The day Lake Highlands resident Kay Wyne returned from a vacation after 10 years in corporate banking, she was stunned to learn she’d been let go.
She didn’t even have the satisfaction of getting mad at her boss. He was fired, too. It took a year to regroup and form her own custom-framing business. She hasn’t stepped inside a bank since.
For Michael Morris, the day of reckoning came after 10 years in graphics design. For eight of those years, he had a partner and up to five employees. Problems began after three moves to increasingly expensive office spaces
The end came when, in Morris’ words, a big account was “canned” one Friday, another one “vaporized” Monday, and the two partners laid everyone off Tuesday, and went their separate ways.
For Morris, that meant converting his kids’ playroom into a design office. Last year was his best year ever, and his only regret is how much money he once put into fancy conference rooms and client lunches.
Another Lake Highlands resident, who didn’t want to be named, has been a home-office based insurance professional for 15 years. He sells group health insurance primarily to corporate groups. In recent years, his wife joined the business.
For him, the corporate office environment meant frustrating battles and inflexible roadblocks to success. It took twice as long to correct clerical errors in his paperwork than to do it himself, and he wanted to upgrade business equipment faster than was possible in an office. The decision to move home evolved over time.
“I was doing more and more things from home anyway,” he says. “I had better equipment than the agencies I was associated with. I was doing desktop publishing and spreadsheets when they were still using typewriters.”
Computers, modems, color printers, fax machines, multiple phone lines, car phones and rapidly shifting attitudes about work have made all the difference to these professionals.
And they have no intention of ever stepping back into the world of long commutes, expensive overhead, water-cooler politics and job uncertainty.
But working at home isn’t the Life of Riley either. All three of these residents have drive, vision and discipline. They are organized and productive.
Although they can adjust their workday to an inner time clock – one is not an early morning person, another enjoys picking the kids up from school, and one prefers working night hours – they all put in 18- and 20-hour workdays when necessary.
They can never fully escape their work while at home.
For example, Wyne’s projects must be completed and delivered before she leaves town, in case of flooding or other catastrophes that could destroy her clients often irreplaceable photographs and artwork.
Ironically, some of their greatest concerns about working out of their homes proved to be unfounded.
At first, Wyne regretted not using her severance package to get fully equipped right away. But she discovered an excellent market for used equipment and bought items piece by piece. The result was no debt and time to build a long list of repeat clients, ranging from commercial accounts to illustrators, professional calligraphers and many Lake Highlands residents who want custom frames.
Morris worried about the stigma of working out of his house. But to his surprise, it has never been a problem.
“I almost always go to my client’s office, but when they come here, every single one of them has said: ‘I’ve always wanted to do this.’
“I always hated driving in traffic to work. I used to put 15,000 miles a year on my car, and now I’m down to 4,000. I’ve gained a lot more time with my family.”
“It’s becoming more and more a trend in my business. I can rely on contract work for freelance help when I need it. And I’ve gotten incredibly efficient.”
Part of being efficient means lining up client meetings on the same day when possible, setting regular office hours, taking a quick lunch and saving his coffee break for after school hours when his kids rush through the door.
His wife, Anita, does all the bookkeeping. Although it was a bigger adjustment for her when he began working at home, his flexibility has made it far easier for her to return to college.
Strong family support is crucial to these success stories. I think second grader Perry Morris sums it up perfectly:
“My dad plays Lego’s and works in the garage with me. If he worked Downtown every day until 7, we could hardly read together. He’s better here. He’s comfortable.”