Seven questions all entrepreneurs want to ask (and some answers)

Margaret Paton

Serial entrepreneur Fiona Adler is best known for co-founding and running Word Of Mouth Online (, Australia’s top business reviews website, with more than 400,000 customer reviews and a huge following of consumers and businesses. She sold WOMO to Oneflare last year and now lives in France with her husband and children.

Adler’s been in small business marketing for more than 15 years and before that was a strategy consultant at Accenture. Oh, and she also climbed Mt Everest. Her latest venture is writing for her business, Do The Things, focusing on action-orientated strategies for entrepreneurs in the thick of it.

Here, Fiona shares her answers to some of the most common questions asked by wantrapreneurs.

How can I build my business around my passion?

People think they can build a business on a personal interest and build a lifestyle … that they can be combined, but often they shouldn’t be.

I see so many mums starting up baby-based businesses because suddenly they’re submerged in that, but there’s only so many types of snuggle wraps and baby blankets the market is after. Some of those mums have great skills in other areas they may be able to tweak to run a business from home. You need to consider your personal interests, skills and the market demand as well.

Is it all about the right mindset?

It’s great that owning and starting a business is more accessible to everyone and there are less hurdles, but it doesn’t mean there’s nothing to it. You really have to think about adding value.

There’s a notion that everyone can build a business around their passions and people think, ‘it’s just my mindset, I can overcome this,’ but building a successful business is more fundamental that that. Yes, it’s important to overcome imposter syndrome and get your mindset right so that you can be prepared to invest in a business and know when to step on the pedal and hold back as well. But some businesses have bigger issues than that. Unfortunately there are too many people that have just published an ebook or created an online course – and while they’re not all flaky, they need to focus on adding real value to their market. Putting a couple of blog articles into a PDF generally does not create a great basis for a strong business and there are bigger issues at stake than simply addressing mindset.

How can I build my sales funnel?

There’s a lot of interest in how to build your sales funnel. These have always existed, but only more recently with the popularity of content marketing that the terminology is more widely used and understood. People are now very focused on building their email list and using free give-aways to do that – it’s understood that there’s value in having an audience and a way to communicate with your market. Creating a compelling email sequence, offering free trials or using freemium models, has always been relevant, and not just for net-based businesses. Freemium is where you get a lot of the product for free such as Evernote, Dropbox or Skype, but if you want extra features, there’s a professional version and you pay to upgrade.

I don’t have a business plan. So what?

Interestingly, there’s less of a focus now on writing a business plan. It used to be a very big point of discussion with much interest in various different business planning templates floating around. A move away from this ‘fill in the blanks’ approach is probably a good thing as we’re not being held up by the daunting process of creating the business plan, but we may have gone too far. There’s a lot of benefit in having a good plan which forces you to focus on understanding your target customer and thinking through the various steps involved in accessing and serving your market. Unfortunately there are too many businesses that don’t spend any time thinking through their best uses of time and money, and instead we see a tendency for businesses now to jump on the latest bandwagon, such as a new social media platform. You hear about some business becoming an overnight success because of Twitter or Pinterest etc, so another business may decide they’d do that too, but they don’t think about the bigger picture. Each business needs to choose the tools right for their particular circumstances.

What’s the best productivity hack?

I read every article I can on time management thinking there’s a magic answer for boosting productivity. We’re all looking for the secrets that will get us there, but we can easily spend way too much time reading about it and not doing much at all! It could stem from when Tim Ferris came out with his book, The Four-Hour Work Week. It’s a fantastic read with lots of solid concepts, and you might think, if we just work harder, we can have this lifestyle, even if we are doing our business in our spare time, it can still be a substantial business.  Unfortunately sometimes we just have to put in the work!

How should I design my personal brand?

Entrepreneurs ask me about their personal brand – should I have one, how should I orchestrate or design my brand? Nowadays there’s more focus on the personal side of business; we’re realising transparency is important, not just the corporate logo. We want to know who’s behind the brands and buy from real people. Whether we like it or not our whole reputation contributes to the brand - it’s really inseparable. Think of Virgin – Richard Branson’s personal brand is a huge part of it.

Shouldn’t more funding make my start-up more successful?

We went through a phase where there was a huge focus on venture capital for small business. Most businesses were complaining they didn’t have it and were using it as reason why they weren’t as successful as they wanted to be. We’re now understanding that funding is really hard to come by and also, it isn’t always the answer – businesses should be able to stand on their own two feet and fund their growth with profits.

Margaret Paton

Former Sunday Age staff journalist, Margaret Paton (formerly Jakovac) has written widely for corporations/government departments and more than 100 online/hard copy mastheads in regional NSW, Sydney, Melbourne and Europe.


Are you looking to start a business but not sure how or when the time is right? Whether it’s seeking a mentor, getting yourself educated, or learning how to mentally prepare yourself; make sure you check out all our advice to help you make the break from wantrepreneur to entrepreneur.   

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