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Nature Calls

Taking your business to the great outdoors
April 1, 2000
URL: http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/24992

Ahh,spring. The scent of freshly mown grass, the eye-popping florescence of your blossoming garden, thrushes whistling joy in your back yard. Ahh, spring-yet another reason for your office-tethered comrades to hate you.

One of the brighter perks of working at home is escaping the confines of four walls to take your business onto the patio, deck, yard, poolside or even the driveway during the more forgiving months of the year. "We usually keep the garage door open all the time when we're [shipping sample products]," says Debra Parks Root, 34-year-old founder of Mrs. Malibu Foods Inc., a low-fat peanut butter company she runs out of her one-acre, ocean-view home in Malibu, California. Though she estimates her sales will reach $3 million this year, she hasn't forsaken the comforts of home, maintaining the company's headquarters in her guesthouse with her garage as a shipping station. "If it's a nice day and we want a little sun, we take the tables out of the garage and sit in the driveway."

You can also find Root taking calls while enjoying a Jacuzzi soak with her husband, Wayne, who also works from home as an author, motivational speaker and sports show producer-although she admits she has to be careful with the bubble noises when she's on the phone. Hmm, that sounds like a problem we'd like to try working out.

Craig D. Van Hulzen, owner of Van Hulzen Asset Management in Colorado Springs, Colorado, takes to the great outdoors about eight months a year. "Using my laptop and cellular phone, I can work on anything that can be done inside except printing," says Van Hulzen, 28, who normally sets up shop on his backyard deck but is known to take calls from the golf course.

The few clients who know of Van Hulzen's tendency to breathe the fresh air suffer a bit from the green-eyed monster. "I get ribbed sometimes by the financial advisors who bring me clients, but as long as the portfolios are being managed and performing well, no one seems to mind much." What Van Hulzen does mind, however, are the minor catastrophes caused by outdoor climes. His advice to you? "The wind can wreak havoc on paperwork. I try to be paperless outside now. [Also,] try wearing sunglasses and some sunscreen, and avoid making calls when the neighbor is mowing the lawn."

Toteable Toys

Working outside can be a blast-and a pain. For every bird's song, there's a gust of wind or a surprise spring shower. Here are some hardy tools to help you work au naturel:

Panasonic GigaRange Extreme cordless phone: Debra Parks Root swears by the sturdy splash- and shock-resistant 2.4 MHz GigaRange Extreme ($179). With the optional headset ($59.95), there's nary a place you won't be able to take a call. Visit http://www.panasonic.com or call (800) 211-7262 for more information.

Panasonic Toughbook 27: The Toughbook 27, like you, is "fully ruggedized." With a shockmounted hard drive, spill-resistant keyboard and touchpad, dust-resistant hinges, and a DayBrite ARX Anti-reflective LCD for bright-light viewing, it's you-proof. With a 12.1-inch screen, 300 MHz Pentium II processor and Windows 95/98/NT, it'll set you back $4,365. Visit http://www.panasonic.com/toughbook or call (800) 662-3537.

Apple's AirPort: Yeah, your blueberry iBook coordinates beautifully with your pool, but think how well it will coordinate with your work when you have 150-foot-range wireless Internet access. Install the AirPort Card ($99) into your iBook or iMac and plug the AirPort Base Station ($299) into your phone line or Ethernet port, and you're ready to go. Visit http://www.apple.com or call (800) 538-9696.

Brookstone Pocket Office: Maximum toolage in minimal space: How else are you gonna fit a pen, scissors, a tape measure, a pencil sharpener, a waste container, a hole puncher, a stapler, a staple remover, a carton opener and a paperclip case in your pocket or on your belt loop? Available for $25 from http://www.brookstone.com or (800) 926-7000.

Levenger's Clip Box Courier: This portable pseudo-desk combines a clipboard with a spill-proof storage case where you can hide extra paper and pens. The cutout carrying handle allows you to journey from porch to poolside with ease. Available for $19.95 from http://www.levenger.com or (888) 592-7461.

Brookstone Wood Lap Desk: Get outdoors sans the desk with a Wood Lap Desk ($40). Weighing less than 1.5 pounds, it also features elastic straps. Visit http://www.brookstone.com or call (800) 926-7000.