I received the following comment and question from Victor from South Africa:
I must say your website has made me understand the logistics of starting and growing a business. My business is very new and started last year. At the moment we are still trying to expand into the international arena as an export / import company.
Do you run your business from home? and how do clients react to this?
I did run my business from home for a long time. In my case it made a lot of sense since I had two working periods; one that started at 10PM and ended around 2:00AM where I communicated with my customers in countries such as Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Yemen, Bahrain, UAE, and Oman. My other working period started around 7:00am and ended around 11:00am where I communicated with manufacturers, banks, and shippers on the USA side.
Many of the other importers and exporters I met throughout the years had the same setup; running their business from home. The ones that worked in a manufacturer's international sales department of course had offices in the company itself and also the same for those who had a wholesale facility where they acted as distributors and had retailers drop by their warehouse to view and purchase goods.
Having a home office myself did not impact my business image since other businesses cared more about the results and opportunities they were gaining from my business and its a common setting in international trade. I did conduct few meetings in my home office when my customers or suppliers happened to be traveling nearby. One time I met with the International Sales Manager and his assistant of a fortune 500 company in my home office and we discussed business over coffee in my Kitchen table. It was actually a very comfortable setting and they felt they got to know me more on a personal level which is great for establishing a long term relationship. For me to invite them to meet me at my home office when they were close by meant to them that I have nothing to hide and my business is not a fly by operation.
I also remember one of my Saudi customers being in the area on a business trip attending a trade show and I invited him to stay at my house if he wishes to. He spent 3 nights and I got to show him around the town where I lived. This strengthened our relationship and he returned the hospitality favor few years later when I was visiting Jeddah in Saudi Arabia where he did business at.
I remember reading an article long time ago in World Trade magazine about a lady who was very successful in international trading and a mention of how she loved this business since it enabled her to work from here ocean front home in California and travel around the world whenever she needed to. The flexibility of international trading was an incentive for her to gravitate toward this business.
In this business of importing and exporting where you are dealing with overseas destinations, clients, and service providers; having a home office is more common than you would think.
If you need to conduct a business meeting away from your home office, look into temporary office space rentals or meeting and conference facilities services. Some are even offered in World Trade Centers around the world.