When Is It Time to Grow?

Other Options

If you're not quite ready to upend that homebased lifestyle you've come to know and love--yet you still need to do some expanding--there's a variety of options to consider. Ken Greenberg, for one, didn't allow his need to hire employees to force him into a traditional office. Having started his PR business, Edge Communications Inc. (www.edgepress.com), in 1998 out of his 28,000-square-foot home in Calabasas, California, he eventually had three employees working out of his home office (as well as two virtual employees). Working in increasingly cramped bedroom offices, he decided to relocate his family and his business to a home in Bell Canyon, California, that had a separate 900-square-foot recreation room above the garage, which Greenberg quickly transformed into an office. He now has four employees working out of this room, which features its own bathroom, shower and kitchenette.

It was a good move for Greenberg, who can't imagine moving back into a traditional office. "It still doesn't interest me--in fact I've heard of two or three larger firms that have actually shut their doors because business dried up but they had massive lease obligations in high-rise office buildings," says Greenberg, who expects to hit the million-dollar mark in sales this year. "Our idea was to keep overhead as low as possible, and that enables us to pay good independent contractors and freelancers on the outside, get employees, and offer good value to clients."

On the other hand, sometimes it's just not feasible to stay in a home, no matter how big. 1n 1996, Mark South started Busy Beaver Express Inc. out of his home in Brandon, Florida, near Tampa. A year later, his wife, Ricki, joined him as vice president of the company, which provides same-day, B2B delivery service in Southeast Florida. Although physical contact with their drivers is limited--they're dispatched from their own homes via a two-way radio and DSL text messaging--Ricki expects that the time will soon come when they will be forced to make the move into an office space.

Mark and Ricki currently have eight drivers who work as independent contractors for the company, and even though traffic to and from their home office is minimal, the Souths feel that any increase in the amount of drivers will cause problems with zoning regulators because of the added traffic, especially since they plan to double the number of drivers within the next few years. Plus, any increase in the volume of calls coming in will most likely mean hiring their first employee--and, since they're unwilling to have that person work from their home, a move to a commercial office could be inevitable.

Another incentive for moving Busy Beaver: image. If the Souths pursue more accounts with larger companies and continue to expand their business, setting up a more professional dispatch center may be necessary. "Once you get to a certain size, you look at either buying some smaller couriers out so you can grow your route business or having someone buy you," says Ricki. "We really need to double our size to about 16 drivers. Then we'll be very marketable in the industry, or we will get bigger and buy someone else out."

When the time comes that you think you've outgrown your home office, the most important step is to analyze the costs associated with making your move before signing a lease. Consider lower-cost options such as leasing shared space or executive suites, which typically provide receptionist services as well as use of conference rooms and office equipment. A commercial real estate agent may be able to help you find the space that's right for you. "Really pencil out in detail the additional costs," stresses Deeds.

And in the end, go with your gut. No one says you have to do anything you don't want to do.

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