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8 Signs For Small Business Owners That It’s Time To Get An Office

8 Signs For Small Business Owners That It’s Time To Get An Office

Most small businesses begin at home. In fact, Microsoft began in Bill Gates’ father’s garage. And Facebook began in a college dorm room. There are a few reasons that businesses tend to literally start from the ground up in regards to location. For most startups, your home cuts costs by being a cheap, free option to housing your business. Running your business at home also offers a lot of flexibility to work anytime creativity strikes, sometimes even in the middle of the night. As a home base, it also provides a lot of convenience.

At some point, however, your small business grows to the point that you have to think about moving out of your home and into an actual office space. How do you know the time is right to do this? Here are the telltale signs that your small business can make the move from home office to office space:

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1. You Are Scheduling Too Many Meetings With Clients Off-Site

Your workspace at home is pretty small. And, it is not set apart from the “goings on” of the household. There are distractions and interruptions that make you uncomfortable. So, more and more, you are meeting with clients over lunch at a restaurant, at a coffee shop, or only at their offices. You need a professional space where clients can visit and meet you, even if only for your reputation as a business. As you gain more important and bigger clients, they will expect that you have an office, not a small room in your home.

2. You Need To Add Staff

Growing means that administrative and management tasks become more complex and take up more of your time. You know you need to add additional staff to the team and now you can afford it. The problem is this: where do you put them? Can you divide the small home office space up to accommodate additional furniture and equipment? Probably not. It is definitely time to look for some space outside of your home.

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3. Your Business Requires You To Be On-Site Somewhere Else

This is not the case with every business, but it is with some. Suppose, for example, that you are a property manager or developer. You began small out of our home. Now, a large developer has contracted with you to manage the sales/leasing of a large residential project. Or, as a developer, you are ready to begin your first major project. It’s a project that will take your business to the next level. To meet those client’s or customer’s’ needs, you are going to need an office on-site that is staffed with the right personnel to receive potential buyers/renters. Having an office tells potential customers that your company is professional and trustworthy. Other smaller operations may be run from your home, but this one is just too important.

4. You are Generating The Revenue To Warrant Office Space

You are finally generating the revenue that is bringing in a good profit. It is definitely time to think about expanding and venturing into new, related areas for your business. You want to seek out investors, partners, etc. When you plan for this kind of expansion, you will need to have the space and the staff to do so. As much as collaboration can now occur with remote staff members, it is still a bit “sketchy” to professionals who may be interested in collaborating with you in your new growth phase. Having an office with staff on-site projects an image of stability and permanence.

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5. Distractions Have Become Too Much

Your kids are growing older. They may be at the toddler stage where everything in the house is “fair game,” including your office. Likewise, they may be elementary-aged with friends over a great deal of the time and they are noisy in their fun. They may also be teens with their blaring music or playing video games with their friends. Whatever the case, you find yourself distracted by the comings and goings, the interruptions, and the noise. It’s definitely time to look for space somewhere else – a place where you can be during the day to focus full-time on your business. This does not necessarily mean that you have to give up your home office – it will be there when you need to work evenings and weekends – just not during prime working hours when it’s better to be somewhere else to avoid household distractions.

6. You Are “Bending” Local Laws And Regulations

Most communities/cities have regulations related to home businesses – what types of businesses can be run from home and which types need to be located elsewhere. If you are a freelance writer, for example, you can stay in your home permanently. Suppose, however, that you are a tax accountant and, especially during tax time, clients are parking on your street and taking up space that residents feel should be reserved for themselves. Or, suppose you have a home office large enough to accommodate a few staff members. They are parked on your street all day, every day.

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In general, cities have laws regarding how many employees you can have in a home office and a revenue cap as well. Some homeowners’ associations have even stricter regulations. If you are “bending” those rules, you may be called on it, as neighbors begin to notice and complain. Be a good neighbor and follow the “rules.”

7. You Feel Isolated

Working at home can be a lonely endeavor, especially for people who are “social.” Some people are just more productive when others are around, when they can take a short break to chat, or when they can bounce ideas back and forth. If this sounds like you, then it is time to look at some office space. The newer concept of shared office space is also a good one. Several small business owners can collaborate, rent a large space together, and subdivide it into their own offices. This adds a social dimension that you might appreciate.

8. You Just Want To “Feel” Like A Business Professional

Sometimes, it’s hard to have that feeling of being a successful business owner when you spend your entire day at home – it’s a psychological thing. Feeling good about your business and your capabilities is important for your enterprise to grow. You need the motivation that comes from having a “real” office.

Ultimately, it’s an individual choice.

Only you know your circumstances, your personality, and your faith that your business is going to scale regularly. And only you know what type of office space you have at home, how large, and how removed it is from the daily operations of your family. Some business owners have an entire wing of their homes and enough space for additional staff; some business owners can actually operate solely from their homes because the business is fully web-based and clients/customers are remote. But if you find yourself facing any of these eight situations, it may be time to make that move.

