Corrections or additions?
These articles by Kathleen McGinn Spring and Bart Jackson were
prepared for the May 22, 2002 edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights
Masking a Home-Based Business
Entrepreneur or employee? So many people wrestle with
the choice, some flipping back and forth between the two work styles.
That was the case with
the Small Business Development Center at Raritan Valley Community
College, she has been a business owner, a corporate employee, and
is now heading up a start-up branch of a non-profit. Her current
combines the initiative, creativity, and multitasking associated with
the entrepreneurial life with the regular hours and limited
associated with the life of a wage slave.
For Johnson, for now, it is the perfect choice. Before she accepted
the position with the SBDC she had been through a life-changing event.
"I had a life threatening disease, cancer," she says. "I
was in bed for a year." Now her priority is lots of time with
her family, a luxury many business owners have to curtail, especially,
she says, if growing the business is on the agenda.
Johnson takes part in Small Business Day on Thursday, May 23, at 9:30
a.m. at First Union bank in Flemington. Sponsored by the SBDC at
Valley Community College, the free event includes one-on-one
as well as a number of sessions and programs, including "Home
Based Consulting Business." Call 908-526-1200.
Johnson grew up in Somerset and Hunterdon counties, graduated from
Seton Hall (Class of 1979) with a degree in accounting and computer
science, earned an MBA from Fairleigh Dickinson — and, "every
year faithfully" returns to Seaside Park for her summer vacations.
She worked as a home-based computer consultant from 1985 through 1992
and then again from 1998 through 2000. During her first stint as a
consultant she did a lot of computer training. Personal computers
were just making an appearance on desks, and many office workers were
still afraid the things would explode if they pressed the wrong key.
By 1998, however, she found "major software overload." There
was so much to choose from that paralysis had set in. Her consulting
then often came down to "finding out business requirements and
matching them with the best software fit." The job was an analysis
that involved the whole company and all of its functions.
Through both periods, Johnson dealt not only with her clients’
needs, but also with the challenges of operating a business from her
home. She has some definite opinions on the right way — and the
wrong way — to run a successful home-based business:
"Clients still perceive a home office as a negative," says
Johnson. Yes, home-based businesses have been around for a long time,
and yes, many have prospered while proclaiming to the world that desks
are lined up next to the washing machine. Nevertheless, Johnson says
it is risky to be too upfront about operating from a family room or
a corner in the bedroom. Once relationships with clients are
and your work is sought after, okay, but don’t let potential clients
in on the secret.
in creating an office presence for home-based businesses — without
actually giving them an office. Some have receptionists to answer
phones, office park addresses to which business mail can be sent,
desks available by reservation, and conference rooms to rent by the
hour. Find such a quasi-office, says Johnson, and never, ever even
think of inviting a potential client to a confab at the dining room
but a surprising number of home-based companies use the same phone
line for general household calls — from grandma and the kids’
school chums — and for business calls. Do not do this, says
Get a separate phone line for the business, and use any threats
to keep other members of the family, especially those under 10, from
ever picking up that phone.
not be headquartered anywhere in the flyway between, say, the
and the television, or the family room and the deck. "Be as
as possible," says Johnson. Then, she adds, "forbid the family
to go into the room. Period."
not to interrupt unless it is an emergency. An empty container of
chocolate ice cream, it must be explained, does not fall into the
emergency category. Still, Johnson admits, there are times when
that fall short of a request for transport to the emergency room do
need to get through. Her office had glass doors and her kids got into
the habit of holding up signs. Things like "Can I go play at
house?" This worked for her, she says. Others might find the signs
a tad distracting. If so, something like E-mail or Instant Messaging
might do the trick.
every time a squirrel passes in front of a window, it needs to be
sequestered far from the home office. Clients, says Johnson, do not
want to hear barking when they call to check on a project. The same
goes for crying, or for the gut-wrenching screams that tend to
an intense scuffle between two toddlers intent on playing with the
same dump truck. Get a sitter, is Johnson’s advice here. No serious
business person can field client calls while feeding an infant or
separating combatant pre-schoolers.
does not matter. In cyberspace, a one-person business operating from
a cubby in the dining room can appear just as big as a multi-national
in cyberspace. Build a professional, full-featured website.
the businessperson needs to get out. Selling is a part of every
and some of it needs to be done in person. Networking is important
too, and Johnson encourages home-based business owners to attend
of commerce, association, and trade meetings.
