Interviews

Lord Sugar's five top business tips for entrepreneurs

6 min read

09 October 2015

As the new series of the hit BBC series "The Apprentice" comes to UK screens for an 11th year, Lord Sugar has been sharing his advice for entrepreneurs.

Here are Lord Sugar’s top five tips for business owners and how to build them into day-to-day business activity. 

1) Know your numbers

As Lord Sugar puts it, “If you don’t know your numbers, you don’t know how well the business is doing or why, and you can’t lead the change/strategy it needs to be a success. It’s as simple as that.”

He makes an important point. Watch any episode of Dragons’ Den and you’ll hear investors proclaiming their horror at entrepreneurs who don’t have a grasp on their numbers, and for good reason.

Having an in-depth and up-to-date knowledge of your company’s finances is one of the basics of good business practice. Without this, it’s impossible to make informed decisions based on previous successes and failures, or to plan an effective strategy for the future.

Schedule an hour or two to review the company finances at least every fortnight and note any important trends or stand out figures for evaluation at a later date. If you have a financial director, they should already be doing this, but it’s vital that you have regular contact with the numbers, too. 

2) Know their numbers 

Every business is influenced to some extent by another party; be this a supplier, a customer or a competitor. It’s essential that you know their numbers as well as you know your own because promotes strategic and successful business relationships that are founded on confidence.

As Lord Sugar puts it, “Even just having a basic understanding of a company’s credit rating and financial status can alert you to potential issues and arm you with the knowledge you need to form a more secure relationship, based on trust and transparency.”

Due diligence, the process of finding out this financial information about another company, may sound like a laborious task but with online financial data sites, business owners can quickly gain an overview of a company’s financial status from figures such as their credit rating and net worth. This information can then be used to identify and resolve any potential issues before they can affect the working relationship. 

3) Build relationships 

Productive connections between companies and the people that run them are at the heart of any successful business activity.

As Lord Sugar says, “Never be so sure of yourself that you think you don’t need anyone else. Treat others with respect and when the time comes, that relationship will have a positive impact on your business.”

Continue reading more of Lord Sugar’s tips on page two…

Business relationships need to be nurtured and strengthened over a period of time ready for you to call on in your moment of need.

Make a conscious effort to keep a track of the people you meet throughout your business career by creating a contacts book, either virtually or hand-written, and updating it on a regular basis – LinkedIn can be perfect for this.

4) Foster transparency

Productive business relationships are built on trust and confidence: it is vital that both parties can rely on each other to be honest about their respective businesses – its successes, its failures and its aspirations for the future. Transparency allows strategic business decisions to be made, which in turn promote growth.

“I’ve never pretended to be anything other than who I am. And that’s important in business,” says Lord Sugar. 

Aim to be in contact with your colleagues and suppliers as regularly as possible and keep them updated with the current status of any projects, as well as the progress of the business as a whole. Practicing this transparency encourages others to share information in the same way and it’s these insights that can prevent any potential issues before they arise. 

5) Grow in sync

The growth and development of the majority of businesses are built on connections and relationships; there are very few successful ‘lone-wolves’. Whether these ties are with mentors, investors and shareholders, or suppliers, the functionality of your business will, in part, be influenced by these other parties and it’s important to keep a track of how.

By maintaining an up-to-date view of their business landscape, company owners should see that the success of their business partners having a positive effect on their own company: if this isn’t the case, it’s time to question why not.

As Lord Sugar himself puts it: “Business is complicated, there’s no doubt about it. But following these simple principles will help you protect your business and work more sensibly in future.”

Alastair Campbell is the founder of the financial data website, Company Check.