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About Gobnait Collins:
1. Is this your first business? (If not what other businesses did you have and what happened to them?)
Yes, it’s our first business and we both (myself and my husband) decided we wanted to work for ourselves in 2006/7.
2. What are the things that you find most valuable and rewarding about working for yourself?
Seeing the business grow and providing a range of outsourcing solutions to our clients.
3. Where did you get the idea for your current business?
It is a franchise business and my husband first came across the idea at a franchise show in the RDS.
About Starting Up:
4. How did you evaluate your business idea before deciding to go ahead with it?
We did some market research on our competitors and we also visited two franchisee offices in the UK.
5. Did you prepare a business plan before starting your business? Yes. How often do you revisit it?
Yes we did prepare a business plan. We revisit very often as we regularly update our business plan.
6. What advice would you give to others when writing a business plan?
Be very cautious when forecasting sales. Put as much research as possible in to your target markets and exactly how you are going to achieve your targeted sales. Ensure you budget for online marketing as this is an area which cannot be ignored.
7. What challenges did you face in the early start up stage of your business?
At the time in 2007 believe it or not we had difficulty finding the right premises. (How things have changed!) Getting broadband connectivity also caused some delay. After that it was just the hard graft of finding new business.
8. How did you overcome these challenges?
In relation to the premises, we just kept looking and eventually found the premises we are in at the KCR Estate in Kimmage which luckily enough was only 5 minutes away from home. In relation to new business, we attended quite a lot of networking events and became members of BNI and Dublin City Enterprise Women’s Network.
9. What did you learn about yourself during the start-up experience?
You have to work really hard at promoting the business and attend as many events as possible in order to get your business known. We are still getting calls (4 years later) from people we met at that time. You need to be very resourceful and adapt to your clients needs.
About your business:
10. What is the nature of your business?
We provide an outsourced solution for telephone answering services to any size of company from small (1 person) to large.
11. How many employees do you have? Full- or part-time?
There are 2 Part-time employees, myself and my husband.
12. What is an average workday like for you?
Our office is open from 8.30am-6.00pm so we are ‘On Call’ during those hours. The phones tend to be busiest from 10-12.30am and also from 2-4.30pm. It probably reflects the most productive times during any normal working day and the working patterns in most offices. I usually try to get accounts work done in the morning before we get too busy and I also handle all emails. I am usually kept busy throughout the day and then from 4.30-6.00 I get a chance to work on whatever project we are currently working on. At the moment we are putting a lot of effort in to our Social Media presence so it may involve working on Facebook, Linked-In or Twitter.
13. How has your market changed in the past few years?
The majority of our business is now obtained online or from networking and personal contacts. We are therefore constantly working on improving or adding to our website or tweaking our Google AdWords campaigns.
14. How has your business changed to keep pace?
We have hired professionals to carry out work in the area of Social Media. I find it very interesting and am convinced it is the way to go but it is very specialised and time consuming if you are not specifically trained in that area.
15. What are the most crucial things you have done to grow your business?
Launching a Google AdWords campaign has produced very good results for us but we have also built up connections with local businesses in Terenure and we have had a lot of business referred to us through these channels.
16. What plans do you have now to expand your business further?
Our plan is to focus more energy on our social media marketing and continue to build on our relationships with local businesses.
17. What has been your most effective marketing tactic or technique?
Advertising on Google has been our most effective marketing technique so far.
18. What’s the worst business advice you’ve ever received?
None that I can recall specifically. I will usually listen to all the advice I get and probably go ahead with my gut instinct in the end.
19. What’s been your most successful strategy in building your business so far? What tips do you have for other entrepreneurs that want to use that strategy as well?
Listen to what your customers need and aim to provide them with exactly that or even more if possible. You also need to be open to diversifying your target market and altering the services you provide as the market changes.
20. What is the toughest feedback you have ever received? And how did you learn from it?
I honestly cannot remember any. We build very strong relationships with our clients and we are in regular contact with them. This ensures that any problems that do arise are ironed out quickly and resolved to their satisfaction.
21. What is your definition of an entrepreneur? Do you believe that everyone has what it takes to be one?
Personally I would never have ventured into business on my own. It was only when my husband Gerry suggested the Kendlebell franchise that I even started to consider it possible. I do believe you have to be passionate about your business/idea as you really need to put in a lot of effort to make it a success. The fact that we purchased a franchise business was definitely an advantage for me as it initially made the whole process a lot simpler. On an ongoing basis we also have the advantage of having support from other franchisees as well as the franchisor.
22. What advice would you give to someone who is thinking about starting their own business?
Make sure you do plenty of research beforehand and speak to as many people as possible who are currently working in the same area of business. Speak to your local enterprise boards as they often provide grants or mentoring assistance. Join a networking group either online or otherwise and get a feel for other people’s experiences. Be prepared for hard work but if you are passionate about it definitely go for it.
23. Who do you look up to in business?
I think Anne O’Leary of Vodafone is a great promoter of women in business and I would love to see more female business owners as well as a greater representation of women at board level.
24. How important do you think innovation is for entrepreneurs?
Very important. Even within a franchise framework there is plenty of opportunity to be innovative in your approach to marketing your products and services. You have to use every resource available to you to be successful in business today.