Saturday, 21 January 2012

Why Home is Best ...

Why is there still so much stigma associated with working from home?

I hear all sorts of comments about lack of professionalism if you don’t have a high street presence, a factory outlet with your business name blazoned around the four walls; an office where you can meet customers and suppliers; it will stop people taking you seriously. These are just some of the so called ‘expert’ advice offered every day to people wanting to start new businesses.

Being self-employed was not something I had planned to do. My husband had quit his job over a dispute with management. This was on a Thursday by the following Tuesday the word was out that he had left the company. Our home phone started ringing with his old clients asking him to continue working just for them. Our first business was up and running from home by the end of the day. My husband was dealing direct with the clients and I was dealing with the admin, marketing and infra-structure. From our spare bedroom we grew our business to eventually employ 19 staff. Customers weren’t concerned with where we ran our business from they wanted the skills, knowledge and service our business could offer. Within 18 months we had 85% market share. Not bad for a little business run from a spare bedroom.

Today, I still run my businesses from home and love being home based. There are numerous benefits:

• I’m an early riser often up at 4:00am. I don’t want to be worrying about getting ready to go to work and disturbing my family in the process. Instead I pull on my dressing gown, go down stairs and get a few hours work done before my family wake up.
• Flexibility is really important. I can work around my daughter’s school days and when she is on holiday so am I.
• When the weather is fine I work in my lifestyle garden. When it’s wet I’m indoors.
• No worry about opening an office or making sure I have staff coverage.
• I don’t employ staff anymore instead I use the services of self-employed people who want to run their own businesses from their own homes enjoying the benefits that I do.
• I have a network of successful business people working with me. As we are all home based the relationship is different to employer/employee or business owner/contractor. We get together more as partners/friends and discuss work in progress and ideas for our businesses over a cup of coffee.
• Lower overheads means my businesses are more profitable
• My productivity is better as I’m not commuting to work or tied up in management meetings and staff meetings.
• My outsourced work is of a better quality as it’s done by home based self-employed people whose next job is dependant on satisfied customers.
• Technology has made it much easier to work from anywhere all I need is my laptop and mobile phone and my office goes everywhere with me so I can utilise my spare time better.

So, no matter what you are currently doing, think can it be done by a home based self-employed person easier. I’m sure it could. Home based businesses are definitely the biggest growth area today and for the foreseeable future.

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

What's going wrong?......

We are currently faced with the worst economic situation in a generation. In the UK, the National Statistics Offices says businesses are closing at a rate of over 1100 a day. That figure doesn’t tell you how many people have lost their jobs and are now dependant on the ever decreasing value of benefits for their survival or that the number of people unemployed is expected to reach 3 million this year or that money is scarce.
As businesses release their Christmas retail sales figures it is apparent that people just aren’t spending and more businesses are giving notice they will be filing for administration over the next couple of weeks. Walk down any high street and they are quickly becoming ghost towns with numerous shops shut and very few shoppers.
It is basic economics if you want to be in business you need to have customers. If you don’t have customers then you can’t sell your product or service and you don’t have a business.
So, I have to ask the question that when so many livelihoods are at risk with so many businesses fighting for so few pounds and with so many businesses failing everyday why do we have such lousy customer service?
Yesterday, I was in a shop waiting to purchase an item. There was a queue with 5 people in front of me waiting to be served. Why was there a queue? Because the shop assistants were so busy having a talk about personal matters they weren’t serving the customer. I dropped my items on the counter and walked out without making the purchase. I wonder how long it will be before that business becomes another ‘business closed’ statistic.
I am currently in the process of renovating a property and the work has not been progressing as it should. So I called a site meeting for 10:00am on Monday morning. Of the 4 businesses I expected at the meeting only 1 turned up. Needless to say, I am currently looking for 3 new businesses for my project. The sacked businesses forgot one important rule. The customer always comes first.
During December I went with a friend to John Lewis department store in Cardiff. To be honest it is a very long time (years) since I have shopped at a John Lewis store. I was impressed with how in every department a sales assistant came up to me and asked was there anything they could help me with. I left the shop with several purchases. The store provided me with good customer service and I’ve been back a couple more times and made more purchases. Interestingly, John Lewis is one of the few companies to post improved like for like sales during the Christmas period. I wonder why?
So I say to businesses think about your attitude to customers and if you employ staff train them to start putting the customer first. It doesn’t cost anything to give a prospective customer a friendly welcome; be polite when serving a customer and thank them for their custom. The most important person in any business is the customer. If you don’t have a customer buying your product or service then you don’t have a business. Good customer service could make all the difference between the success or failure of your business.