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Ooma Business Blog

7 tips to overcome the challenges of running a business from home

By |Monday November 22, 2021

In the mid-90s, way before COVID-19 made working from home a phenomenon, George Coleman began working remotely as a technology employee. He continued to work from home when he shifted gears and started his own business in 2006. George, the owner of the management consulting firm TLG Services, has decades of insights on managing work in a home setting.

On a recent episode of the Ooma 180 Win podcast, he shared seven helpful tips:

  1. Get customers comfortable with digital communications

“My clients, especially in the insurance industry, were accustomed to going to an insurance office, sitting across the desk from someone, being able to physically sign a piece of paper, have someone sort of step them through the process,” explains George. During the pandemic, George drew on his tech background and shifted to electronic methods to mimic the same experience.

He made the transition easy by using tools his clients were already familiar with. “I would just send them a one sentence email that says click here to learn more or click here to see your insurance review–just a simple little sentence. I embedded a link that sort of forced them to start exploring.” 

George also created video proposals and set up video conferences that allowed him to stay connected with his clients. “I’d have a big picture of me up in the corner talking so you could see … my smiling face and I had some of my advertisements framed around this screen so that you could see my name and phone number and many of the carriers’ logos there … which are the types of things they would have seen had they been in my office.” 

One client in his 70s was so impressed, he commented “This is the most professional review I have ever had in my insurance dealings through the years.” 

  1. Build trust

“People want to do business with people they can trust,” explains George. There are subtle ways to build that trust even when meeting virtually. For example, George encourages business owners to place items that mean something to you so they’re visible on a video call. “Maybe I never draw attention to them. Maybe they’re just there in the background.” Ask yourself, “What are the subtle things that are going to communicate trust to my clients?”

  1. Create boundaries

One struggle of working from home is setting ground rules. “The reality is your family has to recognize that you’re going to work, just as much as you recognize that. So, for me, I would go in my office and close the door and I would tell my family if you need me, do the same thing you would do if I’d gotten in the car and driven across town–pick up the phone and call me.” George can see on the caller ID when a family member is calling and if he’s busy, he’ll return their call when he’s at a stopping point. His family knows to call a second time if it’s an emergency.

George admits that working from home made it much easier for him to be a workaholic because work is always right around the corner. It got to the point where he asked his children to give him “grief” if he worked past 6 p.m. and his youngest daughter took him up on it. One evening George heard scratching on his office door and found her hanging up a makeshift next-number-served sign, like you would find in a deli. He asked if she was giving him grief and she replied, “Yes sir, I am. Come out.”

  1. Continue your work-in-the-office habits

George recommends that you continue to do the same things that you used to do when you worked in a company office. Doing so helps you prepare mentally for the workday.

He points out that there are plenty of work-from-home jokes about only having to “dress from the waist up because that’s all that people see, but you see it and it affects your psyche and so I always encourage people” to dress the way they did in the company setting.

  1. Brush up on your communications skills

Each of us has our own ways of interacting and connecting with clients and prospective customers. “The first thing that’s important is you have to be you,” counsels George. If you relied on face-to-face interactions, you may need to brush up on transferring your communication skills to the phone.

“My advice to folks … is find some friends, find some family and start practicing because you’ve now got to learn to take your old style of communication and deliver it in a different medium.” 

  1. Find referrals

Search for what George calls warm leads, which are pre-existing connections. “So if you’re using LinkedIn, for example, and you’ve got a company that you’re wanting to approach, look throughout your network to see who you know … that is either working at that company or is maybe one level removed from that person and start asking for introductions or recommendations. Most people will not take the phone call from a stranger.” 

  1. Listen to determine your clients’ concerns

George advises putting yourself in your clients’ shoes and understanding their needs. Start by asking how you can help them and truly listen to their answers. “The real key is you need to hear what the client perceives their problem to be, not what you think their problem ought to be, because many times it can be significantly different.” 

For example, first solve the problem they are calling about. Otherwise, you may never get the chance to help them solve a huge problem they’re completely unaware of.

Note: This conversation happened on the Ooma 180 Win podcast. Want to listen to the entire podcast?

 

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