Priceless setting

Having a home office cuts down on the commute. Plus, it's easier to feed the chickens. But seriously, my office is, architecturally, completely separated from the house. It's in a suite that takes up the whole basement. My wife works, and my kids have moved out, so it's a quiet location. It is a really elegant place to have an office, quite frankly, and a very pleasant working environment. My office looks out on a park, and there is a pond right next to me with a fountain and goldfish.

We've looked at all kinds of commercial buildings to buy or fix up and found nothing as nice. We've been looking for 15 to 16 years, so I know what's out there.

The home office is more cost-effective than an outside space. If I moved out, it would cost at least $40,000 to $50,000 a year. If we rented, it would be burning money up. Unless we bought, I wouldn't dream of getting another office.

Professionalism at home

There are, however, a few drawbacks. It is a little tough on the superintendents to have to come here, and weekend work is precluded for others. Also, having the office and storage together is vital in construction. Our office-storage connection is broken, but we get around that pretty well because the warehouse is close by.

I don't think the home setting has hurt my business. I run everything with a high degree of professionalism. We have a server, five computer stations, a multiple copier center, and a conference room. It impresses people when they see it. Plus, they get eggs.

Joe McKinstry

Joseph McKinstry Construction


Big50 2003

Sending a serious message

I've seen both sides of the coin, and the commercial space works better. It's more professional. If a customer knows you have commercial space, they take you a little more seriously. There's an array of things customers evaluate, including past jobs, referrals, and office space. The more arrows in your quill, the more you add to the equation. Subs and suppliers give you more respect, too.

Also, you get more productive time. Distractions are everywhere in a home office. It seemed like when I was in my home-life mode, there would be business distractions, and vice versa. Now, no one is knocking at the door looking for a check at 6 p.m. when I'm eating dinner. And when I'm at the office, there's no home stuff to be distracted with, like the newspaper, the neighbor who drops in, or the kids. The environment is structured to focus on work. There's a psychological commitment.

Surprise benefits

One of the biggest surprises I found in having an office outside the home is in hiring. Job offer acceptance is twice as high now as when I had a home office. This looks like a professional environment, and for employees who are thinking about their livelihood, they are comfortable in the office environment.

The downside is the cost. However, I feel the cost is more than covered by benefits.

It also has a personal advantage: In a commercial office, you do not have a stocked refrigerator. I lost 10 pounds after I moved out of the home office.

Ed Castle Jr.

E.M. Castle Construction

Kensington, Md.

Big50 2001