helping to recruit franchisees through to national roles overseeing the development of a franchise network in start-up and developing a support team to oversee the network growth.
For the last 3 years I have been working as a Franchise Consultant for The Franchising Centre. I practice what I preach in that I am self-employed and predominately home-based so can talk about taking the leap into running your own business from experience in terms of the positives and negatives.
My main reason for choosing to do this has been the ability to maintain a career whilst having a child to still be able to do the school run, manage some of the school holiday cover so that she isn’t in childcare 100% of the time.
For women like me, it’s simply more preferential to have role that offers the flexibility that often employers can’t or won’t provide. However, in general, it seems that for both men and women flexible working outside of conventional hours is changing the typical work place and is giving more people the opportunity to work from home.
Many people also don’t want to be commuting whether by car or public transport every day, as it can eat into both time and finances as well as environmental concerns particularly when you can work as easily from home.
Advances in technology are a major factor behind this as many employees are able to carry out the bulk of their day-to-day roles by working from home. As long as they have internet connections which is no issue for most these days. Cloud-based technology and clever software comes together and allows you to manage your time, diary and help to work around family-life.
Keep in mind why you are doing it. I work around my child, so I set aside key work and family time, so I can pick her up from school on some days. It might mean on those days I work into the evening to compensate.
Don’t see a home-based business as a part-time business. If you are wanting a full-time income from it, you must put the hours ‘in’. They just might not be a conventional 9-5, so it’s being prepared for that.
For home working, I believe you need to have a place that is your working space and not the kitchen table that you need to clear up every day. I am now much more productive and efficient because I have separate office space. I can separate work and home within the ‘home’.
You will need to focus your time and not get distracted by household jobs, manage your working life even while at home and have the focus on the work during those working hours.
To maintain discipline, keep a time management diary when you first start to see what you are getting distracted by and try to see where your distractions come in and how you can overcome those when working at home.
Using technology for your own planning, I use a scheduler with contacts, so they can see my diary and book time for conference calls, catch up when I’m free. This helps with the key work and home life/time. It is likely that most franchisors will have systems of their own, or may advise suitable software for ensuring you can carry out all aspects of your business.
Its important not to feel guilty about not working conventional hours particularly as more and more people will be doing this into the future. We will have to adapt our ways of working and culture will follow suit.
From my experience being part of a franchise when working at home, key advantages are:
Brand. To have a name to market under and be recognised as part of that network.
Network. The other franchisees, people who are doing what you are doing. These are one of the key resources for you particularly when working at home so keep in touch in some way – whether email, project management groups, Facebook groups and often a franchisor will have a forum or platform to share ideas and support.
Support. The reason you buy into a franchise is for support, so I am never afraid of asking questions or being honest when I don’t know something. But often the franchisor does, or your fellow franchisees so use the support you are paying for.
It’s not easy and it always requires being focussed. I have the school run on some days for my ‘water-cooler’ moments, but have worked at home in the past where you don’t ‘need’ to go out all day and it’s not fun. So, build in time into your week for you to get out of the house – ideally in a social way otherwise it can affect your own mental health.
While distractons from work are one risk, the opposite is also true! Falling into the habit of working too much is easy to do when you have too much on. There is always work to do and it can be hard to switch off.
Maintain discipline with your time. Keep an eye on the need to still take breaks, weekends off and holidays even if it your own business. I keep a record of my time off, so I can see that I am getting enough non-business time.
When you become a franchisee you are working with the franchisor to achieve your goals. They will work with you in setting your business plan, and so long as your objectives have a match with the expectations they have of franchisees, then when you become a franchisee you will not be alone at any stage.
The franchisor knows the pitfalls of home-based working, and so will provide ongoing support to ensure that franchisees don’t fall into the traps.
Usually they will provide coaching and mentoring either from Head Office staff but often other franchisees to help keep you motivated and on track for building the business you want.
Helping to stay focussed by having someone you are ‘accountable’ to for the actions you said you were going to do. That really helps when you are self-employed.
A franchisor can help by giving a franchisee systems and structures to use to get started much quicker and to help focus the activity particularly as the business starts.
Reviewing you approach whether it’s sales or any work itself to make sure you are meeting targets, quality, customer service.
Remember that it always takes time to build so setting the right expectations from the franchisor and yourself and what time you are putting into the business.
Time. With no commute you can gain hours of time back each day. If you use it productively you also get the morale boost that you have impacted your life positively too.
Flexibility. Having that greater freedom and control in your time is wonderful so long as you maintain good management at all times
Saving money! By working from home, compared to a place of work, I save money through commuting costs, whether that be fuel or transport tickets. Coffee and lunches on the go also add up over time, and office wear can be purchased less frequently too. Saving money as well as time is always a good thing!
As well as what home-based working can give you back, I get more time with my family and I don’t miss out on important dates either. Getting to the Christmas play at school is no longer an issue!
As well as what I have experienced directly, I know that many of the franchisees I work with share the similar experiences. The positives are there to be had. The negatives are there to be avoided. Certainly, it is advantageous to be a home-based franchisee when it comes to avoiding the downsides as the support structure is so much greater both from the franchisor and other franchisees with the brand.