Ask the Expert” Q&A with Ann Hawkins Inspiring Entrepreneurs in the hot seat!

This is a compilation of the Q&A in our Facebook Group.

Check the Drive Facebook Group every Wednesday at 12 noon for more “Ask the Expert” discussions with Drive members in the hot seat! 

Sam Taylor What do you think is the main reason that new businesses fail?

Ann Hawkins Government statistics show that 50% of new businesses fail within 12 months, with 90% no longer trading after five years. 10% close involuntarily due to insolvency and 90% cease trading because the business is not providing a satisfactory income for the owners, so lack of profit is the overwhelming reason for failure.

The question I get asked most by business owners is how to manage their time so that they’re not working 24/7 – this is usually related to not making enough profit to pay for help. Too many business owners are barely scraping by, despite working really hard, and it’s often just because no-body has shown them them how to run a business profitably.

Don’t run out of money!

Nicky Peters Ann I’ve started a new pre revenue business which is getting traction and I am confident will fly as I get my message better and the word out. However although I am an accountant, my biggest threat is working capital and paying myself a wage – any tips or suggestions around funding a service based business

Ann Hawkins The simplest way to deal with  the risk is to have another income stream while you build up your main business Nicky. Running out of money is the biggest threat to any business and keeping a check on cash flow is the most important activity for a business owner. Is there something you can create once and sell many times, e.g. an ebook or course? Preferably this would be an easy entry into your higher priced services too.

Nicky Peters Yes Ann, I have a course I hope to launch at the end of the month which I hope will generate passive income, I’m just always intrigued to see if other people have different ideas. Having said that I thought I needed a book before I could sell something written so the idea of an ebook is great – thank you – that’s on the to do list!!

Ann Hawkins  Talk to Siobhan Costello will about how to write a book that helps you to become a key person of influence in your business!

Sam Taylor What do you need to think about when going into business with someone?

Ann Hawkins All the obvious things about trust, being really clear about expectations, writing EVERYTHING down, getting a proper agreement but also looking at some unexpected things.  A lot of things are covered in this post (and talk to me if you need help!): “Starting a business with friends? You need this!”

Planning is vital

Mary Mansfield I take it you don’t do new year’s resolutions, but can I ask, how far in advance do you plan your goals for each year and what sort of strategies do you use for goal planning?

Ann Hawkins I think it’s important to have a life plan – when do you plan to retire, how much money will you need as a pension, what will you do when you retire – then plan back from there. The shorter term goals should all lead towards the big one and help you to make decisions. Of course stuff happens that we don’t plan for but not having a plan means just taking each day as it comes!

Mary Mansfield Yes, makes sense. In other words, a plan of some sort is better than no plan at all?

Ann Hawkins Yes, then all the smaller goals, like staying fit, eating well, learning new skills have a real purpose. The biggest benefit tho, is that it makes it easier to make decisions on a day to day basis.

Nicky Peters I guess it’s a bit like having a map – you figure out where you want to go then you can look at route options and if you come across a road closure then you divert and find an alternative route.

Mary Mansfield Like your analogy Nicky!

Ann Hawkins There’s a great phrase “The map is not the territory” that explains that although we know where we want to get to, we don’t know how difficult or easy the terrain will be until we set out, but as long as you know where you want to end up, and you want it enough, you’ll find a way to get there.

Marketing and social media

Alicja Wawrzyniak Is a Facebook fan page really needed for leads opportunities for new business? Sometimes I feel like quitting all the social media but then I ask myself how it will affect my business in the social media and technology age.

Ann Hawkins That’s a really BIG question Alicja. Short answer, don’t quit. On-line presence is really important but a Facebook Page is notoriously difficult for a small business.

Have a look at this post by Sam Taylor and Lenka Koppová  “What’s the connection between Content, SEO and Social Media

Alicja Wawrzyniak Thank you, I will look at this. I certainly know how social media appearance can raise new leads and how important this is. However sometimes I ask myself is there another way. Thanks!

Andy Boothman Research your best clients, where they are and where they come from, then concentrate your efforts talking to others in similar situations/places. There will be a natural happy point somewhere, identify that then spend your time in that space. There are lots of ways to do this research. Ed Bass shared some fantastic tools with the group back in November when he talked about the customer journey – it’s all explained in this post:  “The Sales Funnel is Dead

Ann Hawkins A Facebook Page is not the best or easiest way to get leads but it can be a good place to build on and find out what content works for you. Instagram may be better for a visual business like yours too – what do your role model businesses use?

Ann Hawkins Before anyone dives into using social media I’d advise you step back and think: How many clients do you need a month? How much is each one worth (revenue to your business). Do you get repeat business from old clients? If the number you need is low there may be better ways than social media to find them but you still need an on-line presence for validation. It’s always worth remembering that most things in business have already been done by somebody so it’s always worth looking at what the successful people in your sector do 🙂

Alicja Wawrzyniak thank you for help!

Graham Haddock Hi Alicja, For what its worth look at associated disciplines that would have your skill as a related element of what they do and target them. For example I spent a lot of my career in lighting. Making contacts with companies through social media or directly (picking up the phone!) that have Interior Design as a related need might be useful. High end architectural lighting companies or small bespoke lighting designers would be a good target sector to focus your promotion or conversation on. Hope this helps in some small way. 🙂

Ann Hawkins Excellent advice Graham!

Alicja Wawrzyniak thank you, it’s good advice.

The future of business

Sam Taylor What do you think the business world will look like in 10 years time?

Ann Hawkins  I get very excited about technology which is all about change but I’m equally fascinated at the enduring predictability of how human beings relate to each other. I think businesses of the future will continue to be heavily reliant on the internet and devices will talk to each more but humans will always need personal interaction, community, transparency and trust in each other.

Business owners need to understand how technology works without becoming a slave to it (turn your notifications OFF and CHOOSE when to respond to them!) but they also need to know how human beings work. However much technology can help us, we’ll always be selling to human beings and our ability to build trusted relationships will always and forever be the most important part of business as well as life.

Our biggest challenges in society will be to provide alternative purpose and meaning to people whose roles are taken over by artificial intelligence, to drastically reform education and to care for an ageing population – these are all business opportunities!

If you’ve got more questions for Ann on “How not to fail in business” ask in the comments section below, check out her blog Inspiring Entrepreneurs or follow her on Twitter @AnnHawkins for more great tips.