A coffee with: Mark Hawthorn, director, Landmark Investments Group

What is your proudest moment in business?

I prefer not to rest on my laurels, but it would have to be getting to where we are today from how we started. I left school, worked in an estate agents as an office junior for a couple of years, then left at 19 to start up on my own with £500 which was my final salary. We are now into our 15th year of business and are heading towards £20m of stock.

Do you have a motto that guides the way you do business?

We are very straightforward in our dealings, as much because we don’t want to waste our own time as anybody else’s.

Which individual inspired you in business life?

My father. He passed away when I was quite young and at an early age himself, which made me very conscious of our mortality. I don’t think there’s any better inspiration than knowing you may not be here tomorrow so to make the most of your time and opportunities today.

How do you make contacts that are useful in business?

We host joint events with other professional contacts – we will bring 10 to 12 guests, as will they. It’s always very informal with no agenda, aside from food and drinks. I’ve found this works exceptionally well as like minded people tend to quickly find ways to work together. Additionally, I am on the business board of the NSPCC which allows us to meet some really interesting people and attend some great events.

How about your online profile? Do you use Twitter? Facebook?

Linkedin is great for keeping track of my contacts activities and movement. Twitter is good for broadcasting our own progress, requirements and it’s good to get into conversations on there.

If you hadn’t gone down your career path what would you have done?

I didn’t follow a career path as such. I left school with hardly any qualifications and got a job. After a couple of years I set up on my own and the rest is history.

What do you think businesses will do differently in 10 years?

It’s a difficult one to predict, as 10 years ago social media didn’t exist, whereas now it’s an accepted part of our everyday lives. I do think as a society we will become more virtual in our dealings, but this isn’t necessarily a good thing. One of the major reasons we have evolved so much as a species is our ability to communicate with each other to form societies. Crowdfunding is also starting to change industries, but it does appear that a lot of people are using it to avoid more rigorous due diligence involved with traditional options, which is a little worrying.

What do you always have with on you?

As is the case with 95 per cent of the planet, I always have my phone. Also, no matter how hard I try, I will always have at least one dog hair somewhere on me from my dog Smith.

Tell us one tip that would be invaluable in our business life.

Be honest with yourself. If you can’t do this you will never make any real progress in business or life. There are so many people out there trying to be something they aren’t or living up to false ideals – while I enjoy The Apprentice (pictured), it’s a prime example of this. I really believe being happy is far more important than being rich, famous, popular, etc.

What is the most inspirational book you have ever read?

The Slight Edge – it’s basically a pretty simple book about how all the little things make the big differences. I’m a big believer in this and can trace most of our most profitable deals back to the simplest of origins. There is a tendency to look for the silver bullet/shortcut in business, whereas in reality blood, sweat and tears are the real route to success.

Do you prefer to dress up or dress down for work?

I tend to wear a suit, but not always a tie. I believe your attire dictates your mindset and that you should differentiate between social and business. I doubt you would be particularly relaxed wearing a suit at home on a Sunday afternoon or as effective wearing your pyjamas to a board meeting.

What is your biggest business asset?

The ability to quickly adapt to market changes and new opportunities. This allowed us to reposition ourselves as the downturn began, grow throughout and continue to do so.

At what time of day are you most creative or inspired?

I tend to get any intense or difficult items dealt with as early in the day as possible. I have my best ideas and crack problems when I’m walking my dog Smith as it allows me to clear my mind. I find it much easier to be creative/inspired when I am not focused on anything or distracted.

What is your favourite coffee break?

I think the first coffee of the day is always the best one, the rest of them are often just to keep going.