Yvette Adams Talks Business: Starting, Selling and Staying Home

Born and raised in Wellington, Yvette Adams spent 7 years working and travelling the world before emigrating to Australia. She has started 5 businesses (sold two) and won multiple awards for her success. A public speaker who has lived the trials and tribulations of working from home, Yvette recently spoke to Spark about how to get into, and out of, business, and how to balance home and career.

You have started 5 businesses and successfully sold two of those. Why sell?
The first business I sold was when I was 17 years old. I had started a secondary school sports newspaper in my home town of Wellington, New Zealand and after my first issue, an American entrepreneur approached me to buy me out! I was very naïve and could have negotiated a much better deal than I did, but hey, I was 17!

The second business I sold was an online teeshirt business that I had run globally for 4 years. I had started it from scratch, built up some value but was getting bored with it and needed some cash for renovations of our first home. So I sold it with lots of potential and am glad I did.

What do you think the aim of running a small business should be?
I started the business out of both desire and necessity. We couldn’t afford to survive on the one income but I had a burning ambition to harness too. Today I’m driven by lifestyle. I love the flexibility of working when I want, having an uncapped earnings potential and being the master of my own destiny. I think the aim of running a small business for anyone else should be whatever is meaningful for them. It’s a personal thing. 

Do you think too many business owners get trapped without an exit strategy?
Yes! It is quite easy to get a business started but 90% fail in their first 3 years because they haven’t got solid plans or an exit strategy. Start as you intend to end and constantly consider always how you can build value.  Some of the main ways I have seen businesses increase in value is through careful structuring i.e. trust structures and tax effectiveness, investment in professional and consistent branding, protection of IP i.e. trademarks, strong domain name selection, and building of sizeable databases. I’ve seen businesses sold for $7m all because of the size of their database. 

You are now a successful public speaker on a number of topics, including how to manage a home-based business. What do you think is the biggest mistake home-based business owners make?
You have to be quite disciplined. If you’re not that kind of person, working from home may not be for you! Set some clear boundaries for yourself (thou shalt not fall asleep on the couch at lunchtime!) and some clear boundaries for your family and those around you (thou shalt not bother Mum when she is in the office unless it’s a case of life or death!) 

And what is the most important thing they should be focusing on?
Whether you are money driven or not, I think it is important in the early days to focus on the revenue producing activities as the highest priority, if you’re not bringing in the money you won’t last long in business. I also think it’s important to create systems and procedures for everything you do. My motivation to do this in the early days was that if I wrote a good procedure, I’d be able to out-source or delegate that task forever after. Get rid of the mundane as soon as possible!

As a successful businesswoman and mother, what do you think are the keys to creating a work/life balance?
Throughout the growth of my business I’ve had to juggle the changing needs of my children with the changing needs of my business. For instance when they were babies I’d only work when they were napping during the day or at night after they had gone to bed. When they became older and more alert and mobile, I had to modify the hours I worked to less, and leverage my time through contractors and work experience students and interns. In 2012 was the first year I’ve had 2 kids in school and that is certainly easier. But make sure you make time for yourself and your relationship too. I have a day spa appointment every week, make sure I have a dedicated fitness slot and a weekly ‘date night’ with my partner, even if it is just a bottle of wine and movie after the kids have gone to sleep.

What advice can you give for women who are looking to start or expand their own business?
Conduct some thorough market research before commencing to make sure your investment of time and money is wise. If you think you’ve struck onto a good idea, go for it. Have  a plan, review it constantly and surround yourself with a good team. A good accountant, lawyer and business coach/mentor are key.

Another of your topics is low cost/no cost marketing. What is the key to this approach, and what impact do you think social media has had on the way businesses market?
There are so many low cost and no cost marketing strategies available to business owners which make it easy to establish and grow a business with very little investment other than your time. So use them! 
Social media has completely revolutionised so many aspects of the market, but I think one of its most powerful contributions has been that it has given the power back to the consumer. We don’t respond well now to advertising. We prefer to seek peer recommendations and validation which is great. It makes for a level playing field and holds businesses to a higher level of accountability.

In your opinion, what are the key mistakes businesses make when using social media?
Common mistakes we see are people using a Facebook Profile to promote their business i.e. requesting ‘friends’ instead of ‘likes’. This is against Facebook’s policy and accounts operating in this way can, and will get shut down. Facebook shuts down approximately 100,000 accounts like this a month at the moment.

The other common mistake is throwing up a network and saying ‘I’m doing social media!’ without any consideration to your business objectives and how you will achieve these through social media. You also need to consider your target market, resourcing (time or money), where you will find appropriate content, how often  you will post and a whole lot more. In short, you really should devise a solid social media strategy before you jump in ‘boots and all’ or you will never fulfil  your true potential. We offer a wide range of training in this space – from free to Government subsidised, accredited and non-accredited to assist business owners achieve social media success. 

What opportunities do you see for small businesses in Australia in the next 3-5 years?
The National Broadband Network rolling out across Australia presents a massive opportunity for small businesses in Australia. With faster internet, even in rural and remote regions, there is nothing stopping someone in a tiny country town becoming an overnight online success, which I think we will see.

What are your goals for the 3-5 years?
  • To create cutting-edge lifestyle-friendly training related to online success on platforms that have beautiful interfaces, which are engaged in by thousands of enthusiastic learners, which cause such a positive experience they become major brand advocates.
  • To make major social impacts through empowering disadvantaged people to utilise and harness the power of digital technologies
  • To assist motivated, time-poor business professionals who are tired of their marketing not working to increase their revenue and profitability make more through cutting edge online and offline marketing techniques that are totally measurable 
  • To build awardshub.com to become the leading global online resource for business awards information and business awards writing services.

Yvette’s top 5 tips for women to succeed in business
  1. Systems and Procedures. A big part of our success to date is our extensive and innovative use of cloud computing and online systems to ensure there is consistency and quality in the service and products we provide. I highly recommend the use of them.
  2. Embrace Technology. Technology can save you time and money. Use it! And if you don’t have the skills, get training, and pronto!
  3. Create Your Own Opportunities – Don’t wait for things to happen, make them happen! And follow up, follow up, follow up.
  4. Authenticity. Believe 100 per cent in what you are doing and act at all times with authenticity.
  5. Risk Taking. Business is about accepting that there are risks involved and combining some education, number crunching and decisiveness, with some 
  6. good old fashioned reason and sensibility, and of course, intuition. If it feels right, it probably is.
By Neil Donnelly