Working from home and the proper business

I have been really enjoying listening to the Bootstrapped podcast from Ian Landsman and Andrey Butov. Listening to other business owners just talk about their businesses and how they do things is fascinating. At Perch we use Ian’s HelpSpot product as our support system so it’s especially interesting to hear more about the story of that product.

One of the things discussed in Episode 2 touched on how business owners sometimes do things to validate our being “in business”. As sellers of digital stuff, we forget how lucky we are with our minimal start up costs and lack of expensive stock to hold. Instead we long for the validation that holding a physical product in our hands, or having premises, staff and the trappings of doing business gives us.

Years ago, when edgeofmyseat.com was still a fairly new business I spent some of my limited, hard earned cash on having a set of folders designed and printed. I had seen another agency distribute marketing materials in a folder and thought that having such a thing would make me a proper business. I was so pleased with them but I barely sent out any. They sat in boxes for years, even once we changed the company branding, until I could think about throwing out something that had cost me so much!

Towards the end of last year the lease on our lovely office was coming up for renewal. When we had moved there Perch was a very small part of our business. We were mostly a client service business, to scale we thought we would soon need employees, we had meetings and sometimes ran training. I had started the business from home but this was the third office the company had leased, and by far the nicest and largest space. When people asked if we worked from home I was always very quick to explain that we had an office – to make sure they knew we were a proper business.

Yet as Perch became our business, working from the office started to make little sense. We deal with customers at all times of day and night. We have no-one with any expectation that we will be in the office a any particular time. With no reason to have an office, as married company Directors we were essentially paying for two places for us to sit and work. So we made the decision to pack up the office and come back to work from home. This became official in a legal sense as of March, although in reality we have been working from home since Christmas.

The strange thing is, divested of all the trappings of running a business, I feel more secure as a business owner than ever before. When someone asks if we work from home I am very happy to tell them, “yes, we do, we’re so lucky”.

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