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Last Updated on April 17, 2019

10 Essential Soft Skills That Will Help Advance Your Career

10 Essential Soft Skills That Will Help Advance Your Career

What’s the secret of professional success? Some of it lies in the mastery of your discipline and all the technical skills you have to carry out your job; but a much bigger part lies in the soft skills list you possess.

Soft skills are your people or relationship skills—how well you get along with others and your ability to communicate and collaborate—as well as the personal characteristics you bring to the job, such as optimism, a can-do attitude and the motivation to work hard. These skills are not always easy to point out, but their absence can cause serious problems and negatively affect the whole work atmosphere.

They say that hard skills will help you get the job, but soft skills will help you get along—and get ahead. With that in mind, here’s the top-10 essential soft skills list to help you advance your career.

1. Communication Skills

Communication skills are hands-down the most sought-after soft skill that bosses want, and this one ability covers a lot of ground.

To communicate well, you have to listen carefully, interpret the context of the conversation, express yourself clearly, persuade others of your point of view, check your body language and use an engaging presentation style that won’t intimidate or bore your audience. That’s a big ask!

Your personality traits can influence the way you communicate with others. For instance, some people get straight to the point and center their arguments around facts and logic; others are cooperative and sensitive to how others feel. Both these approaches are equally valuable but there can be misunderstandings if you don’t understand where the other person is coming from.

Taking a comprehensive personality test can help you understand why you communicate the way you do and where your blind spots are. It can also help you understand other communication styles is so you can tailor your communication to the person you’re dealing with.

After all, connecting with your conversation partner is the hallmark of good communication.

2. Flexibility

Change is an essential part of any business. Companies need employees who are flexible enough to work with new initiatives, open to new ideas, and generally are able to tough it out when things don’t go as planned.

Research has found a link between job performance and flexibility over the long term because there will be times when you have to step outside your routine and rise to fresh challenges that didn’t exist before.

Being flexible doesn’t mean you have to hop into a new task or job role like an expert. Rather, it’s about showing you’re willing to accept new responsibility and learn different things.

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Bosses look for people who are prepared to step outside their comfort zones and are open to alternative solutions when their first idea doesn’t work.

3. Being a Team Player

Working on a team can be challenging but learning to do it well can definitely help you get ahead in your career. Employers look for people who can negotiate, cooperate and manage conflicts with other people to achieve a common goal. That includes the ability to build lasting relationships with customers and clients.

What makes a good team player? Essentially, it’s someone who knows the goal and knows her role. Employers look for evidence that you know your strengths, your responsibilities and how you can best contribute to the team, then put those skills into action by sharing ideas and communicating in a respectful manner. That’s the definition of being a good team player.

This is another area where taking a personality test can help you get ahead. When teams work together, each member brings a unique set of skills and qualities to the group. Research has shown that different combinations of personalities affect how teams collaborate and how productive they are.

Knowing who you are, and how you work on a team, can drive new insights and open the door to better teamwork.

4. Positive Mental Attitude

There are plenty of things you can’t change at work, like the people you work with or the fact that the printer is broken again. The one thing you can change is how much you let these things bother you.

Bosses like people who are calm, rational and upbeat—those who diffuse tensions in the workplace, not get all grouchy and go around slamming doors.

Studies show that people who maintain a sunny disposition have better relationships at work, are happier in their jobs and make better decisions than those who whine and complain. Some suggest that a positive mental attitude can also make you live longer—which means it’s beneficial for every area of your life![1]

It’s not always easy to keep a “glass half full” mentality when work is stressful and the deadlines are piling up. But there are some things you can do to help maintain a positive attitude. Laughing at your unfortunate circumstances keeps the work environment positive, and taking “sanity” breaks can help you keep your cool in high-pressure situations.

Managers look for positive mental attitude in a team member that is ready for a promotion, so it really does pay to keep your cool in challenging situations.

5. A Strong Work Ethic

People with a strong work ethic are committed to the role, persevere when things get tough and are inspired by challenge. These people are ambassadors for the organization, and will always be seen as top talent and ideal candidates.

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If you can exhibit this skill, then expect to be seen as a great candidate, eligible for new opportunities and positions throughout your career.

Since a strong work ethic can mean different things to different people, it helps to show specific examples of your exceptional work ethic during a performance appraisal or interview. For instance, you might talk about:

  • A time when you persisted in the face of challenges and did not shy away from hard work.
  • How you volunteered to help with projects even though these tasks did not form part of your job description.
  • The networking, workplace learning and skills betterment you’ve undertaken, which shows ambition and drive (people with a strong work ethic have those qualities in spades).
  • How you own your mistakes and never, ever point the finger of blame at others.

