Small businesses often start in a spare room at home. A home office can cut the cost of renting space, all your documents are easily accessible, and you can work in your slippers. However, the downside to a home business is setting boundaries – boundaries for yourself, for the other members of your family, and for friends and neighbors.

It takes time, and a lot of effort, to build a new business to real profitability. It also takes privacy, security and a safe working environment set up to meet your business needs. Time spent on “life” can often get in the way of getting the job done efficiently and to the satisfaction of your client base. So how do you set boundaries for yourself and others? By creating schedules and “rules” for interruptions from the kids, personal phone calls, and unexpected trips to the store.

Setting Your Boundaries

There are certain times of the day when you know you won’t be interrupted. The kids are in school, your spouse is at work, and you have time to get down to the business of building your business. How should you make the most of this precious time?

  • Determine how much time you need to keep up with business activities and remember, as a start-up entrepreneur, you may find that you spend more time working weekends than you spend at your desk during the week. It’s all part of fitting work into your daily schedule.
  • Create a schedule that allows you to focus on work instead of that long list of errands that may need to be done. You may find that it’s better to work in the evening or early in the morning. The good thing is that you have options when you’re the boss and it’s your business.
  • Create a workplace schedule, even though your workplace may be the spare room at the top of the stairs. Avoid taking or making personal telephone calls – a time waster that detracts from business growth.
  • Plan your day around your work schedule to make the most efficient use of your limited time. If you run a household, drive the kids to school, do the shopping, the laundry and cook the meals, that’s time you don’t have to grow your business.

Setting Boundaries for Family, Friends and Neighbors

It can be a lot easier to manage your own time than it is to manage family time. Kids may have soccer practice, dance class, school projects, homework and other activities that lessen the amount of time that’s left for building a successful business.

  • Start by buying a business computer – a separate system from the family computer. Your business computer should be off-limits to all family members – especially your kids, who can easily download a virus that corrupts critical business data. Keep the kids off your business computer by creating a user password that denies computer access, and keep that password to yourself.
  • Lock the home office door. All it takes is a simple lock and key to keep unwanted intruders from disrupting your train of thought.
  • Add a business telephone line exclusively for the home-based business. This prevents embarrassing interruptions when the kids or spouse pick up the phone to call a friend while you’re in the middle of negotiations with a new prospect. Nothing says “amateur” more than telephone interruptions when you’re on the phone taking care of business.
  • Make sure your Internet connection has enough bandwidth to run a couple of computers – your business computer and the family computer – simultaneously.
  • Make a set of rules and review them with family and friends. For example:

1.      Ask friends, neighbors, family and others to avoid calling you during work hours. Most acquaintances will honor your request, providing guaranteed work time without unnecessary interruptions.

2.      Carve out client time from your busy schedule. Tell prospects the best time to reach you to discuss business, and, of course, be sure to have a phone answering system that encourages prospects and customers to leave messages for you – the business owner.

  1. When the office door is closed, you’re unavailable except in the case of an emergency.
  2. Never interrupt when you’re on the telephone.
  3. Others may never use your business computer, even if the home desktop is in use by another family member. Make sure all family members know that business is business, and that the business computer in the home office is for business only.

Finally, keep business and family life separate. When it’s family time, focus on family activities. When it’s time for business, get to work. It may not always be easy or possible. Things often come up that distract you from work but, as much as possible, keep your professional and personal lives distinct.

Indeed, business is business. You just have to establish boundaries for yourself, your family, friends and neighbors. Then, get down to business on your schedule and run your business like a Fortune 500 company – even if you are working in your fuzzy slippers.


The information provided is presented for general informational purposes only and does not constitute tax, legal or business advice. Any views expressed in this article may not necessarily be those of Nevada State Bank, a division of Zions Bancorporation, N.A. Member FDIC