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The UK’s top 25 businesses run from home

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It is no coincidence that the fastest-growing law firm, travel agent and secretarial firm in the country are among the 25 firms profiled in this article.

No matter which sector you are in, from manufacturing to venture capital, homeworking is more than a lifestyle benefit: it’s a competitive advantage. Think of the costs saved on overheads, the time saved on commuting, and the advantage over other businesses when it comes to the war on talented employees? For the modern professional, flexibility is higher on the priority list than status and money.

Homeworking is on the brink of going mainstream and these 25 businesses have pioneered it for years. So, while the debate on Yahoo!’s homeworking ban is raging on, we asked them what flexible working has done for them.

UK’s top 25 businesses run from home: 1-9

1. Online transcription service OutSec

2. Travel agency Future Travel

3. Marketing agency Total Marketing Network

4. Luxury fashion brand Izzy Lane

5. Legal firm Keystone Law

6. Marketing agency Golley Slater

7. Data consultancy firm Jaywing

8. Ecommerce provider Actinic

9. Dancing school Jo Jingles

It’s a win-win situation

Denise Pritchard had been toying with the idea of a virtual agency network for years when she set up Total Marketing Network in 2003. “I felt the time was right for a change. Many of the people who worked for me were as interested in enriching their personal experiences as in developing their careers. The desire for flexibility of hours, travel and so on were clear, and traditional employment contracts and the needs of a growing business did not allow for this flexibility.”

Pritchard says she needed to access a wide variety of skills for her plans to adopt a more consultative approach in her business. The results speak for themselves: “Many people might imagine that virtual businesses only operate on a small scale. This is not the case at all. Put the right team in place and you can handle large, multi-disciplinary, international projects. We have done this for AMD, ABN AMRO, Ricoh and ITV to name but a few.”

Although she admits that working outside the formal office environment isn’t for everyone and demands rigorous vetting procedures, Pritchard is convinced of the benefits flexible working has brought to Total Marketing Network. “From the business owner’s perspective, having a virtual organisation means growth and contraction is driven by market demands, and good profit margins are maintained as overheads are very low. From the consultants’ perspective we can choose to work where and how they like, as long as we deliver and meet deadlines. From the clients’ perspective, they can achieve much more with their budget.”

Richard Phillips, CEO of online transcription service OutSec, adds another argument for flexible working: “It’s eco-friendly! Think of all those commuters taken off the roads and public transport.

“But do not think it is easy,” he adds. “Flexible working requires a clear plan to work effectively and constant monitoring of personnel. Motivation and self-discipline are vital to anyone who chooses to work outside an office.”

OutSec wanted to take advantage of the growing speed of the internet as broadband was rolled out. Early advances in technology enabled their secretarial support service to operate in real-time, so they could access a workforce that had previously been disenfranchised by not being able to work from outside an office environment.

Would he advice other businesses to follow his lead? “Home working is the way forward,” says Phillips. “There is a huge potential, highly experienced workforce to be tapped into.”

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