For help with building a strong work ethic, check out these tips: How to Build a Reliable Work Ethic

6. Public Speaking

Who’s terrified of public speaking? Pretty much everyone, since public speaking is America’s number one fear, ahead of death at number five and loneliness at number seven.

Yet, according to Warren Buffett, mastering this one skill you could increase your personal value by 50 percent.[2] That’s huge!

If you’re not natural at public speaking, you’re in good company. Buffett had to work hard to overcome his stage fright and once dropped out of a public-speaking course before it started—because he was afraid of public speaking! He eventually realized that he needed to build up his confidence by just doing it; over and over in front of small groups.

For a more structured approach, Toastmasters International teaches public speaking and leadership skills through a variety of pathways. Membership of this non-profit looks good on your resume but the real payoff will come when you can put your newfound skills to use on the job or in the interview room.

Or, you can check out this advice: The Ultimate Public Speaking Tips to Hook and Impress Any Audience

7. Integrity

From a manager’s point of view, the two integrity skills that will set you apart are:

  • Always doing what you say you will do
  • Owning an error instead of minimizing or hiding it

…even when no one is around to check up on you.

There are lots of people who have climbed the ladder without scruples, but they are not the people who others trust, respect and support when promotion time comes around.

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Behaving with integrity is a safe and consistent way to enhance your reputation and achieve your professional goals.

8. Managing Your Time

Phone calls, texts, Slack pings, meetings, huddles, side projects, multitasking—we are busier today than any generation before us. There’s no denying the workplace is an incredibly distracting place to be.

A lot of us have traded effectiveness for busyness which we wear as a badge of honor, both as a proxy for productivity and to show our value to the company. But what bosses want, what they really, really want, is someone who actually gets stuff done on time.

Time management is not merely the art of being on time, but of managing your time so you focus on the projects that really matter and add value to the business. This means prioritizing well, sticking to schedules, delegating, and not getting distracted by tasks that are easier to perform or less important. It means planning ahead and learning when it’s appropriate to say no.

Time management can be a tough skill to maintain, but not a difficult one to pick up. Monitor your actions for a few days—how long do your tasks take to finish? What’s interrupting you? What causes you to lose focus? Once you have the answers to these questions, you can set a schedule for yourself to make sure you’re spending your time wisely and this valuable asset is never wasted.

These 20 Quick Time Management Tips to Super Boost Your Productivity are also great to try.

9. Assertiveness

In any workplace, you typically will find people with the following conflict styles:

  • Passive: Those who go out of their way to avoid conflict.
  • Passive-aggressive: Those who express their negative feelings through actions rather than words.
  • Aggressive: Those who respond to conflict in a hostile and rude manner. These people get their opinion heard but they won’t make any friends in the process.
  • Assertive: People who stick up for their rights while still respecting the rights of others.

Managers look for assertiveness above all other styles because it allows decisions to be made without conflict or alienating people.

How do you use this information for yourself?

It starts with understanding your personality so you can anticipate how you will react when conflict arises and address your own shortcomings. Then, you can start influencing the team for top results, and securing your own career advancement in the process.

Learn how to be assertive and gain respect:

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How to Be Assertive and Stand up for Yourself the Smart Way

10. Creative Thinking

LinkedIn recently analyzed over 50,000 skills that employers search for when looking for candidates to find out what skills are currently in demand.[3] Taking the number-one slot on the 2019 soft skills list was creativity: the ability to solve problems and think outside the box.

Creativity is about bringing fresh, and sometimes unorthodox, ideas to the table. This helps companies to innovate, and companies that do not innovate will not survive very long.

How do you showcase your creative thinking skills? The golden rule is to participate.

Be brave and share your ideas during group brainstorming sessions. Volunteer to run a society, networking event or recruitment drive. Ask “what if” questions: “What if we add this information to the client welcome pack?” “What if we eliminate step 3 from the process?”

These activities demonstrate that you’re prepared to go beyond “business as usual” towards creative problem solving—an ability that will serve you every day, all throughout your career.

You can learn to unleash your creativity power:

What Is Creativity? We All Have It, and Need It

Final Thoughts

The good news? Every item on this soft skills list can be learned. Although you may feel lacking in certain areas, taking an inventory of your strengths and weaknesses will allow you to focus in on the areas that you’ll benefit from developing.

So take an inventory of your personality, skills, and talents. This will give you a baseline for your communication style, attitude to change, conscientiousness and more. You can then identify your weak areas and develop strategies for improving your team-building, assertiveness and conflict skills.

The better news? The effort is worth it. Developing your soft skills opens the door to a new job or a promotion, and helps you succeed once you get there.

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Featured photo credit: Rachael Gorjestani via unsplash.com

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