Working at home might sound like a dream, yet for many small business
owners it can be a nightmare filled with distractions, boredom and
“There are those times when you wake up on a gray winter morning and you
say to yourself, ‘what am I doing here,'” said Renee Fullerton,
executive director of the Homebased Business Association of Rhode
She said with the right temperament a business owner can find success in
the office down the hall from his or her living room. But, without that
mindset work can turn into a string of daytime talk shows or — to the
other extreme — countless work-related chores taking over your home
Fullerton said self-discipline is an important trait for any small
business owner, never mind one who is working at home. She said the
ability to set firm hours of business, avoid personal matters, stay in
touch with your market and challenge yourself is vital.
“I think most types of personalities can make adjustments, because of
their desire and dedication to succeed. Making those changes can
certainly be more difficult for some people than others,” Fullerton
Debra T. Morais, owner of Communication Works, a home-based company,
said distractions are the enemy.
“You have to structure your work days to avoid any chance of a
distraction unrelated to your business,” said Morais, who started her
marketing, advertising and public relations company in her North
Scituate home in 1995.
The physical boundaries of the home and office are also important. By
having a separate entrance to the office the business owner can avoid
all the comings and goings of the household.
“When I first started I noticed paperwork ended up on the dining room
table instead of being in the office where it belonged. But, I have a
handle on that now,” she said.
A second obstacle Morais has noticed is the ability to work alone. For
long-time members of the work force who are used to feeding off the
energy of an office, flying solo can be a dramatic change.
“If you remain isolated you will be unable to stay current in what is
going on in your field,” Morais said. “It’s critical to network, even
if it is with your competitors. You need to stay in touch with the
Douglas Jobling, of the Rhode Island Small Business Development Center
at Bryant College, said he has seen a number of people who just needed
to be around other people.
“They could not take being at home all by themselves and not seeing any
other human being. There is so much talk about the computer, but it will
never replace human contact,” he said. “Some people actually go through
a grieving process after leaving a business to go on their own.”
He said organizations like his and other business owners are a great
outlet to replace that contact.
“Joining business organizations, chambers of commerce and trade groups
have two purposes. The first is psychological in that it’s a chance to
talk to people. The second reason is to make business contacts, talk to
your competitors and find customers,” Jobling said.
Another element of working within a company that is often missed by the
small business owner is the structure, particularly the fact that you
had to go to work.
“It can be a challenge for some to work during the summer,” he said.
“Next thing you know winter comes along and you start getting cabin
fever, because you don’t want to leave the house.”
For each slacking entrepreneur there are many others who take their
businesses to another extreme, Jobling said.
“I can tell you about one person I know who never does anything but work
at home. He’ll wake up at 2 a.m. and decide to work,” he said. “It is a
very difficult and frankly dangerous situation, where the focus is so
intensified on one aspect of his life.
“You have to do something to achieve balance in your life,” he added.
Time management techniques can be learned by reading books, talking to
other business owners or going to the small business group at Bryant
College, Jobling said.
“Ideally, you want to wake up, shower, eat breakfast, go to work and at
5 p.m. go home,” he said.
Morais said it’s easier said than done.
“I was guilty of that for a long time. I constantly worked after hours,”
she said. “I eventually realized that that is not how I wanted to run my
While at times work does keep her far beyond 5 p.m., Morais has created
limits in general, which she has seen as only beneficial.
“Clients respect the fact that I have these limits, but they also know
if there is a critical issue after hours I’m there to work with them,”
she added. “They know I can do the job, but have a life too.”