John Flynn, meet Erma Bombeck. You have a lot in common, even if you don’t know who she was. Flynn is a forty-year-old Sherman web designer who works at home. Bombeck was the bestselling author of The Grass Is Always Greener over the Septic Tank, weekly syndicated newspaper columnist and a regular on ABC-TV’s Good Morning, America, her theme of juggling kids, dogs, husbands and housework, while working at home, kept America smiling for years. But that was three decades ago when the idea of people making a living from their den or kitchen was still new. Bombeck would be proud of the way Flynn is pulling it off.
Another One on the Way
He entered the home workplace world two years ago when a complicated pregnancy put his wife, Jamie, in the hospital for three months. Jamie had an extreme case of placenta previa, a condition where the placenta lies unusually low in the uterus, completely or partially covering the cervix, and she would need to be hospitalized until the birth of the baby.
Under the best of circumstances, having Dad pick up the slack for a missing mom and homemaker is no easy thing. But when the family has seven children, all under the age of twelve, look out. Flynn returned home, and gathering the clan, told them that they would be on their own for a while. “It was like everything had been turned upside down,” he said. Compounding the difficulties was the basic necessity of making a living.
The devout Catholic, former youth minister and touring musician put away his suitcases and started to look for something a little closer to home. Starting a home-based business was a necessity that eventually turned into a new career designing websites for businesses and non-profit organizations.
For the next three months, Flynn went from performing in front of thousands to juggling diaper changing, helping with homework, fixing dinner and doing any job that would pay the bills. Entirely self-taught, Flynn learned the front end and back end of website design with hands on practice. He built a website for a friend. That led to another job, and then another and soon he was busy planning, building and launching websites as a full-time business—all without having to take the traditional route to work.
By the time Jamie returned home with a new baby girl, the enterprise had grown enough that the Flynns decided to stick with it and see where it could lead. They made a one-year commitment to see the new venture through, and Kickstart Media came to be.
Going with the Flow
“It was an exciting time,” Jamie said. “We never made a plan for this, it just kind of happened, and so we just kept riding the wave.” Flynn has now built Kickstart Media into a nationally known web and blog development company and has over sixty websites in his portfolio.
So what have the Flynns learned from this mixed blessing? “It’s great being able to be home, see your kids in the morning and when they get home from school, great being able to make your own schedule, and wonderful working for yourself,” John said. “Along the same lines, though, it’s tough for the very same reasons.”
John Flynn has a great relationship with his kids and truly enjoys spending time with them, but…? “How are you supposed to concentrate on work when you can hear your kids playing outside on the lawn, and you really just want to run out there and join them?” he said.
And when you work from home it is hard to “…really come home from work,” as Flynn said. He loves his business, and he is devoted to it, so when he is “at home” in another part of the house and hears his office phone ringing, it is a struggle to “go back to work” and pick it up.
But there are positives too. Working from home negates much of the red tape, time, and money required to manage an office, and there is no commuting and no need for personnel to manage the workplace. Flynn’s business operates with just four people. Each of his employees is a “home-worker” too, and they are located in different parts of the country. They communicate by video chat on their computers and use an online project management system called “Basecamp” for their “office.” “That’s the beauty of this age,” said Flynn, “Technology is so powerful now that three or four people with computers and know how can manage the same workload as twenty in a typical office structure.
“Organization, systems, consistency,” John Flynn replied when asked if he had any advice for people considering a home business. “You have to manage yourself, so being organized is key. Using existing systems or creating your own can really help your business be productive. Most importantly, be consistent. Find a niche, develop a product or service that is special and then stick with it and work hard until you succeed.” Sounds like solid advice.
As we left the Flynn enclave John and Jamie stand on the porch and the eight kids crowd around and wave goodbye. We find ourselves a little envious of their life as we head back to our office, but as Erma Bombeck said and so many others have echoed, “The grass is always greener….”