CanadaOne Twitter CanadaOne Linkedin CanadaOne Facebook CanadaONe RSS


Keys to Home-Based Business Success

By Reg Pirie |

Editor's Note: This article was first published on CanadaOne in the late '90s. While technology has advanced since then and there have been some "softening" around the rules for decorum in business, Reg still has some valuable points to share with anyone considering self-employment or starting a business.

You will be measured by everything you say and do, so unless you are in a sector that is super-casual busines sector it's important to consider many of these ideas.

I smile to myself every time I receive a letter addressed to Reginald Pirie - not even my Mother calls me by my full first name.

Invariably such correspondence is from a company attempting to convey a personalized message, extolling their professionalism. Usually I never hear from them until their next mass mailing. On such occasions I often reflect on the major advantages associated with running my own consulting firm, albeit from cramped "corporate" headquarters in my home.

When assisting would-be consultants or those struggling to improve their practices, I frequently use the "Dear Reginald" salutation as an example of why home-based businesses can effectively compete against larger corporations. How you ask? Remember three key words: personal, professional and persistent.

The biggest hurdle to overcome as a home-based consultant is the perception you have less to offer than bigger competitors who are officed in more traditional space. By taking time to research prospective clients' selection criteria, you are apt to find their requirements are quite basic. Here are some of the most quoted: quality work performed by a qualified professional, timely service delivery, personalized attention to assignments and easy accessibility.

Obviously the scope and size of the job has to be factored into the equation and it is important to recognize your limitations. It is equally important to focus your marketing efforts on areas where your size will not be a detracting feature, assuming you meet the other criteria.

Take a look at how you can accentuate the personalized and professional aspects of your business in a persistent fashion. Presenting a personalized image is simple.


When communicating, take time to get the person's name right. If your new contact is a Charles or a Patricia, ask someone in their office if they go by Chuck or Pat. Use their "known as" name in correspondence.

Review your writing style. In the past ten years companies have made an effort to become more informal. That means they want to deal with outsiders who are in tune with a less traditional approach. This is no time for a stodgy writing style and keep your communications concise.

Sign your first name to letters and memos. Remember, you are attempting to develop a personal rapport with someone. There is nothing more irksome than receiving a letter with a personal salutation, only to find the sender has penned the signature they use when signing a cheque.

Letters still put forward the best first impression. However, after you have established an initial rapport, determine how your new contact likes to communicate. If you are dealing with an email fanatic, chances of cementing a future relationship are much greater if you use email.

On the topic of email, if you don't have one, get one now! Make certain your address is included on all stationery. Having email underscores that you are current and accessible.

If you are serious about being accessible, you have some tough decisions to make about "after hours" telephone calls. I have a personal policy of always answering my business phone when I am at home. Many a tired executive, making last minute calls before heading home well after normal business hours, is duly impressed when they connect with a person. Accessibility is a key differentiating factor for a home-based business.


Introducing yourself and your company is most often done by using your letterhead or by presenting your business card. While we may all wish to economize, these two items (plus your business envelope) deserve careful attention. You do not need designer stationery but on the other hand, you do need something more imaginative than stock items found in a software program.

Similarly, your corporate information package and other advertising pieces require thoughtful consideration. The best rule of thumb to use when developing this material is to know your competition. You may not be able to afford a glossy brochure but on the other hand, you can't look like the poor cousin either - these expenditures are investments in the future.

Little things also make a big difference in terms of the professional image you portray. Take for example something as simple as a postage stamp. To me, an envelope with a postage stamp says you are a small operator who doesn't have enough business to warrant a postage meter.

Hand-written envelopes or fax messages imply you don't have the sophisticated equipment associated with more progressive businesses. Using the same phone line for faxes and telephone calls might signal you are not a major player. Sending a proposal for service, stapled to your letterhead, puts forth a very different message compared to dispatching the document in a properly bound format.



If success is influenced by personalized service and a professional image, perhaps persistence is the factor which sets apart the truly prosperous home-based consultant from those who just get by. Most who venture into an entrepreneurial endeavour have the requisite skills to deliver their product or service. Unfortunately, many lack the long-term persistence required to differentiate themselves from the host of others who are chasing after the same work.


Persistence is often viewed as an attitude. There is some truth to that statement but many successful home-based business owners will tell you that persistence is based in large measure on having a well co-ordinated marketing plan, tempered with a great deal of patience and a logical method of following up with prospects.

Being persistent does not mean you should be a pest. On the other hand, making a couple of contacts with a potential client is not likely enough to garner a contract. Your challenge is to keep yourself uppermost in their minds so when an opportunity arises, you will be offered a chance to bid for the business. In planning your business development strategy you should clearly outline how and when you plan to keep in touch with all of your potential clients.

At the outset of your relationship, this can be done through introductory letters, face-to-face meetings and by providing hard copy information about your company. But many first-time consultants stop there and hope they will be remembered when the next opportunity arises. Wrong approach! After establishing a beachhead you need to creatively reconnect.

To do this effectively, you must orchestrate a number of timely marketing interventions so you are seen as a true professional and not a nuisance. Periodically send out pertinent information concerning your profession. An example might be a news article about recent changes. You might invite a few selected prospects to a breakfast meeting where a guest speaker is addressing a topical issue. Or consider passing on information you acquired while attending a convention.

By keeping in contact, you are demonstrating your keen desire to advance your relationship and you are doing so by offering valuable information. All of these efforts will cause you to be remembered and viewed in a positive light.

Is it possible for home-based businesses to compete? The short answer is yes! Keep your approach personalized by treating people like people. Strive for the highest degree of professionalism by constantly enhancing your business image. Attack your market with dogged persistence and always follow through. Hopefully the competition will not know what hit them, until it is too late.

Canadian, Eh!

For over 15 years CanadaOne has helped Canadian businesses start-up and grow. All of the content on our site is created to help busineses get Canadian answers!

Featured Member

MemberZone. Get in the zone! Join Today!

CanadaOne Recommends

Bullies in the Boardroom: Covering the Legal Bases

Should I Start My Own Company?

Conversations with Entrepreneurs: Billy Blanks

Avoiding Legal Perils: Critical Insights into Canadian Franchise Law

Starting a Business: Choosing a Year-End


Article Tags