Time Out

Three's Company

Whether it's babies or business, having more than one at the same time presents plenty of challenges. But like parents of triplets, owners of multiple homebased businesses find ways to cope.

Stephanie Burgett is a mother of three, ages 1, 2 and 13, and runs four businesses from her Sioux Falls, South Dakota, home. How does she manage it all? "Family comes [first]; I juggle my businesses around it," Burgett says. "For me, that means working a lot of late nights."

But finding time isn't the only hurdle multiple entrepreneurs face. Terri Lonier, a New Paltz, New York, small-business expert and author of Working Solo (John Wiley & Sons, $14.95, 800-222-7656), explains: "The biggest challenge in operating several businesses from home is maintaining a clear identity for each in your customers' minds--and in yours. Also, you may find yourself fumbling with a lack of focus. It can be difficult to know where to put your energy."

One solution: Start with a "base" business and add others that fit with it. For example, photography would be a natural extension of a writer's business. Running a furniture refinishing enterprise would not.

Lonier also suggests multiple owners leverage technology:

  • Use voice mail with as many mailboxes as you need.
  • Select different e-mail addresses that feed into a central address.
  • Order "distinctive ring" service on your phone so you can distinguish each business's calls by the sound of the ring.

One "don't": Never mingle business records. Keeping your checking accounts, bookkeeping and business records separate lessens your headaches and keeps the IRS happy. Most important, Lonier points out, good records give you a clear picture of which businesses generate the most profits, so you know where to invest your time and money.

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