Isolation is a growing problem for small business owners and entrepreneurs everywhere as more people than ever are opting to run a business from home. This is going to become more of an issue in coming years as all figures tend to indicate that the home based business is becoming increasingly appealing as many people choose to leave the mainstream workforce to take advantage of the tech based opportunities that now exist.
As appealing as the idea of a home based business can be, it does come with its challenges, especially for people who are moving from a busy and social workplace to the relative solitude of a home office. The key to avoiding isolation in this new environment is to stay connected with the outside world. Here are five simple strategies to help achieve this:
1. Join a networking organisation and attend their events
There are countless networking organisations available, for example Chambers of Commerce, Business Networks International (BNI), Business Enterprise Centres (BEC’S), Business Women’s Clubs and many more. Most of these offer regular networking events for members that can range from informal after hours get togethers to more formal business lunches with guest speakers. Joining networking organisations and making the effort to attend their events is an excellent way to stay connected with the world and to develop new business at the same time.
2. Be active with business development
Taking a proactive stance with business development means meeting more people. A trend that seems to have proliferated is in my opinion the more passive types of business development, relying on emails to send out information and hope for a positive response. To me this is a rather luke warm approach to business development. I am much more in favour of having great promotional material, that you can produce yourself if needed, contacting prospective customers and then physically meeting with them. Not only does this tend to produce better results it ensures that you leave your home based business environment and go out into the world.
3. Be mobile, work from a coffee shop from time to time
Of course today we are better positioned to be able to work remotely than ever before. We have access to equipment that gives us the freedom to move around and we have cloud technology which means we can access files, print documents and transfer data from anywhere with internet access. This means that we can spend time working in more social environments like a coffee shop. I run a home based business but I spend quite a lot of time working in coffee shops. This time might be spent working on projects, meeting with clients (new and existing) and generally doing my day to day tasks. By being in a coffee shop I feel more connected to the outside world yet my efficiency stays the same. And lets be honest, setting yourself up at a table in a coffee shop for a few hours is pretty cheap rent – a couple cups of coffee and a sandwhich.
4. Be well connected and know where to spend your time online
There are numerous online communities for small business owners and some even specialise in micro home based businesses. One that springs to mind is Flying Solo (www.flyingsolo.com.au). This is an online community developed especially for soloist business owners and it is hugely popular. Spending time on websites like this is a great way to see what challenges other like minded business owners are facing and how they are dealing with these issues. There are forums, specific advice in the form of articles and blog posts and there is information about events and networking opportunities. By being a part of an online community like this, you can still be connected and in touch even if you are physically less able to meet up with a group on an regular basis. I would suggest though that to get the most of these communities we need to be actively involved. Make comment in the forums, share your opinions on the articles and reach out and connect with other members.
5. Spend more time with your suppliers and your clients
I work with a number of suppliers in my home town and most of the time we communicate by email. I found that I could spend years working with these businesses and not have any real face to face contact. A while back I made the commitment to get out and meet with these suppliers at least once every few months. This has been a great way to build a better relationship with them simply by getting to know each other a little better.
The same concept applies to working with our customers and clients. When working from home we spend little or no time with our customers and as convenient as it it to email, I believe we need to make the effort to catch up face to face as often as we can. Humans need interaction but in the modern world, it is becoming increasingly obvious that unless we make the effort to connect with people face to face, we often don’t. Even using Skype to have online hook ups is better than no contact at all.
Of course the added bonus that comes from each of the recommended initiatives is that your business will become more successful as you become more active, you will grow stronger relationships with your existing clients and develop more personal and professional skills. And at the same time you will feel much less isolated and alone in your business.