How Can I Make My Home Office Work?

This article was originally posted in Home Business Magazine

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I buy businesses that are failing or have failed. Most of the time I buy them from lenders, banks, mortgage companies and insurance companies. I have been doing this for 52 years. For 45 years I worked in a traditional office in downtown Nashville Tennessee. Most days I arrived before eight and left between five and six in the evening. The office staff I worked with ranged from 15 to 20 people. Seven years ago, my son became Chief Operating Officer, and I moved to my home office.

My main responsibility with the company was to analyze deals offered to us by lenders and then to secure financing for those deals we purchased.

I felt by moving to my home office it would allow my son to establish himself without me being in the way, and with all the kids grown and married the house would be nice and quiet, and without the drive to and from the downtown office I could get much more work accomplished. At the time I lived on a farm outside Franklin Tennessee where I raised horses. I was very excited about this move.

Day-one was great, because for years I would rise around five, go to the barn, feed the horses, hurry back to the house, shower, dress grab a cup of coffee and head to the office, but not today. There was no rush! It was such a beautiful day I saddled one of my horses and took an hour’s ride, washed the horse down and returned to the house to shower, but guess what? NO SUIT and TIE!! Jeans and a casual shirt, boy what a way to do business!

My typical day was making contact with lenders and brokers across the country to discuss their deals and then analyzing those deals to see if we could make them work. I had worked with most of these people for years and we enjoyed a great casual relationship. Very seldom was there a rush to our work.

This worked perfect with my new lifestyle. I found myself wandering around the farm during the day or running to the store for something, or riding a horse along the Harper River which bordered the farm. On one side was the farm of Amy Grant and Vince Gill and the other side was Alan Jackson’s farm so there was always a lot of activity in the area.

At the end of the first month of my new life I realized I had accomplished absolutely NOTHING.

It was time to start doing what I had been doing for 45 years when I bought a troubled business. On day one I call the entire company together, every employee, and we created a 90-day game plan. This is not a Harvard Business Plan, but a plan that lays out Who is going to do WHAT to WHOM, WHEN and for HOW MUCH. We then break this plan into months, then weeks. This plan includes our goals by week, months and 90-day period.

We then bring in white boards so we can post each day’s performance of the major metrics of our plan. I have done this in 77 businesses across 25 different industries and each company has been returned to profitability. A prime example was the head of maintenance for a rental car development,visit car rental mexicaninsurance.com, who made $20 an hour, marching into my office and proudly telling me he and two other guys, each making $15 an hour, had fixed the commercial vacuum cleaner.

Well this time I was the entire company so I sat down and created my 90-day plan, broke it into months, then weeks and set up white boards in my office. The next morning, I feed my horses at five and was shaved, showered and at my desk at six, I had created an extra two hours in my day by not having to travel to the downtown office, nor did I have people wandering into my office to chat, or business friends dropping by for a cup of coffee. I started to use that time at noon to go for a run, a swim or ride a horse and I loved the break in my day.

Seven years later my work is twice as efficient as it has ever been, my days more organized, and I have much more free time. I still have to fight the urge to jump up and do a task in the yard or around the house but I force myself to follow a daily routine knowing this is the fastest way to escape the office for the day.

After working at a high level for seven years in a home office here are the keys that work for me.

  1. Have a daily schedule.
  2. Have a 90-day plan broken into months and weeks
  3. Measure your progress daily with your primary metrics
  4. Do not combine tasks around the house with your office work

In the beginning I didn’t recognize how important and difficult being disciplined in a home office would be, but I now consider the most important first step for anyone.