From the March 2001 issue of Startups

Working from home has its perks, but what about the drawbacks? From barking dogs to faulty phone lines, homebased business owners can have mini- crises on their hands at any given moment. As the following entrepreneurs demonstrate, however, it's all in how you handle the situation.

Christine Johansen-Hewitt
Second Chance Marketing
Middlesex, Vermont

I live in a rural area in Vermont, where I'm doing a very high-tech job in a very low-tech area. One morning I woke up, got my cup of coffee, came down to my home office and realized none of my phone lines was working. I had a major conference call scheduled with a client for the next morning at 11 o'clock. The next morning, the problem still wasn't fixed. I didn't want to have to reschedule the call, so I took my cell phone downtown where I could get a signal. I ended up camping out in the tanning room at my gym, holding a conference call on my cell phone with Israel and Boston. Since then, I've made arrangements with several friends of mine who have office space in downtown to borrow a spare desk in case something like that ever happens again.

Jayme Simoes
Louis Karno & Co.
Hillsborough, New Hampshire

A year ago I started my own communications consulting firm in a section of our house. Martha, one of our two Boston Terriers, likes to come over to my office with me and sleep by the gas stove. Before starting the firm, I ran an inn for seven years, and many prospective guests were put off by Martha barking in the background as I tried to tell them about the inn. I learned to throw my shoe, not at her, but near her to get her attention, but I often had to excuse myself, put my hand over the receiver and [scold] her. When I opened my communications firm, I made sure I got a phone with a mute button and a hold button. Thank goodness for modern technology!

Chris Ryan
Ryan & Associates Public Relations
Phoenix

When I got my cat, Nat, they warned me at the shelter that he likes to be the center of attention all the time. In my business, I do crisis management and trial publicity, so I do more serious kinds of public relations. Nat [likes to make] his way under the desk while I'm talking on the phone, and he'll bite my ankles and then run away until he gets my attention. It's very painful, and it's hard for me to keep my composure. If that doesn't work, he'll come right up to the phone and start meowing. It's basically a two-pronged attack. Now I keep a big squirt bottle by my desk and threaten to squirt Nat if he keeps it up. It's a pretty comical ritual that we go through on a regular basis.