[November 15th, 2021.]
Once upon a time, there were magical places in the centre of cities, called offices. These tall, sturdy buildings were marvels – people sat at “desks” to perform tasks centred around their day jobs, after travelling from home on a journey once known as a “commute”, during which they would read the paper and stare angrily at people who lacked noise-cancelling headphones.
Weirdly, people had the internet back then, and yet they all chose to work in the same room! Even with Skype, and IM, and even Twitter (that 140-character microblog post thing that was popular back then, before FaGoogleBook bought the internet), they were sat there at desks, talking to each other out loud! In person!
The reason I want to talk about this is because back then, running a small business was harder. Back then, you had to rent an office, which made things very expensive, and also really limited your staff choices because of the singular geographical constraint you placed on the roles you offered to potential future employees.
Now, you can start the business from your couch, and win awards – from your couch. All you need is a computer, and you can get started. Doesn’t matter if the trains are delayed, or if the City suffers a blackout, or even if the Olympics are in town (during which all businesses based in the city known as London gave up and went on holiday for a fortnight, causing countless riots across the capital). You’re comfy, you’re working hard, and you can work with a programmer in the States, and a PR whiz in China.
What’s odd is this was doable in 2011, and although some companies find it easier, or prefer to work in offices, for small businesses it’s the best route possible. The risk is low – no moving house, no office investment, no office temperature debates – just the work and the proof of concept. If it doesn’t work, moving on doesn’t take months – it takes a week, if that.
The best part is the fact that everything from education to business deals can be done via the web, but of course, it does tend to turn us into sociopathic recluses feeding off Ocado deliveries and the odd gift-to-self from Amazon. But it’s all in the name of business, right? Right?
[November 15th, 2011.]
It’s something I fully support, for small businesses – once you’re a team of over a hundred people, sticking to your living room isn’t really going to work, as you’ll need the speed and the ability to speak to people quickly in custom groups and give presentations without having to stream it to them over the web. It also means that servers and other technological concerns are, while centralised (if your net is down, everyones is), a little more accessible.
Small businesses have a lot to learn. You don’t need an office. Some of the best websites and companies I know of started in someone’s house, or in the houses of individual staff scattered across the planet. So sprawl out on your couch, get alone, and go people hunting. See it this way: during the Olympics, you’ll be the only companies around, if you’re in London!