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The business lessons which I wish I knew before I'd started out

Entrepreneur and Apprentice 2008 Finalist, Claire Young, shares some of valuable lessons she has learnt since going into business
1. Business Partners – be very selective – it takes time to find one, do you research and listen to your instinct. It is like finding a husband, or wife, as it could be a very long term relationship! Don’t assume everyone has the same work ethic, integrity or professional standards as you.

2. IT and phones – communication is the backbone to a business and it’s imperative that you need to get it right. I work all over the UK and need 24/7 access. I use an independent telecoms supplier who I can trust, is reliable and I speak to them directly, I avoid being on hold to a call centre for hours.

3. The Cost Control Parrot – imagine you have a giant bird on your shoulder saying ‘Do you really need it?’ before you part with any money.

4. Time is a valuable commodity so use it wisely. Question any appointment/meeting in your diary and ask yourself ‘is there an agenda? What is the purpose? ‘. If you don’t have a yes answer to either of these then remove it from your calendar. You can’t afford to waste time. I have found that everything has taken longer than what I expect.

5. Always test pilot a national project to iron out any issues.

6. Do your own PR by using social media, calling your local newspaper, radio station, attend local networking groups and pick up the phone. It costs nothing and no one can promote your business as well as you. Be confident of your product and proud of what you do. People will buy into YOU before they buy into your product/service

7. Don’t spread yourself too thin, slow down and don’t try to do everything! Make sure that you have a ‘ying’ to your ‘yang’ – a hobby or downtime to recharge. You are no good to anyone burnt out. Give yourself a break, don’t beat yourself up, if you have a bad day draw a line underneath it and start afresh the following morning. Remember, if being an entrepreneur was easy then everyone would do it.

8. Use local suppliers, it helps build the community but also nothing beats being able to do business face to face. Despite modern day technology benefits I appreciate being able to have a 5 minute meeting versus endless emails and calls – more time efficient!

9. Slow down and listen to people – not just your target consumer – ask anyone you trust and respect their opinion about ideas, issues and what they think. Often people who are not linked to your industry can have the best perspective as it is fresh. Constructive criticism & negativity are entirely different things. Listen to the first, ignore the second.

10. Live and breathe your business plan but move with the times and don’t be scared to adapt it according to the market, competition and your consumer’s needs.

11. Use a recommended accountant and use an accountancy online system to manage your business finances. I use Kashflow and it changed my life! Don’t put your head in the sand when it comes to numbers. You need to know your cash flow, margins and overheads. The devil is in the detail!

12. Don't think you know it all. Each person has a different speciality, you might have a great idea and the know how but you might not know how to do the marketing or accounts. Don't be afraid to take on people who know more than you do, they will prove to be invaluable.

13. There's no point saying 'How’s business' because everyone will always say 'Brilliant' - even three days before going into administration. Realise that there is a lot of front from many in business I call it BBS, Business Bulls*hit, and don’t be intimated or swayed by it.
 
About the Author
 
Claire Young, is the straight talking, no-nonsense business woman who is well known for reaching the final of series 4 of BBC1’s The Apprentice (2008) watched by over 11 million viewers. Lord Sugar dubbed her a 'Rottweiler' for her tenacious approach and mindset of never giving up!

Since then she has gone onto launch www.schoolspeakers.co.uk which is a speaking agency which helps to inspire, motivate and educate young people in schools, colleges and universities. 

 

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