Working With Torah

A Guide to Parnassa (Online Edition)

Boruch Clinton

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Home-Based Employment and Business

(Some of these ideas will prove equally applicable to small business ownership in general)

First, the bad news...
The idea of going it alone appeals to you and you think it fits your needs and lifestyle, but there are some things you must not forget. Not everyone has a personality or background suited to run a business. Not every business idea will succeed (statistically, most do not). Not all of our daydreams and impressions about home-based work are true. So let's take a peek into the darker side of life at home.
You probably won't make as much money as you would doing comparable work for a more traditional business (or, at least, that's what some research has suggested).
You probably won't have more free time to spend with your family. In fact, you might have a whole lot less, as your business could well drag you into more time-consuming activities than you would ever have faced working with a larger company. And the words: "5:00 lights out" are meaningless.
From the other side, your family - living as they will just down the hall from your office - will likely distract you from your tasks and eat away at your necessary work time.
You'll get no free health insurance.
Ditto for retirement plans.
Paid vacation? Not likely.
You might have to go long hours without seeing another human being.
Just when you thought you had escaped the need to hunt down jobs, you might find yourself doing it full-time: you'll need customers, and customers rarely present themselves uninvited at your kitchen table. If you don't like banging on cold doors now, you'll like it no better while self-employed (not to mention chasing the many customers who are slow to pay their bills). If your business model can sustain it, you could farm out the marketing work to someone else (your first employee). As with everything in this field, detailed budgets, research and planning are vital.

Ok. So it's not perfect for everyone. But it does sometimes work. So, if you're still ready to consider taking a chance, you'll want to know what it will take.

What you will need:
Serious commitment to your dream - even in the face of desperately hard work, sacrifice and imminent failure. If you're likely to despair at the first hint of trouble, don't read even one line further. This book has other chapters with which you'll be much more comfortable.
A risk-taking personality. It isn't realistic to expect to achieve your goals without taking chances. Of course, with exhaustive research and preparation (see below) you can increase your odds of success. There are, however no guarantees.
Loads of self motivation. You will have to bear down and keep at it despite many difficulties. Something's got to keep you going. If your goal in the endeavor is to work fewer hours or get rich quick, forget it. Self discipline. You can be the most highly motivated individual on the planet, but if you can't focus on specific, timely tasks, you'll never get much serious work done.
Patience. And perhaps some cash in reserve. Profits - even when they do come - don't often make their appearance within the first six months of a business' existence. Keeping your start up-costs low can buy you more time. Do you really need all that fancy office equipment?
Good - no, great - stress management techniques. And there's no better method than bitachon (see that chapter).

What are the first steps?
Research like mad. Read and understand just about everything there is to know about your product or service and the community to which you're marketing it. For this kind of research, there is nothing like the speed and scope of the Internet.
Richard Bolles recommends speaking to at least three owners of successful businesses similar to the one you're planning (the owner who is more likely to speak to you openly about this is the one whose business and market lies in a distant city). Find out what problems they faced and how they were overcome. What worked? What didn't?
Bolles also recommended spending plenty of time drawing up complete lists of details to feed into the following formula: A - B = C. That means, A (the list of skills you'll need for this business) - B (those skills from A that you already possess) = C (the skills you'll have to acquire, one way or another, in order to make this project succeed).
You will also need an idea: something to sell or deliver. If you already have one, great, otherwise, here are some things to examine:
Your dreams. Both the ones you've long held and the ones that quickly come and go. Perhaps most are unrealistic, but you'll never be sure there isn't some germ of an intelligent idea among them until you think them through in an organized way. That means writing them out in all their detail on a piece of paper (or in a word processor file) and thinking, thinking, thinking.
Your community. What service is currently missing that you could fill? Richard Bolles observes that most families and even working singles feel stressed and overwhelmed with the endless details and chores of modern life. Could you offer to take over some of that for them?
Your existing job. Could you successfully perform you duties from home and telecommute the information back to the office? Could the expertise you've developed at work be transferred into a small, private consulting firm? Your telephone and mailbox. Could these connections to the outside world be used as the medium for a successful mail-order (or eBay) business? What could you sell?
For some more ideas, try ahbbo - an Internet page that briefly catalogues an alphabetic list of some 400 work-at-home possibilities.
There are hundreds of Internet web sites, books and government information resources devoted to work-at-home and small business issues. From among them, I've drawn primarily on two for this section.
"What Color is your Parachute?" - 2003 edition by Richard Bolles (Ten Speed Press) - perhaps the very best single-volume general resource available for job hunting guidance.
"Look Before You Leap ... Is A Home-Based Business REALLY For You?" © 2000-2003 Elena Fawkner.

Besides the fact that not everyone is cut out to create and run a business from home, it is important to realize that not every home-based business is worthy of being run. In fact, there are no shortage of worthless or fraudulent business ideas out there (especially on the Internet).
It is just the person who is most desperately searching for a steady income who is most vulnerable to the scam's appeal. And it is just that person who must be best prepared so he doesn't throw his precious time and money into the garbage.
The first rule of identifying a scam: if the job offer seems too good to be true, it almost certainly is. Anyone who promises you that his business will generate income of hundreds or thousands of dollars a month with a minimal commitment of time and energy is probably lying.
If they ask you for money up-front for "starter kits" you can be confident you'll never see too much of it back. 1-900 telephone numbers should be avoided (charges per call will appear on your next telephone bill and these calls are sometimes enormous). Contracts should be shown to a lawyer before signing. The phrase "no experience necessary" should make you nervous.
Multi-level marketing schemes (in which you earn minimal commissions for selling the company's products, but far higher commissions for sales generated through the "down-stream" sellers you have recruited) seldom work for any but a few people at the top of the pyramid. Sometimes, they're illegal. I've known unfortunate individuals who were stuck with basements full of the boxes of laundry detergent they couldn't even give away - and nothing to show for the whole effort but a bitter taste. I've never personally known anyone who was successful at it.
Businesses that ask you to place ads, stuff envelopes, assemble crafts, or participate in electronic chain letters are all highly suspicious. Objective, respected organizations that watch for business fraud (like the Better Business Bureau or the Federal Trade Commission) should be consulted. Consider researching through National Consumer's League, the FTC, the Better Business Bureau or this site.