Rickie Josen from Miss Jones Concierge explains the changes she made in order for her staff to work from home.
[A cautionary tale to anyone thinking of expanding out into an office and/or employing staff!]
Home or office? (The joys of working from home)
We went in reverse to most. We’ve always worked in offices for one reason only: to house staff. We’ve moved 3 times but the last one was the best move. It was when we decided we didn’t need to work from an office anymore.
Cut out the baggage (The joys of the virtual office)
In order to do this, I cut out the businesses and services that were time consuming and needed both the office and full time staff to operate. One was not enjoyable and plain and simply, didn’t work. Others, including Miss Jones were born to be run from home and are good fun to manage.
This slashed a massive overhead and more importantly an even greater headache. Of course we still have an office base but we only go there for occasional meetings. I find everyone is very happy to meet in a coffee shop, motorway location or plush city centre hotel. Now – this is a better way to work! Pretty soon, we will reduce that to a virtual address – just somewhere for our clients and suppliers to send us post.
Quality self-employed staff (The absolute joy of not having staffing issues)
Quality staff has always been the principal and most time consuming issue for me. There is enormous availability of people who want to work part–time from home but very limited (or nil) availability of quality, reliable people who come with confidence and common sense to work in the office. We had a waiting list for home-based workers and still do.
They will commit to schedules providing they can work from home and have flexible hours. They know this a very rare opportunity to do something fun, valuable and paid whilst not having to step out of their homes. When on the odd occasion, they have to run an errand, they work it around their personal commitments and errands tend to be planned in advance anyway.
Because of this flexibility, they are dedicated to us and focussed on our client’s needs. We no longer have an issue with quality of staff and can comfortably recruit anywhere in the country, indeed the world, wherever we have clients.
All the staff are now self employed. We simply altered the contracts and they just send me a weekly invoice and get paid the following week. Again, so simple that we don’t even need to use the accountant!
With self-employed and home-based colleagues, we seem to have no issues and there’s no need for time consuming weekly reviews and meetings. They don’t want them and I don’t need them – we just discuss anything as it arises and fix it.
Embrace technology (The joy of gadgets)
In order for everyone to be based from home, I decided on a web-based system so we don’t have to operate a server that needed to stay on at any particular location. Having spent a fair amount of money on databases and technology over the years, I searched high and low for several months for a web-based system similar to what we already had so there was minimal upheaval and most importantly, a company that offered support to everyone. I was delighted to come across Microsoft Office Live completely by chance – and it didn’t cost anything! I tried it myself for a few weeks, in tandem with our existing database and then rolled it out. I didn’t even need to train, it’s so simple. I choose who sees what information and when so our wonderful clients still receive the perfect service they have come to known but we have the all important security element too.
In addition to Microsoft Office Live, we have taken advantage of technology such as Blackberry’s and Skype. I had used both over the years but now to much greater extent. Everyone knows a Blackberry means you can receive your emails wherever you are so for me that means not always carrying my laptop if I’m only out for a few hours. Skype now do packages to aid budgeting on phone calls. You also no longer need to make calls via your PC but simply save a number onto your landline or mobile and you can make calls all over the world – all within a budget. It also means home-based staff don’t have to send me itemised bills to have their phone calls reimbursed. I can see it all on-line using my Skype account.
Work fewer hours (The joy of freedom)
None of us now work full time although in most people’s eyes I still do. Having gone from over 2 years of 18 hour days, including working all weekend to now working a 4 and half day week, just 6-8 hours per day, I don’t see this as full time! Most of this reduction is down to not have to operate and manage an office.
On top of this, everything we do is fun and the day just rolls by. Clients are happy and we are happy. Bliss.
All these activities add up to lots more freedom. I can attend at least one training course or seminar per month and have 2-3 leisurely meetings with suppliers and contacts per week and pretty much have Friday afternoons off; something I could have only dreamed of when working 2-3 times as many hours in the office.
However, personally, the most blissful of all, I can be based anywhere in the world, with my laptop, Blackberry, Skype and fabulous support team and nobody will ever know any different.
Greetings from the USA my fellow ‘home’ workers!
Published by Enterprise Nation
October 27th 2008