Has the coronavirus pandemic made it impossible to run your retail business from the store? If yes, you always have the option of running and managing your business from home. However, there are certain steps that you need to take to ensure that your home-based retail business succeeds.
Let’s get started.
1. Research whether you’re allowed to run a retail business from home in your region
Every region in New Zealand has a local council that administers residences and commercial establishments. Depending on where you live, your zoning laws may not allow you to run a home-based business. Even if they do, you may have to meet certain prerequisites first.
You also have to check what signage rules your local council has laid out since it affects where and how you can display your business signage. You will also need to procure licenses to run your home-based retail business, which can be obtained by applying to your local council.
2. Obtain your landlord’s permission to start the business
As a tenant in a rented property, you have certain responsibilities towards your landlord. Additionally, you also have to fulfil your responsibilities under the Residential Tenancies Act 1986. So, before you move your retail business to your house, it’s necessary that you seek your landlord’s consent. Get written permission from your landlord, since this will help protect you and your business if the landlord later changes his/her mind.
3. Check if your home has the space required to run your business
Next, it’s necessary to check if you have sufficient space to start operations. You’ll need to take measurements of the equipment you’ll need to use/install and any additional floor space you’ll need to set aside for work like storage, sorting and packaging.
4. Check if you need building consent to run your retail business
If your house doesn’t have the space needed or you wish to make it look more professional, you may need to alter its design through minor renovations. To do such building work, you will need to obtain a building consent.
A building consent authorises the user of a building to implement any changes in the building on the grounds that it will not disturb or endanger any other user of the same building premises.
Only certain types of building work are exempted from consent. For others, failure to get a building consent before you start renovations can lead to fines of up to $200,000 as the first penalty, with subsequent penalties if work doesn’t stop.
Once your home is ready to double as your business premises, you can start equipping it with the furniture, tools and technology you need to start working.
5. Identify health and safety violations and rectify them immediately
When you’re running your retail business from home, you are completely responsible for the health and safety of your employees and customers. If anything happens, you will need to bear the expenses of the incident.
The Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 has provided a comprehensive list of H&S compliance regulations that all workplaces, whether commercial units or home-based, need to mandatorily meet. Not only do these requirements cover the safety equipment or hygiene practices that businesses need to implement but they also state the responsibilities that staff members have when faced with an emergency.
A health and safety emergency can be devastating for a retail business. Your business will, of course, be paying ACC levies for your employees for work-related injuries and you can reduce your financial liability a little bit. However, if a customer comes to meet you and gets injured at your home (which is now the business premise), he/she may accuse you of negligence and sue you in court. This can lead to thousands of dollars in losses.
One way to prevent this from happening is to purchase Public Liability Insurance. This insurance indemnifies you against any business-related losses and ensures you have the financial coverage you need to safeguard your retail business.
While we’re on the topic of shop insurance, it’s important to remember your typical household insurance does not provide business-related coverage for your home-based retail business. Additionally, many personal insurance providers have strict rules and may cancel your policy if they find out you’re using the policy to recover business losses. That’s why it’s necessary to get the right insurance, from the right people.
6. Register your home-based business with New Zealand government agencies
Every business in New Zealand, including home-based ones, must register their company with the country’s various governmental agencies and obtain the New Zealand Business Number (NZBN). This is a unique identifier that is essential for tax purposes and used every time you apply for a license/permit/consent.
So, before you start running and managing your home retail business, register yourself with the authorities.
7. Get a verifier to conduct a home visit
This step is mandatory only for F&B retail businesses, such as those producing, packaging and storing food and beverages in their home.
The verifier will conduct a thorough check of your property and identify if you have implemented the safety, hygiene and health practices laid down by the New Zealand Food Safety (NZFS).
If you’re found wanting, you may be given time to rectify these issues or your license to do your home business may be cancelled.
8. Create a schedule to ensure you meet all daily targets
It’s easy to lose your discipline when you work from home. However, it’s important to keep yourself accountable at all times to ensure that your retail business continues to thrive. It helps if you consciously manage your tasks by creating a schedule. Identify priority activities and non-priority tasks. Try to implement the same schedule that you used to follow when working in your physical retail stores.
9. Check-in with your staff to get the business in-sync
Your staff may or may not be working out of your home once you start a home-based retail business. Irrespective of their location, you can maintain synergy with them using collaborative online tools.
For example, tools like GoToMeeting and Skype are great to hold team meetings. Microsoft Outlook offers a shared calendar where you can keep everyone in-the-loop about events. Tools like Slack facilitate instantaneous intra-team messaging. Dropbox and Google Drive can help you share and work on your business documents. There is also software such as like Toggl Plan, which you can use to oversee and manage projects.
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The benefits of these collaborative online tools aren’t just limited to employee management. You can use them to connect with your customers, keep them in the loop about their orders, solicit feedback and work on revision/repairs as needed.
10. Manage distractions
One of the biggest issues of running a retail business from home is that it can be distracting. Partners, parents, and children can divert your attention from your professional responsibilities. You may even have to make time for household chores during work, which can have a negative impact on your business if you don’t manage your priorities.
It’s imperative that you have an honest conversation with your family about the demands of your retail business. Create a home schedule that allows you to discharge both your personal and professional responsibilities without foregoing either one.