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So You Think You Want to Be Your Own Boss?

Quiz: Running a home-based business takes more than a spare bedroom. Ask yourself whether you also have the personality traits required to succeed.


Gentle reader:

While an employee with character will devote himself wholeheartedly to his company's success, it is no longer considered unethical to be prepared to leave the employer at a moment's notice. Today's worker is "eager to stay and ready to go," says one Fortune 500 executive in describing the new social contract. In this section, we explore ways to evaluate your skills and improve them on your own.

Ms. Work Wise

Readers of the Careers section first met Ms. Work Wise last November when the etiquette-savvy fictional character created by our readers joined real-life columnist Judith Martin (a.k.a. "Miss Manners") to address problems related to rudeness in the workplace. Ms. Work Wise returns in this issue to introduce stories on different types of training and will continue to appear as a voice in careers.


Studies show that one-third of adults give serious thought to escaping the politics and constant interruptions at the office by working at home.

But turning that vision into reality can be tough. Experts say it takes a self-starter with strong self-esteem to overcome the hurdles that face those who strike out on their own.

Those who do succeed can cash in on a piece of the $25-billion home business market, but they had better be prepared to compete, said Ray Boggs, director of home office research at the New York-based research firm IDC/LINK.

"A home-based business owner has to watch out both for the guy next door and for the guy in the corporate high-rise tower," Boggs said.

So what personality traits are essential to conquering this potentially lucrative but challenging market? What skills are necessary to ensure that your venture is a success when you join the one in 10 Americans already working for a home-based business?

Take the following quiz to see whether you're ready to be your own boss. If you agree with the following statements, mark true; if you disagree, mark false.


1. Working at home is great for those who have a tough time getting out of bed in the morning. Now I'll also have time to water the garden and take the baby for a walk.

2. I am good at getting what I want from others, such as a refund at my favorite clothing store or a raise. These communication skills are a plus in moving my business plans forward.

3. I hate computers, but I figure that if I own my own company I can get by with my old DOS-based system and my dot-matrix printer because I'll be the only one who needs to use it every day.

4. I'm a loner who has a hard time empathizing with colleagues. Being on my own would be perfect for me because I won't have to listen to other people's problems.

5. I plan to use accounting software to keep my books, even though I don't quite understand the difference between debits and credits. I don't need to take an accounting class to run my business.

6. I know a strong marketing program is essential to my company's success, but I don't have time to read up on how to do it right. I'm a good observer, however, and I think I can learn a lot by watching how people around me react to junk mail and other advertisements.

7. I plan to turn my hobby of building model trains into a business. Because I've been doing this in my spare time for years, I can't help but succeed.

8. I can't possibly drum up clients, keep my books, market my company and keep my sanity. I'm going to subcontract some of this work so I can concentrate on the things I do best.

9. I always act on my gut feelings. My intuition has never failed me, and it is something I can rely on when I get my business license next month.

10. I've assessed which business skills I excel at and which ones I lack. I fall short in several areas, but I'm willing to educate myself to make my dreams come true.


1. False. Those who operate a company from home must be diligent in organizing their time and exercising personal discipline, experts say.

"You have to approach your work just like you would if you are in an office," said Glenn Poy, an Agoura Hills-based management consultant and co-author of "Entrepreneur or Employee: Should You Get Out or Stay in Your Current Job?" (Vanalden Press, 1997).

"It's easy to get carried away with getting a snack or turning on the TV. You will always find something distracting."

In fact, some home-based business owners joke about strict routines they forced themselves to follow to get into the work-at-home mind-set. Some quip that they put on a tie with their shorts and tennis shoes and walk around the block first before they start work at 8 a.m.

2. True. Entrepreneurs must be able to resolve conflicts and solicit business over the phone without hesitation--efforts that require superior communication skills, said Paul Edwards, a Santa Monica-based home business consultant and co-author with his wife, Sarah, of several books on home-based business, including "Working From Home" (Jeremy P. Tarcher/Putman, 1994).

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