It’s got everything you could ever want in a home based office. Comfy seats. A roaring fire. Tasteful art lining the walls. A convenient, high profile location. An aura of excitement and energy. The aroma of fresh-brewed coffee wafting through the air. And a cheery waitress named Monica dashing over to your table with two piping hot cinnamon buns. Yes, it’s the perfect home office. And it’s awaiting each and every one of us at our neighborhood coffee shop.
Over the five years that I’ve worked out my house, I’ve held exactly five meetings in my own home, three of which were with my dog. The other 1, 497 meetings have occurred at the local coffee joint. And when I’ve met with other home based business people in other towns, it’s always the same story. (In fact, I’m not even sure some of these folks have homes, let alone home based businesses). Yes, the coffee shop has become the water cooler for the home based business owner.
And why not? The local coffee shop offers everything you could want in a meeting place, and more to the point, prevents your clients from finding out where you really live. The coffee-house-satellite-office means never having to explain to a client why your spouse’s underwear is draped over the computer terminal. And say good bye to worries about overly amorous dogs, left-over diapers in the trash bin or phone calls from your mother in the middle of an important meeting.
You don’t, however, want to sound too eager to meet at the local cafe, lest the client catch on to the fact that you are trying to hide something. The ideal approach is to begin giving ridiculously convoluted directions to your home, then, when you’re certain the client is rifling through their nearest road atlas with a panicked furrow on their brow, offer up the always reliable, “You know, I think it would be a lot easier for you if we just met at this great little coffee shop down on 17th Avenue. Would that work for you?” And naturally, they’ll take the bait.
You want to make sure, however, that you mitigate some potential drawbacks of meeting in a public place. For starters, always show up early to make sure you find a comfortable spot and, more importantly, to send the message to the client that they are meeting you on “your turf”. I recommend showing up at least one to two hours ahead of the scheduled meeting time.
Secondly, feel free to put your own stamp on your little corner of the coffee shop. Setting up a few pictures of the family on the table, replacing the magazines with ones that relate to your particular business and even bringing along your own table cloth are all fair game. If you have a really comfy office chair you just hate parting with, bring it along. And what the heck, why bother with a lap top computer when you can set up a full fledged computer system right there at your table? The more you create the illusion that they are meeting at your office without actually meeting at your office, the better.
Thirdly, forward all your calls to the coffee shop. Sure, the owners might get a little put out, but it’s well worth it. Having the waiter pop over at the end of your meeting with a summary of all your phone messages makes you look in control and more important than you actually are. And if you are really serious about extending operations to your remote office, consider forwarding all your business mail to the coffee shop. Over time, you’ll likely find that most of your working day will be spent there anyway, so this simple step will end up being a huge time saver and much more convenient.
Finally, popping back behind the counter periodically and helping yourself to some tasty treats and pouring your own refills will send an important message to your client. (I’m not sure what that message is, but I know it’s an important one you don’t want to miss out on).
Following these few simple guidelines will help ensure smooth running of your satellite office. And if you’re as efficient as me, schlepping coffee between meetings can help keep the cash flowing into your business.
Copyright Michael Kerr, 2011. Michael Kerr is a Hall of Fame international business speaker, very funny motivational speaker, trainer, and author of six books, including Inspiring Workplaces and The Humor Advantage: Why Some Businesses Are Laughing All the Way to the Bank. www.HumoratWork.com
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