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Smart Moves

Gary Haberland launched Genicon, his medical equipment company, from his Orlando garage in 1998. But by 2000, the business had become too big for Haberland's home. He now has 35 employees and more than $5 million in sales. So he moved out -- first to a 3,000-sq.-ft. flex space and last year to a 9,000-sq.-ft. operations center in Winter Park.

For Ricki South, her home office arrangement works out just fine. She has run her Brandon courier business, Busy Beaver Express, from home for the past 10 years. Her setup allows her to spend time out and about meeting prospective clients and networking. She has no intention of moving out.

Running a home-based business can be a long-term commitment or an inexpensive way for an entrepreneur to get started. "There's nothing neater than to see what began as a dream take form," says Haberland.

Once you get your business up and running, how do you decide whether to stay put or move on to a more traditional office? Here are some things to consider:

Employees vs. working alone
As your sales increase, will you need to hire employees? South's business revolves around the eight full-time and one part-time courier who use their cars, vans or trucks to deliver letters and packages for 200 customers, primarily in the Tampa Bay area. Couriers work with two-way radios and never come to South's home except to drop their delivery tickets in a drop box. She rarely sees them. Inside the home office, South works either alone or with one part-time assistant.

Haberland, on the other hand, needed employees from the start to do everything from sales to inventory management. At first, he hired students from the University of Central Florida who would come and go on a part-time basis. But when he started hiring full-time help in 2000, it began to get crowded in his garage office.

Inventory
How much "stuff" is required for your business? Because South runs a service business that has no tangible merchandise, she only has to have room for a few pieces of office equipment and supplies. As Haberland's business grew, he needed more space to store his medical devices. For a while, he used rental storage units to house the inventory. But when he moved the business out of the home, he was able to consolidate his management and distribution operations.

Privacy
Is your home suited for an office? South's home office was built out of the garage and has a separate entrance. Her time is her own because she doesn't have children who need attention during the day. Haberland's home office didn't work as well. Because he lives in a deed-restricted community, the 18-wheeler trucks that delivered his product weren't very welcome on his street. He also quips that he became too accessible to his spouse and other members of the family, including a very friendly dog that jumped onto the lap of a visiting U.S. Food and Drug Administration official.