Entrepreneurs: Here's a Business Idea for 2011

Last Updated Jan 5, 2011 12:30 PM EST

According to office supplies retailer Staples, the most noteworthy fact the 5th Annual National Staples Small Business Survey revealed was that 60 percent of small business owners spend more time holding mobile devices than the hands of their significant others. Staples notes that this finding may not be all bad, but fails to note that it's utterly irrelevant.

The list of things that entrepreneurs hold more than the hands of their loved ones includes pens, pencils, computer mice, steering wheels, hammers, wheelbarrow handles and countless other workplace items in addition to iPhones and BlackBerries. Small business owners spend more time at work, on work and using work items than with family. This is not news. Nor does it make business owners much if any different than other people.

What is noteworthy about the survey is this: 68 percent of small business owners who own mobile devices say they use just one device for personal and business purposes. In other words, their business phone calls, emails, texts and other messages will follow them home and anywhere else they take their phones. And that's not good.

While the decision about where to draw the line between business and work is a personal one, there is no doubt that such a line has to be drawn. When more than two-thirds of entrepreneurs can't draw that line, it's not a positive development.

The problem is, there's no obvious solution. Carrying two phones is one possible fix, but current smartphones are not portable enough to make most of us want to pack a pair of them around all or much of the time. They are, however, small enough to lose fairly easily, a problem that is only exacerbated as the number of devices we own multiplies.

Perhaps the best approach would be to have a single device that has a switch to make it either a personal or business phone. This would allow us to receive business calls during business hours, and personal calls during personal hours, without non-essential overlap. Ideally, such a device could also be configured to handle both personal and business communications, when that setup is desirable.

To my knowledge, there is no way to do this at the present time. If wireless device makers and service providers could make it happen, the world's small business owners would be grateful -- even though it probably wouldn't help their relationships with significant others all that much.

Mark Henricks has reported on business, technology and other topics for The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Entrepreneur, and other leading publications long enough to lay somewhat legitimate claim to being The Article Authority. Follow him on Twitter @bizmyths.

Image courtesy of Flickr user compujeramey, CC2.0

  • Mark Henricks

    Mark Henricks' reporting on business and other topics has appeared in The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Inc., Entrepreneur, and many other leading publications. He lives in Austin, Texas, where myth looms as large as it does anywhere.