Do Home-Based Businesses Need a Traditional Office?

We all know the stories of Apple and Google and many others that started with just a couple of guys in a garage somewhere.  At some point they outgrew that garage and graduated to an office.  Obviously in those cases the businesses saw incredible growth and that was the primary driver to pushing them out of the house.  For many others, things evolve more gradually.  The question is not when it is necessary to establish an office, but rather when is it advantageous.

As anyone who works from home knows, there are many advantages; lower overhead, no commute,  liberal dress code, flexible schedule, etc.  However, there are quite a few disadvantages as well.  It can feel isolating, make you stir crazy, there are endless distractions and possibly most importantly, it makes for a tricky situation when you need to meet with someone.  It’s likely that you may have the option to meet at a client’s office.  However, depending on the situation, meeting on someone else’s turf can potentially give the perceived notion of an upper hand against the visitor.  Of course people often take the neutral route and make Starbucks, Panera or the local coffee shop their go-to destination for meetings.  And that is all well and good but it is less than ideal considering there is little to no privacy and plenty of distractions.

The alternative is to subscribe to a shared office service or what many people refer to as a “virtual office”.  Companies utilize this setup to continue to reap the benefits of working out of the home but also leverage the access to meeting space and the address and services of professional office.  Because it is space that is shared the costs are minimal relative to the typical alternative.  A prestigious address gives a company validation in much of the same way that a portfolio of past work or a client list would.  It lets people know that you legitimate and established.

In a perfect world all companies would burst out of the gate and all decisions would revolve around how to handle a flurry of success.  Unfortunately that is not a reality for most businesses.  The real world is full of tough choices that have to be made using incomplete data.  Adding office space has to be done in a prudent way that will add value to a company.

To circle back to the question posed above, when is it advantageous to establish an office?  Obviously every business is unique so there are no blanket answers, but the key is knowing that the advantages are real and there for the taking with minimal investment.