• August 2014

Great Spots to Work—When You Work for Yourself!

Great Spots to Work—When You Work for Yourself is a new regular column that honors the wonderful establishments that embrace small-business owners by giving us a place to work, socialize, and do business away from the office.

Let’s face it. Running a small, growing company from home is great—but it can also be lonely and isolating if you have a home business—or if you work remotely for a large organization as a teleworker.

At the Inkandescent PR, our entire team is virtual. So while talking by phone and email is easy, affordable, and efficient, it’s healthy to get out and see the world now and then.

But this can be a challenge!

It’s amazing how few spots there are to set up your laptop, log onto wi-fi, and have lunch, coffee, or a glass of wine.

Yes, Starbucks and other coffee shops or chains welcome remote workers. McDonald’s has free wi-fi, as do other national chains, including Noodles & Company and Panera (although you are limited as to how much time you can log on, especially at lunchtime).

While these establishments are wonderful spots to stop in for an hour or two, especially in between meetings, when I’m looking for a place away from home to work I want a little extra ambience. I want to sit someplace where I am inspired—by the view, the people-watching potential, the food, or the others I’ll happen to meet while I’m there.

So for years, I have been on a quest to find Great Spots to Work—When You Work for Yourself.

What inspired me, initially?

About five years ago, I was waiting for my daughter’s ballet class to end, again, and brought my laptop so that I could get some work done while I was waiting. Around the corner from the dance studio was a cute diner, with wi-fi and really good salads. I’d eaten there with my family several times, so I figured I’d stop in for a Caesar and do some work for the two hours she’d be in class.

As I always do, I asked the owner if it was all ok with him for me to work at a table in his restaurant. He said yes, and I requested a table in the back where I wouldn’t bother anyone, especially the waitress. But about 40 minutes into my stay, the mother of the owner came up to me and asked me to leave, saying I was taking up valuable space. Hmm, I thought. That’s interesting. I paid my check, gathered my things without fuss—and never went back to that diner again.

On that day the idea for this column was born.

I definitely understood where the restaurant owner’s mom was coming from—the table I was sitting at was valuable real estate, and turning it meant more money for the restaurant and more tips for the waitress. But I had asked permission, and it was 2 pm at the time, so there were plenty of tables available. So, really, what was her beef?

It could have been a million things, but it was obvious that teleworkers weren’t welcome. Was this the norm rather than an anomaly? Were there spots that were open to having entrepreneurs with laptops come in, work, eat—and become loyal customers?

I have been on a mission ever since to find out.

From the Washington, DC, metro area to the other cities where I regularly travel—Chicago, Philadelphia, New York, Miami, Boston, Houston, San Francisco, Los Angeles, etc.—I constantly am scouting for Great Spots to Work. My list of perfect venues has grown, as has my list of places to avoid.

From this month forward, we’ll regularly be sharing reviews of these establishments with our millions of readers—and next year, we’ll begin honoring those who give neighborly support to the entrepreneurial community with our 2015 Great Spots to Work—When You Work for Yourself Award.

We’re not just looking for places where you can sit down and work on a laptop for an hour or two.

As all good businesspeople know, the key to success is building relationships. So if a restaurant, hotel, bar, etc., isn’t nice to me when I come in to work and eat—they aren’t likely to earn my repeat business.

Indeed, most small-business owners are often on the lookout for establishments where they can host business meetings, networking events, catered parties—and, of course—go there for dinner with friends, family, and colleagues when they aren’t working. Loyalty rules.

Here are some basic ground rules I recommend entrepreneurs abide by when they are looking for Great Spots to Work:

  • Rule 1: Always ask the manager, owner, and/or waitress for permission to work at the establishment before you pull out your laptop.
  • Rule 2: Always buy something to eat and/or drink. (Depending on where I’m working, I’ll spend between $5 (at Starbucks) to $35 (at a nice restaurant).
  • Rule 3: Leave a good tip. Obviously.
  • Rule 4: Be aware of the people around you. No loud talking on your cell phone. No making a big mess.
  • Rule 5: Be respectful of the real estate you are taking up. Remember that this establishment is someone’s business. They need to earn a living just as you do.
  • Rule 6: Don’t stay all day—unless you are planning to spend more money, or are meeting colleagues or friends there later who will also be spending money. (See Rule 5.)

So where is our first Great Spot To Work—When You Work for Yourself?

The photo above will give you a hint. We’ll reveal it in our September 2014 issue, along with a review of why we think it’s great.

In the meantime, if you have a Great Spot to Work—When You Work for Yourself, send us the name of the establishment, and tell us why you love it, so that we can include it in our growing list.

Here’s to uncovering the nation’s Great Spots to Work! — Hope Katz Gibbs