Home offices used to refer to company headquarters; now the definition is literal. To gain perspective on the ins and outs of home office setup and use, POB went to the source: home office-ers themselves. Most of the surveyors we talked to moved their offices home and never looked back with doubt. A majority said they liked that they could customize their offices according to personal needs. After all, what may be a conducive environment to one may not be for another. Read on for surveyors’ reasons for establishing their home headquarters and for first-hand home office experiences. We hope their insights help you to make the transition from outside office to inside office a smooth one.
Reasons To Stay HomeFlexibility, convenience, being the boss: the typical reasons you’d expect for going out on one’s own are those we received from home office owners. Many sought a better work environment, often citing a disdain for big corporations.
“I wanted to get away from the manager-driven business where all you do is get the client on board, hand them over to an underling and go after the next big fish,” said Alan R. Divers, PLS, of Placerville, Calif. “I wanted to get away from big overhead and not enough hands-on work.”
We all like to make (and keep) money, of course, which also lured many surveyors to their homes. Jim Frame, owner of Frame Surveying & Mapping in Davis, Calif., said he decided to go into business for himself and didn’t want to incur the costs of an outside office.
Equipping the Home OfficeAside from a typical office that contains a telephone, answering machine, fax machine, scanner and filing cabinet(s), our respondents cited several other items used for their daily business. The majority of surveyors said they chose equipment from past experiences and knowledge in the field. Another research option suggested was to contact various companies and ask for demos to test certain equipment. The trials can help ascertain what equipment will be best for different jobs. Many surveyors use the Internet as a good source for exploring information on several products.
Bruce Small, RLS, of Tucson, Ariz., said the POB/RPLS discussion board, (http://www.i-boards.com/bnp/pob/) has been of great help in obtaining information on products and preferences from other surveyors. Other valuable resources for equipping the home office came simply from networking. Peter G. Johnson, PSM, of Daytona Beach, Fla., advised home office candidates to make contacts in the area. “That is a key factor to establish repeat business,” Johnson said.
Most of the owners of home offices had similar equipment with a variance on specific models. All offices had at least one computer (Dell, Toshiba and Gateway were named), and many had a desktop computer and a laptop. Divers, who established his home office in 1997, spoke highly of his Dell laptop.
“I have selected Dell because of its great service policy and the fact that in two years I’ve never needed it,” Divers said.
A surveyor from Ohio* vowed that his Compaq Presario 1270 laptop contains the screen that provides the best visuals in sunlight and is optimal for outside work.
Hewlett-Packard (HP) topped the list of choice for printers. Frame gave a convincing input for a printer choice. “I bought my HP LaserJet 4 printer in 1993 and it’s still going strong,” he said.
Hewlett-Packard 430 series (D and E) were highly recommended for home office plotters. One surveyor told us he still uses an outside company for his plotter work.
Another prominent piece of equipment used by home office proprietors is the digital camera. These little devices can be invaluable for certain tasks. Specifically cited was the Olympus 490.
“I can go out to the sight, take pictures and send the data and digital images to the client that evening through my laptop,” said the Ohio surveyor. He added that one client liked the idea of receiving digital images of the surveyed area so much, especially when doing out of town jobs, that he implemented it as a new regulation.
Home Office PerksHome office perks are many. At the top of the list is flexible scheduling. Home office-ers can work on weekends to make up for time missed during the week and work around vacations.
“I can work any hours I want,” Small said emphatically. Convenience ranked high as another perk, especially by eliminating the commute to an outside office. Imagine waking up in the morning and walking down the hall to get to work! The Ohio surveyor said that an outside office would “take time away from my family, just in travel time to the office.” Many surveyors enjoy being their own bosses. Many are more relaxed in a home environment, boosting productivity.
Many surveyors who work from home stated that home offices are more economical and profitable, including tax deductions. (See our online feature on home office tax deductions at www.pobonline.com.) One of the biggest perks mentioned is more time spent with the family. Divers said, “When my son wanted me to manage his baseball team, no problem, I had the time…now put a price on that!”
Home Office DrawbacksThough some home office owners said they had no problems or complaints, others admitted to size limitations of their workspaces. Johnson admitted that occasionally some clients aren’t real comfortable with home work, tending to view it as a ‘mom and pop’ shop. A few business owners mentioned the noise and activity created by their families sometimes interfered with their work.
“Sometimes there is too much activity, especially when my son’s friends are over,” Divers said.
Also, employee and client visits can be problematic at a home office, as they are not as formal. Another drawback can be summed up in one word: collections. You can’t take the billing down to Secretary Cathy anymore. Be aware, too, of inconsistency; you must be your own boss.
Home Office Hints“It’s easy to sit out back under the trees, but if you’re disciplined it will work,” Small said. Most surveyors agreed that maintaining a good home office comes down to being disciplined and creating individual routines. There are a few guidelines that seem ubiquitous to a successful home office such as dedicating a room to the office that has no other function and implementing a setup that provides everything needed. Try to keep noise to a minimum by establishing rules with your family pertaining to hours you work. Johnson said that from his experience, if you do a good job, you’ll get return customers—it doesn’t matter where you work.
These are just a few guidelines to consider when implementing a home office. Keep in mind that each surveyor’s needs will vary accordingly. Home offices are not for everyone, but for those who consider it a viable option, we hope this summary will help you establish yours.
The U.S. Small Business Administration's (SBA) website (www.sba.gov) offers much information on starting, financing, developing and managing a successful home business.
*The surveyor from Ohio wished to remain anonymous. POB felt his quotes were relevant and can verify his validity as a home office proprietor.