Opinions are divided on holding client meetings at home. Some consider it unprofessional. Others think there’s no problem as long as the environment is professional and the meeting is not interrupted.
Maintain separate business space
If you do decide to hold client meetings at home, keep a separate area to be used exclusively for business matters. This not only helps you separate your public and private lives but also allows you to create a professional space for client interaction, something that’s difficult when you have to constantly re-arrange shared space to suit both business and pleasure.
Choose the right time
If you have children of school-age then holding client meetings during the day will be the best choice. If they are younger then working around sleeping habits is best, although you should inform your client you have young children – most will be extremely accommodating. Other factors that influence when you hold your meetings could be local traffic and access routes, public transport provisions and client schedules.
Setting ground rules
Maintaining professionalism is often harder with home-based businesses because there is obvious crossover between your public and private life. Family members or housemates may not appreciate the impression you wish to give off when dealing with clients so it’s important to discuss this in advance. Interruptions – except in the case of emergencies – look unprofessional and may reduce your credibility in the eyes of the client. Make sure everyone is on the same page to avoid problems during meetings.
Holding your meeting in a public place is a popular alternative. Planning ahead is essential to mitigate the disadvantages of these options, such as excess noise and crowds. Some public spaces are better than others:
- Restaurants – holding meetings in restaurants can go down extremely well but will soon get expensive, particularly if you set the standard high. If you regularly entertain clients consider asking restaurants to provide you with discounted prices
- Libraries – not all libraries enforce silence. Wide, open spaces in libraries provide plenty of opportunity to spread materials and documentation, and there are normally computers with internet access available for use. Some libraries even have meeting rooms with useful conference facilities which can be rented out at very competitive rates
- Coffee shop meetings – opinions differ on the value of coffee-shop meetings, with some considering them to be unprofessional. However, they are typically inexpensive and easy to find. Meetings held there not subject to rigid time constraints which can be beneficial if things overrun. Whether they are appropriate for you will depend on the nature of your business
- Bars and pubs – bars and pubs are not appropriate for meetings, for both professional and practical reasons. Aside from the atmosphere being impractical for conducting a serious business relationship, excess noise may encourage misunderstandings and prevent progress being made
Commercial facilities specifically designed for holding meetings and entertaining clients have become popular in recent years, providing impressive space at cost-effective prices.
- Virtual offices – along with telephony and mail management, virtual offices typically offer companies meeting space to rent on an ad-hoc basis, allowing you to book by need rather than on long-term contracts. This can be very cost-effective in the long-term. However, using virtual offices may only be tenable for those in major cities due to proximity. Prices start from around £30 per person per half day, although in London this will likely be higher.
- Hotel conference facilities – hotel conference facilities typically cater for large numbers of delegates rather than smaller meetings. Amenities typically include hot and cold refreshments, whiteboards and projectors and in some cases a lunch. Prices vary widely depending on the size of the room and the hotel’s location
- Business clubs – business clubs are upmarket establishments that offer both business and leisure facilities to members. They are predominantly situated in the capital although can also be found in major cities such as Birmingham and Manchester. Annual prices range from £300 to £2000+, with the price dictating the level of on-site amenities, how often they can be used and whether additional supplies are provided.