Yes, it’s true: I built a $50 million company in my underwear.
To be honest, most days it was sweatpants and a T-shirt. But when it was warm enough? Boxer shorts and flip-flops, baby!
That may not be the visual you want stuck in your head for the rest of the day, but it might help you remember my point: Building a business from home can be pretty sweet. Let me explain why, and how you can do it too.
People often ask how I was able to build and then maintain a multimillion-dollar business from home for almost a decade. I understand why; there are tons of entrepreneurs with great ideas who start out in basements or garages with dreams of hitting it big but come up short. What did I do that so many others didn’t? Well, in addition to those days in shorts and T-shirts, I also spent a ton of time on planes flying around the country from meeting to meeting. So I can only speak to what worked for me and what led to my successful exit, and these are the same types of things I continue to implement as we grow my newest venture. Here are my keys to successfully building your business from home.
Home Court Advantage
In sports, teams are better prepared to play at home. In business, the home court offers familiarity, low overhead and local support. There is no commute and no real reason to designate offsite office space, at least not early on. I often hear the excuse that there are too many non-work-related distractions at home. I understand family time is important, and I completely appreciate that. My wife and I raised three kids while building my first business from home, and they seem to be OK. I think. Anyway, prioritize time with them, but create “business hours,” a time frame when they know you are working and shouldn’t be disturbed (unless it’s an emergency). And after you kiss the kids good night, go back down to the home office, and get in two more hours of work before bed; then get up two hours earlier than everyone else does and do the same. Those two acts alone will free up 20 hours a week! That’s time enough to prepare for meetings, review courses of action, and lay down strategy — and also shows your team that even as the CEO, you’re up early and working late every day.
Take Every Meeting
One thing I have always instilled in my team is to look and listen for unseen opportunities. The only way to uncover them is to take every possible meeting, no matter how inconsequential it may appear on the surface. You just never know where it may lead. Everyone has 15 minutes for a quick call. Even when building a business from home, taking meetings is vital, whether by phone or in person. I may not have had some big fancy conference room to host my fellow executives, but that just provided an opportunity to schedule off-site lunches and dinner meetings, (a great way to immediately personalize your new business relationship and break bread with prospective clients) as well as visits to other company HQs. When you work from home, these can be like little (sometimes much-needed) field trips to get you out of the house.
Surround Yourself With Smart People
Even with home court advantage, my single scarcest resource is time. You must be able to delegate the responsibility of owning key strategies, leading relationship-building, and representing the interests of your company, all without being face-to-face every day. In my opinion, if you need those people to be physically present, you really have not learned to trust them yet. My current team is spread across three states, and I’m perfectly fine with that. Don’t forget to extend this thinking to specialty areas as well. You will eventually need a contract reviewed, a legal interpretation or an accounting correction. Line up those resources early because, obviously, they won’t be “in-house,” but they’re crucial.
Intermingling work and home life may seem confusing and chaotic to some, but for me, it’s par for the course. Here’s a little secret: I’m not the only CEO with this view. Demands and schedules are constantly fluid for us all. It’s OK to pivot based on new developments. Most, if not all, of your contemporaries are in the same boat. Work hard on maintaining your relationships, not some rigid schedule.