Does Local Business Have to Mean Having An Office?


I’m curious about the opinions of the small business owners who read this blog. Do you think that you have to have a public office space to be taken seriously as a local businessman or woman? A fellow shared an opinion with me recently that went something like this:

If you don’t invest yourself into a physical presence in the community (ie: rent office space) other business owners will not respect you or send you their business.

I was both surprised and to be honest, a bit peeved about it. In this high tech, high speed world I am 100% virtual. Why should I have to house my desk in a retail office space in order to be seen as ‘in business’ by other small business owners.

Many small business owners have rejected the confines of big business with it’s stuffed shirt attitude and entrepreneurs have given up corporate politics to enjoy being able to run their own businesses their way.

But has the small business community given birth to its own snobbery?

I realize that at least in part, this guy’s opinion is based on his knowledge of the local small business environment – but I think it is an attitude shared elsewhere as well. In some small way, some business owners feels like more of a business person when they leave their home to ‘go to the office’ or to ‘open the store’.

I’m as much ‘in business’ as they are – I don’t want or need a storefront or office space to build websites and consult with my podcast and internet marketing clients. Do you really want me to charge you the prices I’d have to charge if I had to carry an extra $1500 or so in monthly expenses just to look at a different set of walls and sit under a different set of lights?

It’s time to shake off these old fashioned attitudes. The lines between small office and home office is blurring so far as to disappear.


  1. My wife and I own a small business (hope to see it grow beyond the “small” part). We have two locations. I do most of my work from a home office/studio about 10-15 steps from my bedroom but we also rent a one room location in the same building as two of our clients. It’s a great central location and the reasons we have the downtown office space are;

    1.) We can meet with clients or potential clients and a more private setting. A coffee shop or our dining room table is ok for some things but a lot of customers feel more comfortable meeting at the office space and it more centrally located for many of them.

    2.) It helps us get in the business mindset. Yes, we talk our laptop and have our audio visual equipment at the home office but having our bigger computers, books, file cabinets at the downtown location help us keep the business world and home world more seperate.

    3.) I mentioned we have a couple of clients in the same building. This help us service them faster as one of them needs us on a more frequent basis. It actually saves gas in lieu of having to drive to them on a per – call basis.

    Eventually I want to have some more office space, studio dedicated to photography and podcasting and a conference room but this is working out for now. No, everybody doesn’t need an official office. Heck, many sales or support people of very large multinational companies work out of their home and meet their clients locally at their clients location or public spots like coffee shops or restaurants.

  2. Nesh that’s a great point, and wonderful that you recognize it would be a waste of money if your partner came to the office.

    Kelly – great post, you know it takes loads of money to invest in a physical presence for your business. Maybe do you think he was referring to the fact that if people have clients coming for meetings that they may feel its more professional to meet at an “office?”

    I do think it goes a bit too far when he says that people will not respect you, come on! You are who you are and if you know your business you know it, no matter where you are.

  3. nesh thompson says

    Hi Kelly,

    I read with interest what you wrote and I too was a little peeved at this person’s oppinion. I do think that depending on the type of business, having office space does help but is no way necessary. I work in an office, which I prefer as I like to have a seperate place to work and get into the right business mentality but my partner doesn’t have that luxury and she works from home. She doesn’t feel the need, nor would I advocate such a move as it would be a waste of money if she did.

  4. Nathan Driver says

    I’ve found that a certain type of person NEEDS a space outside their home. These are the type that can be easily distracted.

    I wouldn’t go so far as saying you won’t be “looked at as a professional” – that’s going a little over the edge and basically grouping all types of individuals who are small business owners which is the last thing people need to do.

  5. Mason Boswell says

    Right now the world has two spaces for each person (home and work) and they are in only one of them at a time. This redundant space is a waste as is commuting between them. So many people talk about reducing energy usage, but so few actually work from home or close to home, which is probably the biggest thing that you can do to reduce your energy usage. In addition, everyone wishes they had more time, yet many waste an hour a day driving between home and work.

    The Internet changes everything. Over the next few years we will see even large companies embrace a model where workers spend part or all of their time working from home. Some of them are doing it already.

  6. Kelly,

    Great issue to raise…

    IMO, yes – people tends to trust brick-and-mortar offices and retail spaces more. Thinking about a business partner in their pajamas while working is turn-off to most 🙂

    But you right – it’s diminishing.

    Online presence is more and more important in today’s business, in such a way that brick-and-mortar bizzes that don’t have a form of online presence will lose their competitive edge – and being considered as companies that are not ‘nimble’ and responsive to current market trends.

    I agree with you – the boundaries between online and offline business world will eventually vanished.

  7. There are some small businesses that, due to the nature of their product or service, absolutely require a brick and mortar presence.

    There are many insurance and financial professionals who work from their home exclusively or who split their time between their home office and their brick and mortar office.

    I know our insurance agent does and I’ve never once pictured him working from home in his pajamas. (lol)

    I may be dating myself, but up until the early 1970’s, most doctors and dentists had their practice as a part of their home and we took them seriously.

    I disagree with the notion that you have to have a physical presence to be taken seriously. I work with and network with a lot of small local, and not so local, businesses and I am taken very seriously by them.

    Many have made the comment at one time or another that they wish they had more flexibility to work from home.

    Business is built on relationships and having a physical store-front or office space does not determine whether or not you are a professional.

  8. I too have to disagree with your friend. I had an office for 25 years or so because I believed that it looked more professional. My wife, peers and clients have often asked why I didn’t work out of my home – well I finally gave in and last fall I made the move. It is absolutely the right move. Instead of negatives I most get looks of envy. Outside of the monetary gain, I just find it more productive. I always wished there were more hours in a day, now I’ve gained a few.

    When there is the need for a face to face, I make it a point of joining the client at their location. It gets me into their environment.

    I will say that if you have poor work habits, the distractions might get the best of you. I thought that lunch on the deck would be great, but I’ve found myself too busy for that and it’s still a sandwich and a cup of tea in front of my Mac.

    The only downside (if you can call it that) is that I find myself starting earlier and working later. I’m quite passionate about what I do and moving the office home has been a VERY positive move for me.

  9. With talk of gas becoming $6.00 a gallon, the entire issue is fast becoming irrelevant.

  10. Yes, some businesses by nature require their own space and Patty you are right. I do remember dentists and doctors who have their practices part of their home but I think they are not common now. Maybe because of local safety and health laws. Don’t know.

    At times I do wish for a separate space only temporarily because I don’t like discussing things in a restaurant or coffee house. Some things including business transactions are private. On the other hand, I’ve worked with clients right from their house’s kitchen table too. Never a problem for either of us.

    But… isn’t this why those ‘rent by day’ temporary offices are so popular? I truly wish they had those near me. I don’t agree it is a requirement. If I hire you, I don’t really care where you get your work done. As long as its done and the quality is satisfactory to me.

  11. I think having an office is a must really, people won’t take you seriously otherwise?

  12. Well, it’s the same old “Are you a lifestyle business or a real business?” tack. Apparently, you’re not legit unless you’re shelling out money for an inconvenient office somewhere. Whatever. I work from home because I like being able to attend to the rest of my life without leaving work to do so.

    Your post made me think of a comment a prospect made once. I’d told him I was working at capacity and unable to take on new projects for a few weeks. Then I ran into him on the weekend, when he was with his wife and kids. I was with my husband and kids. The guy, who runs a successful business, motioned to *my* kids and said, “Oh, I guess that’s why you’re too busy to take me on.” Apparently I wasn’t legitimately running a busy business like he was. Woman + kids = busy mom. Man + kids = man with busy wife, in his world.