Small business: Scott Gardiner on systems for working from home

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To make your home business a successful requires a good system. Photo / Supplied, Thinkstock
To make your home business a successful requires a good system. Photo / Supplied, Thinkstock

Having a system for working from home MYOB New Zealand Business Division Sales Manager Scott Gardiner.

For many people, working from home is a great way to kick-start your own business. Overheads are low, the hours can be flexible and the morning commute is about as stress-free as possible. While many people love the idea of the freedom working from home brings, to make a success of your home business - or even flexible working options provided by your employer - requires good systems, a disciplined approach and expert support. But with the right systems in place, and a plan to succeed, it can not only provide you with an enviable lifestyle but also a highly successful enterprise.

Start with a plan

Every successful business is built on a solid business plan - and a home enterprise should be no different. If your business is worth pursuing, it's worth investing a few hours of your time sitting down to plan how you are going to run it, what you hope to achieve, what equipment you need, how much it will cost and how you will achieve returns.

A business plan is also a great way of evaluating whether working from home really is the best option for you. Consider its impact on managing costs, working with clients, coping with growth and development, and even taking on staff. It also helps to establish the disciplines and processes that will set you up for success later on. A business plan - along with some robust figures and projections your accountant or a good accounting system can help you develop - will also make a real difference when you front up to the bank manager for an overdraft or some business finance.

Keep a close eye on costs

A home business can be a great way to manage your costs - particularly when starting up, offering savings on key expenses like fuel, commercial rents, and operating expenses. However, running a business from home means you need to keep track of which costs, such as power, phone, internet connections and equipment, belong to your business. Getting help from your accountant or financial advisor will allow you to plan for these costs - and take advantage of any tax benefits - while avoiding blowing out the household budget.

Invest in your set up.

Although it requires some initial investment, getting set up with the tools you need to effectively run your business, is very important. While a computer is an essential element, a smartphone is probably the home business owner's most important tool - meaning you'll never miss a client call, can answer an email on the move, and check on your accounts from wherever you are. Consider the benefits of investing in reliable accounting software that will give you a clear idea of your financial situation at any point in time.

Physical elements Some of the physical elements of your home office set-up require consideration as well. A home office should be just that: an office, as working off the kitchen table or a shelf in the lounge is likely to be uncomfortable for long periods, offer too many distractions and probably won't communicate the right message if a client wants to drop in.

Manage your time

Whether your home business is service-oriented or you are building furniture, it's likely that your time will be the most important component in your operation.

Free from the confines of the traditional workday, managing time can be one of the biggest challenges home business owners face. So start by creating working hours that you, your clients - and your friends and family - can work within. This means that when you are 'at work', you are able to focus on your business and not do the school run, pick up the dry cleaning, or meet for coffee because you are at home. Of course, as your own boss, you can choose when you want to change your schedule, but starting out with this time discipline will provide a lot more certainty for your clients. It will hopefully mean you do not have to work late into the night or on weekends to make up the time you missed during the day.

Understanding the value of your time When you are running any business, you need to ensure you are focusing your efforts on the things that will make you money. And, in doing so, get help from systems and professionals to do the time-consuming things like invoicing, GST and the books.

Because your time is so valuable, make sure you are charging for it - with a good timekeeping and billing system that ensures you capture the true value of your efforts.

Set up a support network

Another pitfall of running a home business, particularly for those starting out on their own for the first time, is that working from home can be a bit lonely. With no one to bounce ideas off, talk through any difficulties, or go to for inspiration or just a short distraction, the isolation can be a real challenge. Setting up a support network is a good way to combat this, while ensuring you get all the help and motivation you need. Other business owners, your former colleagues, friends and family, and, importantly, an accountant, business advisor or business mentor, can be valuable sources of support and a useful network for business referrals.

Next week: Building your brand from scratch will be one of your first challenges as a start up. How did brands like Icebreaker and Moa build their brand from day one?

- NZ Herald

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