Archive for January, 1999

Starting a Home Business

Posted: January 26, 1999 by Chuck Matthews in Planning, Startup

Classic Cincinnati Post column from 1999

The ribbon of headlights and taillights sparkle in the pre-dawn light forming a dazzling luminary landscape. The beauty is fleeting as reality sinks in you are stuck in traffic and you are going to be late for work as the morning rush hour has slid to a slippery halt on the ice encrusted roadway. The single digit temperature is only making matters worse and the gas gauge is hovering near the big red “E” which now stands for “eieeeeeeÉ”

There’s nothing like the sound of ice pelting a window to prompt us to make a change, perhaps starting a home-based business and skipping the drive. After all, a 40-foot commute from your bedroom to your office via the kitchen is infinitely more inviting than the 40 minute bumber-to-bumber commute via the slightly misnomered expressway.

If you have or are thinking of starting a home business, you are not alone. It has been estimated that entrepreneurs operate close to 30 million home-based businesses and that almost 45% of U.S. households support some type of home-based business activity. It is one of the fastest growing segments in the economy, with some estimates as high as 200 home business starts a day. Estimates suggest that 85% of these starts are still going strong after three years.

Here are five tips for getting your home-based business off to a strong start.

Do your homework. While the lure of avoiding the morning marathon is powerful, it is not a sufficient enough reason alone to start a home-based business. You need to do some research on the market size, growth potential, and your ability to deliver your goods and/or services from your home environment before you launch. Hit the library for some market data and contact you local government offices to determine what zoning restrictions may be of concern. Determine what equipment you will need to meet the needs of your customers. Technology, especially computer technology, has enabled even the smallest home business to cast as big a shadow as any Fortune 500 company. Determine how you can use it to your best advantage.


Simple Steps to Reduce Risk

Posted: January 18, 1999 by Sutton Landry in Operations, Planning, Startup

Classic Cincinnati Post column from 1999

Circus analogies are often used to describe what it’s like being a small-business owner. The juggler, the plate twirler, and the high-wire walker are among those analogies most commonly used.

Of these, the high-wire walker, the solo artist working high above the crowd without a net, whose each and every step is fraught with danger, is the most accurate analogy of all. But it doesn’t have to be.

Small-business owners often ignore the kinds of things that can help minimize and manage the risks of operating their businesses. They assume that they have to work without a net, when in fact, they can take some simple steps that will protect them, their families, and their businesses from many of the most common hazards.

Protect yourself and your family with insurance. Not just health and life insurance, which are certainly important, but disability insurance.

Every year I meet at least one individual whose business has been severely affected because of a prolonged illness or an injury. Depending on what state your business is located in, as a business owner, you may not be eligible for workers’ compensation coverage. In any event, you should acquire long-term disability insurance from a private carrier.


Cattle Attitude is Bad Business

Posted: January 11, 1999 by Bill Cunningham in Marketing, People, Startup

Classic Cincinnati Post column from 1999

Happy New Year!

January brings another holiday retail season to a close and fond memories of shopping are past. This season always pushes the limits of an enterprise’s customer service capability. Whether you are in retail, wholesale or business to business, you all have one thing in common – customers love to be treated like customers – not cattle.

Over the holidays, I experienced three instances of cattle-oriented customer service attitudes (all from large corporations) and began to think about the opportunities small businesses have to provide a better experience.

Remember, the large corporations will have to ‘trickle down’ a new policy or training program to fix their problems. Small businesses, being nimble and quick, can change quickly.

At the first cattle roundup, a hotel reservation had been made for one room with a king-size bed and one with two double beds. Of course, the hotel only had rooms with king-size beds available. This oversight happens all the time.

My customer service person handled it this way: First, they wanted to make sure I knew it wasn’t their fault and that the computer couldn’t be wrong. My response was ‘But I still need a room with two double beds.’