Monday, November 12, 2012

Business Monday: Meeting Space

Balancing work and home space is difficult when you have to meet with clients.

Home-based business owners often have to decide whether to bring people to our houses for meetings or to meet them at coffee shops or other locations. There are advantages and disadvantages to both, but the disadvantages to bringing people to my house outweigh the advantages, in my opinion.

First, I don't like bringing people to my house if I don't know who they are. I don't really like having people come over if I DO know who they are, but I'm antisocial that way. Mixing business and personal space isn't great. My kids also don't enjoy having people over here, since it limits how much noise they can make. Which leads me to my second point, namely...

...It's less than professional to have your family walking through the house while you're trying to talk to people about their contracts. No matter how good they are about it, it's going to be disruptive, especially if you have little kids.

I once had to have someone come to my house when my daughter was about three, and she wandered into the room during our meeting. She looked at a fake cake I had in there, pointed at it, and yelled "DUMMY!" then walked out. I had to explain to the client that a dummy is a fake cake, and that my daughter wasn't talking about her.

I recommend that if you don't have a separate section of your house that you can use for consults, you take your show on the road. The best thing is to meet with your clients in an office setting, but if you can't do that then Starbucks or Panera will work. They're used to people having business meetings there, so it isn't a bad thing to do.

If you can manage it, rent office space. I share an office with some other wedding professionals who also work from home, and it works out really well. The rent isn't much if you split it, and it gives you a place to meet that's professional, and not full of kids.

If you can't manage that, see if there's another business that will rent you space by the hour, or who will let you use their space for free. Sometimes you can combine resources and have a monthly open house with another business to showcase both of you at once.

If you do have to bring people to your home, make the room that you meet in a neutral environment. It had better be clean, to begin with. I had one client tell me that they went to someone's house for a meeting and the place was really dirty. Not messy, dirty.

Also make sure that your family has been duly threatened warned about leaving you alone during the appointment. There's nothing that says professionalism like being interrupted for a family issue during a client meeting. This also includes pets. You might think little Fido is super cute, but nobody else does. Well, I probably would, but not during a meeting.

Another issue that people probably don't think about is liability. When you bring people to your house you're taking on a risk that your insurance company might be interested in. I have to list my home on my business insurance because I bake here, but I also have to list my office space. If you have people come to your house for meetings you'd better check with your insurance agent to make sure that when Grandma falls over on your driveway you're covered through your business when she sues you.

So give some thought to using an off-site space for consults. If there's another business that can rent you space, use that. If not, use a coffee shop. Keeping things separate will go a long way toward creating a balance between your business and your  home life.

Any other ideas for meeting spaces for a home-based business? Leave ideas in the comments section!


 Kara Buntin owns A Cake To Remember LLC in Richmond VA, and cake supplies online at www.acaketoremember.com and www.acaketoremember.etsy.com

2 comments:

Veronica said...

This is the practice I use now. We meet at a Panera, a Starbucks and even some smaller local shops will allow it and I will send them business as a thank you. I have also met at client's homes. It's not ideal but I don't host clients. I'm working towards that rented office space. Good post.

Buttercream Dreams, LLC said...

I do do consults at my house, but in my shop...which is located in my basement. The customers really enjoy seeing the working space where their cake will be created. I too have insurance for both house and business, and have had to use it when my husband backed his car into the bride's father's car...yikes! Things happen, but personally it is easier for me to do the shop vs. elsewhere because those locations can be noisier, and it allows me to grab a ribbon, or an impression mat to show the client...couldn't do that off site. We had issues when my kids were younger, but older now, and abide by the rules! It all works out!