Having done it for 17 years now, McDonnell has learned all kinds of lessons about the pluses and minuses of managing your business from home. Some tips:

1. Visibility

Make sure you and your management team see all key business data. Assign responsibility for monitoring the data for accuracy and for needed action. Build weekly and monthly meetings around data points as a forum to discuss problems rather than micromanaging on the spot.

2. Replication

Hire and train management people who look at data and information the way you do. Be relentless about instilling the precise way you want every number, invoice, quote, e-mail, meeting, discussion handled. These are your core operating principles.

3. Consciousness

Create a public forum for issues of the day and week to be posted--not just for the CEO's benefit but to expose all personnel to issues that are affecting the business. This data can give great insight into hidden stressors in the system.

4. Weekly meetings

Route issues into key weekly meetings with the core management team. Jumping on issues instantly can inhibit the self-reliance the system needs to develop. Unless it's a true crisis, don't micromanage the situation by voice or e-mail. If you do, the team will always look to you for a solution rather than looking within.

5. Park the ego

Be comfortable when the organization no longer needs its hand held on a tactical level. This is a sign that you've built a strong system and have the right team in place. It doesn't mean they don't need you--it means they need you looking ahead.

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Stephen McDonnell insists that he stays home four days a week because it's good management--not because it's fun. The performance of his company, Applegate Farms, seems to back him up.