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What start ups and small businesses can learn from big business

Neil Clough, star of the Apprentice 2013 and start up business owner, shares his experience of setting up a company and what he learnt from working in a bigger business.

I recently left my Regional Manager position at Goals Soccer Centres and knew that I would have a huge amount to learn about the world of new businesses and the mind-set of entrepreneurs. I was right and feel like I am on a big adventure learning, exploring and thankfully, finding my way.

However, whilst I have been mentoring new entrepreneurs and small business owners, I have found that there is a lot I have learnt from the corporate world, that could help start ups grow and small businesses survive.

Here are my top tips from big business:

1. Set targets

Effective target setting, whatever the size of your business, can make the difference between success and failure. It is important that you understand what is important to each member of your staff, what motivates them and what reaching their targets and progressing in their role will mean to them. It is important that you set goals that stretch your staff but are achievable, to improve motivation, confidence and morale amongst your team. 

2. Take measurements

Although many small businesses focus on business critical deadlines, achievements and income, it is important that you measure the various stages of each process to ensure you understand conversion rates, the efficiency of your processes and identify the specific skills within your team. 

3. Develop your staff 

In start ups and smaller companies, your staff often get lost and when costs are kept to a minimum, investing in your staff is often seen as an unnecessary cost. However, profiling, appraisals and developing your staff will make them more engaged, productive and ultimately profitable. Regardless of the size of your organisation, it is important that you invest in your team and develop them as your business grows. 

4. Plan properly 

Start ups are often caught in action and forget to plan effectively. After an initial business plan, entrepreneurs often fail to find time and space for effective planning and strategic thinking. It is important that you plan your business growth effectively, understanding conversion rates, market standards, your sales cycle and staff performance. It is important that you use this to review and measure your finances, your performance and your viability as a business. 

5. Fill the gaps

Although entrepreneurs often think that they should be experts in everything, the most successful ones will understand their weaknesses, skill shortages and collaborate accordingly. It is important that you get advisors or ambassadors around you that provide the skills and experience you need to build your business effectively.

Although I am only beginning my own start up business journey, I am enjoying working with a variety of businesses to help them get started, grow or improve effectively. 

About the author

Neil Clough (@neilwclough) is owner of NWC Consultancy, which specialises in sales growth and offers bespoke consultancy and training programmes to meet the needs of our clients. We have a team of experts who are dedicated and passionate about helping businesses grow whilst working with our clients to create and deliver programmes that include consultancy, training, coaching and mentoring.

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