Donna-Marie Coggins [donnamarie]
What is the business idea that you are working on right now? How did you come up with it?
I am currently working on two new products that are very closely related, both around specific areas of small business marketing.
The idea to create these products came from so many people asking me for information on them. There's a definite need for guides with clear, concise information.
These guides will be produced using a combination of text, audio and visual media and delivered as short online courses.
Although I also create physical products - books and DVDs, digital media is so much easier and quicker for students/members to access immediately.
Is there a website, blog or social media link where we can see more about your project and/or yourself?
What is your professional background? What were you doing before?
After working with wildlife for 10 years I decided to set up my own business on 1 July 1998 and began studying Small Business Management around the same time.
Since then I have been operating Jacaranda Business Support Services (JBSS), although most people know me by my name, not the business.
Although JBSS began as a service to help other small businesses with general management tasks, I soon went on to study journalism and writing and the business began offering more PR, marketing and writing services.
My main focus now is on mentoring others in managing a successful small business, particularly new businesses.
When asked whether I prefer to work with 'online' or 'offline' businesses, my reply is, "What's the difference?"
I believe all businesses should be utilising both online and offline strategies and I focus on helping them to do this.
How did the entrepreneurial spirit rise up in you? Were you exposed to entrepreneurship in your family or your social environment when you were a child?
My parents ran their own business for as long as I can remember. I have many fond memories of spending school holidays either in the factory or showroom or visiting clients with my Dad, or 'hanging out' in the CBD store with my Mum and Grandma. And my sisters too.
I wanted to run my own business since the age of 17. Well, perhaps even earlier, but that's when I first seriously considered the idea.
At the age of 18 I began a part-time consulting business while working full-time for the Parks and Wildlife Service, but it was another few years before I had the courage to leave my job and focus full-time on my business.
Do you have partners working with you on this? How do you split the work with them?
I have never had any business partners however I do have a great team around me. My main focus now is on planning, managing and training, but I am always available to help with any other task when other team members need a hand.
Do you have employees or people that you outsource tasks to? What do they do?
I have a small but amazing team of six people who I outsource work to on a contract basis.
This team looks after my bookkeeping and accounting, writing, various administration tasks and graphic design.
Writing was one of the most difficult tasks for me to outsource because it's something I do well and that I enjoy. However I know I just don't have time to do everything, and this is something that is best outsourced (although I still do a reasonable amount of writing myself).
I began by outsourcing very small tasks to begin with and then I'd always edit them. In fact, I still do most of the editing myself.
For a control freak, outsourcing was not easy. But the more I did it, the more I was able to achieve. Pretty soon I got the hang of it and began outsourcing jobs around the home too. :)
Entrepreneurs have a reputation as "control freaks." How do you avoid that?
I admit, I used to be a control freak and a perfectionist. But it's too difficult to grow when you're like that! It would take me so long to achieve completion on projects - not that I ever really viewed them as complete.
And I was always over-worked because I was sure I had to do everything myself. What's that saying? "If you want something done properly, do it yourself."
When I realised this was what was holding me back I knew I had to change. It wasn't easy, but once I made the commitment to change and started to see more results, it became easier.
Now I know that not everything needs to be 100% or 'exceptional'. Sometimes, 'okay' is good enough.
When you need guidance or advice, where do you find it?
It depends on what sort of guidance I'm looking for.
Generally speaking, I have a number of mentors in different areas of life and business. I also have a close circle of trusted business colleagues and friends.
These are the people I go to for guidance and advice or even just to do some brainstorming with.
Which well known entrepreneurs/enterprises do you admire? Why?
The entrepreneur I admire the most is Sir Richard Branson and I'm so honoured to have met him in 2010.
I love that Sir Richard isn't afraid to take chances, regardless of what others might be saying about him. I love his ability to think outside the box and to be different ... to do what he believes is the best option even if it's not what everyone else would do.
I also admire Australian entrepreneur and Olympian, Lisa Curry. I admire her ability to 'just do it' ... to get on and do what needs to be done whether she feels like it or not. She is a very disciplined woman, making time to run her business while being a great Mum and making sure she takes some time for looking after herself too.
Lisa has a great ability to set goals, break them down into smaller steps and then go after them with unwavering focus.
What skills would you advise a want-to-be-entrepreneur to acquire?
I would advise any want-to-be-entrepreneur to begin by reading The e-Myth by Michael Gerber. This is a brilliant book and one that helped me often when faced with important business decisions.
Some of the skills necessary for managing a successful business, I believe, are determination, courage, a desire to be constantly improving (yourself and your business), a desire to help others, on-going education (although not necessarily formal education - seminars, books, courses and DVDs are fine too), professionalism and self belief.
I have found a lot of my strengths and skills have come from other successful business owners. Look for role models who display the skills and persona that you feel are important within your business. Whenever you're faced with a major decision or a challenge of some sort, ask yourself, "What would so-and-so do in this situation?"
I've been doing this for years, even before I started my own business. I was blessed to have three particular supervisors through my previous career who always appeared calm, relaxed and never seemed to be phased by anything. They made decision that were totally different to how many others would react, but yet those decisions almost always turned out to be good choices.
So I made sure I spent time listening to them, observing them, and asking them why they made certain decisions. Not only did I learn so much about understanding people, patience and thinking before reacting, but whenever I started to feel overwhelmed with a situation I would ask myself, "What would so-and-so do in this situation?" Then I'd do whatever I thought that role model would have done.
What types of coaching do you do? Who are your clients?
I coach small business owners, or people who are considering starting a small business.
Most of the people I work with are in the very early stages and still getting an understanding of what's possible and what's required of them.
How did you get into coaching?
I sort of fell into this role really. I had been running my own business for six years when I wrote a book to help others who wanted to start and manage a successful business.
Once the book was launched I began speaking about small business management and then began running workshops. I was really only saying 'yes' to things I was comfortable with when opportunities presented themselves.
However I soon discovered that I have a knack for being about to teach and help others, so I began focusing more on that aspect.
So these days, rather than me providing business services for people, I teach them how to do it (or outsource it) themselves.
Do you have innate qualities, or is it something that you learned?
For me, it's a bit of both.
Once I discovered I had these qualities I made the effort to learn more and refine these skills.
What must the person you are helping contribute?
The main thing they need to contribute is the desire to be helped.
After that, they need to be open-minded, prepared to step out of their comfort zones, be committed and follow through with action.
My role as a coach is to ask the questions, listen to their answers, perhaps ask more questions, then offer suggestions and help guide them towards their goals. I will also be there when they stumble to help encourage them to get up and keep moving towards their dreams.
But the person being coached must provide the information - and by that I mean their background information - make their own decisions and then decide whether or not they want to do whatever is necessary to achieve their goals.
Can positive thinking can be developed into a habit?
Yes, absolutely. I've done it myself and I know many others who have.
But that doesn't mean that you don't allow yourself to feel down at times too. Depending on the circumstances, there are times when we should allow ourselves - or those around us - to feel sad, upset or to grieve.
To not do so can mean that you're bottling up emotions which is not healthy.
It also doesn't mean that everything will go to plan just because you're thinking positively about it. You still need to conduct proper researching and planning, as necessary, and take effective action to see your goals through to completion.
If you're taking all the right action, habitual positive thinking will help you stick to your plan and can help encourage and motivate you to go that little bit further. It can help you keep on going, even when things get a bit tough.
What is usually the main obstacle your clients face?
The main obstacle so, so often is a lack of self belief.
Can an excess of self-esteem be the worst obstacle?
No, not at all. I don't think an excess of self-esteem is a good thing, but there are far worse obstacles.