By ANTHONY CRONIN
Day Staff Writer
Published on 11/7/2004
Kathy Pooler begins her day like most others. She eats breakfast, dresses for work, and then heads out – to her home-based office in a former sun porch she’s expanded to house her growing Norwichtown business called Publications Plus.
It’s a very familiar commute, one she’s done for the past 14 years. She says she loves her job and its location, but she also stresses that succeeding at home — in business, at least — is harder than it looks.
Pooler’s expertise is desktop publishing. Her firm has clients across the country and she does a myriad of jobs — resume preparation, brochure design, newsletters — “anything on paper,” she explains. She has her own Web site at www.publicationsplus.com, which she says has attracted business to her firm. “I have some customers that I’ve never met in person,” she says. “Having my own Web site has absolutely been one of the best investments I’ve ever made.”
There are, she says, advantages to a home-based business. “You have the freedom to not answer to anybody but yourself,” Pooler says. “And I make my own decisions, which is another big plus.” But she also works hard each business day to grow her firm, serve her customers well and drum up new business. Nobody said it would be easy working from home, she adds. She has previous management and corporate experience, which she says gave her a solid footing to branch off on her own as a small businesswoman.
Pooler is adamant about home-based business and about her own business. “I absolutely love what I do, that’s why I’m successful at it,” the small-businesswoman says. But she adds, “You have to want to get up in the morning and do what’s in front of you.”
Pooler says that she’s found kindred souls through a local group that she helped found called the Small and Home Office Association of Southeastern Connecticut, where she serves as vice president. The group, which can be reached by calling Pooler at 889-2893 or visiting its Web site at www.sahoa.org, helps small businesses in the region and those who work from home get business leads, learn how to better organize their work and give each other encouragement in their endeavors. “What a lot of home-base business people find is that there is an ‘isolation factor’ to working on your own,” Pooler says. Through her small-business group, Pooler says she can associate with other people in the same situation. “All of these other members in the group I consider to be like my co-workers. If I’m having a problem during the day, I can call them up and say ‘where do you have your taxes done, or where do you buy your supplies,’ ” she says.
After more than a decade of working from home, Pooler says she’s developed a number of keys to success that she shares with others considering starting their own business from their homes.
Among her lessons learned over the years:
Be passionate about what you do. Pooler loves what she does, and she credits her success to her dedication and passion toward her business. “If you don’t have the discipline to be in that office Monday through Friday, at least 9 to 5, then you’re not going to make any money,” she explains.
Dress for success. Sure, working at home means you can move from the breakfast nook to the dining room table in your pajamas, but you won’t feel, well, grown-up. Dress professionally, Pooler says, and you’ll feel professional. Pajamas are fine for sleeping or lounging – they’re not fine to wear when you’re making business calls or sealing that hard-fought contract with a new customer. “If you feel and look professional, even over the phone, you’re going to come across as a professional,” the businesswoman says.
The customer is king, and queen. Pooler says providing the best customer service you can is the key to your long-term success. The customer, after all, pays the bills, so keep them happy and they’ll come back. “Without customers,” she says, “you’re out of business.”
Work in an office, not at the kitchen table. Pooler began her business in 1991 by working out of her sun porch. As her business grew through her hard work, she broke through a wall in her home so she could expand the office. It was a sure sign that her business had come into its own.
Pooler says some people she meets say they’d love to work from home but have made no preparations to do it correctly. Sitting in the family room and using your coffee table as your “work space” is not a formula for success, she says. And separate your work life from your home life to succeed, she says. You can do that by making a separate workspace that serves as your professional office, not an additional spot in the house for your kids’ toys or schoolbooks and backpacks.
“If you want to have your own home-based business, I would say to just make sure you know that you’re not going to sit in front of your TV everyday,” Pooler says.
Anthony Cronin covers business and financial news for The Day. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Reprinted with permission from The Day.