If you're running a business out of your parents' home, learning to balance a commitment to excellence in your business and your family relationships can be tricky, to say the least. In some cases, it can be downright disastrous-if you and your parents aren't prepared for the logistics of operating from home when Mom and Dad are around. So we talked to some experienced entrepreneurs to get the good, the bad and the ugly.
Twenty-five-year-old Tamara Remedios began Xplore Communications, a Matawan, New Jersey, college marketing agency, out of her parents' home in 1999 as a way to help her start-up get its feet wet. Remedios, whose company publishes a guide to local businesses and services called Get Out Today, recalls a time when her printer sent over some samples of a publication she was working on and her dad answered the door in his boxers. The damage? A blushing delivery boy and a phone call praising her "nice doorman." She's since established agreed-upon codes and rules to prevent future awkward incidents.
"Guidelines should be set upfront," advises Remedios. "I didn't sit down with my parents [at first] and tell them what my goals were or ask them if they were OK with me living at home for two years, basically not paying any rent. Had I done that, it would have gone a lot smoother."
Alexei Wagner agrees. He works hard to maintain communication with his parents about his Wellesley, Massachusetts, tutoring business, started in 1999. "It's definitely good to have an open dialogue with your parents so they can come to you and discuss problems they're having," says the 18-year-old CEO of Tutor TEAM. "You need to be able to tell them about your needs as a business owner, too."
"There's a fine line," adds Remedios. "This is your business, and the decisions you make are yours, but when it concerns their house and you're living under their roof, decisions need to be discussed with them."
Aside from the struggles, Wagner is quick to point out the perks. He appreciates the free room and board and also acknowledges the built-in advice resource his parents are. "If I run into problems with the business and I need some feedback right away, they're usually around to ask," he explains.
There's no guarantee, though, that embarrassing moments won't happen. "I was on the phone with a client, and my older sister got on the phone and started yelling about how she really needed to use the phone," shares Wagner, who says he politely calmed his sister down, while maintaining his composure with the client.
Now Wagner makes a point of notifying family members when he's going to be using the phone for business, and he's also set up a separate phone number to help keep business calls professional. "People think that because you're running [the business] out of your home that it's a little more informal or that the service you provide isn't as serious," he says of his 1-year-old business. "You really have to be able to sound like you're a legitimate business and maintain a professional atmosphere."