Claire Young: How to run a successful business

Claire Young is the straight-talking, no-nonsense businesswoman who reached the final of series four of BBC One show The Apprentice (2008). Each month she shares her tips on running a successful business.

Lord Sugar nicknamed me a Rottweiler for my tenacious attitude. I survived a record number of final three boardrooms, battling it out against “Britain’s best business talent” and most definitely wasn’t giving up!

Over the last four years I have been thrown into the media spotlight and have gone from being an employee to a business owner and now run my venture, School Speakers ( ), amongst other projects including TeenBiz ( and social enterprise Girls Out Loud (

Having experienced both sides of the work fence, business owner versus being an employee, I’m often asked by people my top tips for starting a business.

Many dream of having their empire, yet something stops them from doing it. Fear of failure maybe?

For me, running my own venture has been a steep learning curve; you quickly have to know a little about a lot – from accounts to IT to marketing to sales to employment law – and the best way to learn is by reality. Once you make mistakes you’ll never do it again; it can be a harsh lesson learnt but all the same a lesson.

I cannot abide entrepreneurs who are smug and pretend that having a start-up is a walk in the park. It’s incredibly hard work. If it was easy everyone would be running a business.

I am sure all business owners have had moments where they sit at their desk late at night, or the early hours of the morning, questioning what they are doing.

Being an entrepreneur is like being on a rollercoaster – you have good days and awful days. It’s imperative that you have the tenacity to keep on going during tough times, as you never know when the turning point will come. You have to be on your best form to grab opportunities.

So over the last four years my lessons learnt are:

Don’t mix business with pleasure. Avoid any potential issues by not doing commercial agreements with friends. It will only end in tears.

Trust very few and for all agreements make sure you have the correct paperwork. In business, partnerships have an exit route agreed in case somebody wants to leave – it will avoid issues further down the line.

Don’t overspend on unnecessary items or services such as IT, office equipment and marketing. Always get three quotes for every item or service.

Cash is king. Check your cashflow every single day.

Trust your instinct. If your gut feeling says no, then don’t do it.

Reproduced with kind permission from Claire Young.

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Paul Champion

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Twitter: @blogapprentice
Skype: paulchampion31

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