How I Built A Successful Business Working From Home
In 2008 I launched the ClientLook commercial real estate CRM during one of the worst commercial real estate downturns in history. My timing could not have been any worse.
With virtually no investment capital, I had to come up with creative strategies to grow a company in a challenging market. It reminds me a lot of the business climate in the COVID-19 world of today.
Fortunately I found success by creating a company that was entirely virtual where everyone worked from home. We leveraged technology for every business process. Even though our team would span 7 U.S. states, 4 countries and 6 time zones we never felt disconnected.
Despite our physical dislocation we presented a consolidated front to our customers while building an amazing company culture. Many companies and teams are now faced with similar circumstances. We thrived and succeeded. You can too. Read on to discover some of the key strategies that drove our success.
Carve out a home office
Personally speaking, one of the more important factors in promoting my productivity was creating a dedicated work space. I could not have built ClientLook from my kitchen table. I established a room in my house as a home office. It was my professional man cave, and I took it seriously.
My computer plugs into a 65″ 4K TV that can adjust from standing height to desk height using a special wall mount. If you haven’t tried connecting your computer into a big TV then give it a try. It’s liberating. I use a battery operated mobile standing desk so I can move anywhere and avoid sitting too long. I invested in a really high-quality office chair. I connect my iPhone to an Apple HomePod for the ultimate high-quality speaker phone. This stuff matters.
Maintain a schedule
Working at home takes a special work ethic. It’s not for everyone, but these days most people don’t have a choice. I took each business day very seriously and applied a methodical regiment to my schedule. Create a schedule that works for you to balance professional and personal obligations. My goal was to deviate as little as possible from my timeline.
My day starts at 5:15am. I roll out of bed and jump on an exercise bike. I have some coffee and then move on to a resistance workout. My goal is to be at my desk by 8:30am feeling energized and ready to dedicate the rest of my day to work. I also dress the part in casual business attire. It doesn’t matter if anybody will see me. I believe that this professionalism shines through in every call, email and presentation. Your style may certainly vary.
Use video conferencing
I have a series of internal team meetings each week that are hosted via video call. There are lots of available technology solutions. We’ve used Google Meet, GoToMeeting and Zoom. Video calls are great at promoting connectivity with your team, and regularly scheduled meetings create structure. They are also phenomenal for calls with customers – especially these days.
Invest in a good webcam for web conferencing instead of relying on your mobile device or the camera built into a laptop. They’re inexpensive, customizable and significantly enhance the experience. I use the latest Logitech webcam. Another tip is to avoid using the VOIP option with video calls. Insist that everyone uses their phones for the audio connection. Everyone will avoid a ton of frustration from bandwidth issues.
Use a CRM
It’s funny how many people have asked me what CRM we used at ClientLook. We grew ClientLook using ClientLook as our CRM. We relied on its core features to help our distributed team communicate better. Your team can take advantage of these capabilities today. Over time we developed some rules that became critical to our teaming success. Some of these include:
- Enter the name of every person you speak with. This sounds simple, but it’s so effective when done correctly. Plus, your database grows exponentially.
- Search for a contact name before entering someone. Duplicates are your enemy. Avoid them at all costs.
- Judiciously log everything you do including calls, emails, meetings, etc. Learn to type while you talk. This reduced our email communication by more than half.
- Review Scoop periodically. We built an activity feed called Scoop that streams all those calls, emails and meetings logged by the team into one consolidated list. This one feature alone increased our effectiveness 10x.
- Use the mobile app. When I’m not in front of my computer I use the ClientLook mobile app to make calls, catch up on my team’s activity, and log what I do. I’m always connected and therefore always productive.
Stay in touch with clients
Your clients are in the same boat as you. They are outside their comfort zone. They are disconnected from their typical work environment. It’s likely that their phone isn’t ringing off the hook, so take advantage of this opportunity to connect.
Many commercial real estate investors, owner/users and tenants have questions about the market. Your expertise is more timely and valuable than ever. Maintain communication with your clients by phone, email or through ClientLook. ClientLook allows you to connect your clients to your deals where they can self-serve their need for updates and information. It’s a great way to help them understand your ongoing efforts and promote ongoing confidence in your efforts.
Take breaks and enjoy yourself
Modern offices have cafeterias, sleeping pods, entertainment rooms and even massage stations. Your home may not offer the same amenities, but it’s probably got it perks. Reward your hard work with a walk around the block. Indulge in your favorite home cooked meal. Watch a few scenes from a movie or even take a power nap.
Make the most of your time at home, but maintain a balance. Consider this opportunity as a gift. Chances are you’ll get to spend more time with your family. Despite the dire circumstances, these are the kinds of experiences in which lasting memories can be made. Try to make them good ones.