Keep records for the IRS, but perhaps more importantly, says Johnson,
keep them to project cash flow, to track operations, and to build
businesses right now. Many are downsized executives who have always
had a bit of the entrepreneurial itch. The SBDC offers free counseling
to anyone thinking of scratching that itch, and to anyone who is
in business, but could use a little help in getting to the next level.
All would do well to keep Johnson’s experience in mind. Running a
home-based business is full of rewards, but it does take a substantial
commitment. "It’s time consuming," she says. "You’re the
person doing it all."
She remains ever an island, off an island. And while
her lush, emerald shores may embrace 3.8 million warm and friendly
souls, ’tis Ireland’s location that determines the jobs and business
opportunities for her 1.82 million work force.
This willing and efficient portal into the European Union will be
the focus of the Global Business Center’s breakfast seminar on
May 23, at 8 a.m. at the West Windsor campus of Mercer Community
Cost: $25. Call 609-586-4800, ext. 3639. Speakers include
Cronin, vice president of Investment and Development Agency:
for both industrial partnerships and distribution connections for
small to larger New Jersey-based businesses.
The Center for Global Business at MCCC runs an ongoing seminar series
of monthly workshops for firms and investors seeking to expand abroad.
In addition, its Action Group program serves the needs of Garden State
enterprises with a specific nation focus. Group members swap
on customs problems, finding a good bank, an able attorney — every
aspect of doing business on that nation’s soil.
Historically, sharp Western hemisphere traders have used Ireland as
a swifter and more amenable back door for distributing goods
Europe. Now as the E.U. continues to standardize and inter-connect,
this gateway role has grown more important. Of her $81.9 billion GNP,
an impressive 95 per cent is exported — and two thirds of that
floods into the Common Market. For the past 25 years, seminar speaker
Cronin has been involved in this growing import/export process. A
native of Dublin, he took his degrees at Trinity College, majoring
in economics and political science. Since 1977 he has served two
stints in New York as American/Irish liaison for the Investment and
"Particularly during this last decade," Cronin says,
has labored very strategically and successfully to handle the
of Western hemisphere business throughout Europe’s markets." And
the benefits are several:
comparatively closer to major U.S. shipping ports. But being the first
stop across the pond no longer provides an absolute trade advantage.
Also, while the unification of European markets increasingly lures
foreign investment, all tariffs, value-added taxes, and other customs
fees are standardized, allowing no specific nation any price
"Instead, Ireland’s real competitive edge must and does come from
our greater logistical ease — both in distribution and in
Cronin says. All business is personal, it’s just a little more so
in Ireland. The old joke claims that in Germany and France you deal
with companies, in England you deal with representatives, but in
you talk with people. Seminar speaker Lee, of Red Devil, says that
a can-do atmosphere prevails.
retrain its labor force with what Cronin terms "more relevant
skills." The country’s leaders have worked to initiate a spiral
of better education that leads to higher wages and to higher
"And for the past five years, this cycle seems to have impressed
foreign firms. Those seeking to industrialize here, have perceived
it as well worth their investment," says Cronin.
fewer and fewer items are totally manufactured and shipped from a
single home plant. More typically, a New Jersey enterprise may gather
pieces from Brazil and Thailand to be assembled and then placed in
packaging shipped in from Wisconsin.
Increasingly, Ireland’s industry is establishing such marrying
A growing list of companies exist solely to unite and reconfigure
all the product elements and ship the finished item out to markets
abroad. While the cost and time saving in this process are obvious,
there is one caveat. As your product slips further from your immediate
oversight, more diligence must be taken to maintain control.
about all of Africa. Our news media and trade sources still treat
it terra incognita, proffering little more than occasional snippets
from the Associated Press or from World Bank reports. Rooted in a
long missionary history, Ireland retains a strong trade through many
African nations, with representatives who know their way around the
ports, distribution networks, and regulations. They provide many
hemisphere firms with an experienced launching point. These same
apply to both the Middle East and to the burgeoning markets of Eastern
is convenient and swift, it is definitely limited. "High profit
margin, low weight products," says Cronin, "are what we most
specifically seek. In fact, it’s all we can handle." A glance
at a map would quickly discourage the selection of this small isle
as a site for livestock or large truck transfer. The New Jersey-based
pharmacology/health industries, however, find Ireland an ideal match
for both distribution and product reconfiguration. "Also, as
shifts to phototronics," Cronin says, "we stand ready to
Not only is the labor properly skilled for such work, but Ireland’s
flat, 12.5 percent corporate tax rate makes the country more enticing.
of a slump, it may be time to look across the waters to greener
For the right business, a profitable gateway with a friendly pub
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