Mark Wright, winner of The Apprentice 2014 and CEO of digital marketing agency, Climb Online, reflects on his first year in business with Lord Sugar, and shares some top tips for new winner, Joseph Valente, and business startups in 2016.
"No matter how much initial investment you have or receive, money will always seem tight in the first year"
Climb Online celebrates its first anniversary this month – has its growth exceeded your business plan and expectations?
I always aimed and wanted to turn over £1m in the first year, so exceeding this target is something I am extremely proud of.
In 12 short months Climb Online has turned over an incredible £1.5m, secured over 200 clients across the UK, and has employed a strong team of 20 marketing specialists who all share the same passion and drive for the evolving digital sector – and most importantly for first class customer service.
Building on this success and doubling the turnover in 2016 is now the new challenge and something I can’t wait to get my teeth into.
What has it been like working with Lord Sugar over the past 12 months?
Really great. I have always said and will continue to say that the real prize in winning The Apprentice is securing Lord Sugar as a business partner. His guidance and experience are both incredible and invaluable, and I couldn’t be more grateful for the opportunity.
Aside from supporting me with the day-to-day running of Climb Online, he has also taught me how to deal with the pressures of growing and managing a seven figure turn over business in a short amount of time.
What advice would you give to new winner, Joseph Valente?
Valente is about to experience one of the best years of his life – and although he already has credible business experience, 2016 will definitely be a game changer for him. I am in no doubt that if he works hard, listens to the advice of Lord Sugar and focuses on the implementation of his winning business plan he will be extremely successful.
What top five tips would you give to new business startups in 2016?
(1) Focus on your USP
You are always going to have competition in business, and the only way in which you are going to attract and retain your own customers or clients is to develop a USP that ensures you really stand out from the crowd. Aside from forming the basis of your business development your USP should also be key to your marketing strategy and lie inherent in all promotional activities.
(2) Spend wisely
No matter how much initial investment you have or receive, money will always seem tight in the first year. Make sure you only invest and spend what is really necessary for the day-to-day running of your business – reinvesting any profit to support further business growth and development.
(3) Invest in the success of others
As a new business it is extremely important to invest both the time and money in hiring the right staff. Once on board, work hard to retain them by investing in any required training to further their professional development, as ultimately you need to rely on your team to aid both business growth and long term success.
(4) Don’t stand still
Your business will only stand still if you do. Approach each and every task with the same drive and ambition that led you to starting your own business in the first place, and before long you will have exceeded your goals and targets.
When making important decisions it is often difficult to see the wood through the trees. Seeking the guidance and advice of a business mentor or someone with greater experience than you, will provide you with the opportunity to reflect differently on the situation and increase the likelihood of making the right decision. So many businessmen and entrepreneurs have and rely on their business mentor, and is something every business startup can benefit from.