How to start your own business: The Apprentice winner Tom Pellereau shares his tips

Dreaming of starting your own business? Tom Pellereau reveals his insider advice...

Former The Apprentice candidate and entrepreneur Tom Pellereau took home the coveted £250,000 investment prize in 2011 after Lord Alan Sugar chose him as the winner on the BBC show. In the past few years since his victory, Tom has launched his business idea of curved nail files onto the mass market, expanding his line to feature a range of nail care products. Inspired? Then read on as Tom shares his best tips for new business start ups.

Be obsessive: Have an almost morbid fascination about your products or service and know every detail. Philip Green apparently knew the cost of every button stocked, James Dyson made 6000 prototypes and Steve Jobs was utterly obsessive about Apple products. This is not easy, Lord Sugar regularly berates me for not knowing my details.

Be nice: I don’t think you need to be nasty to succeed in business. In fact I think there is huge benefit in being nice. When starting a business people don’t have to work with you or even take your calls. However, if you make working together a pleasure, there is much more incentive for people to work with or buy from you.

Analyse and act: The saying (which has to be said in a Yorkshire accent) goes ‘You can’t fatten a duck by weighing it.’ Analysis and planning are crucial, but don’t let them paralyse you from getting stuck in. Often a good plan today is much better than a perfect plan tomorrow.

Learn from the masters: And from those who’ve made it. Read or listen to business books, autobiographies, podcasts or tweets from those you respect. Having disliked reading all my life, at 21 I was given my first business book. I’ve loved them ever since.

Be 10 times better: Focus on making your product or service 10 times better, not just a little bit better. Existing market places are very difficult to crack. For example, for a new product to get into a major retailer, something else has to come out. This requires work from the buyer, the warehouse and the finance team.

Explain why is it better: Make it blindly obvious, why your offering is better. Ideally using a few words as possible: ‘1000 songs in your pocket’ – iPod, ‘no loss of suction’ – Dyson. ‘Trim without the ping’ – Stylfile S-Clippers. Customers don’t want to read long sentences or waffle, they want a clear answer. I often imagine I’m on a market stall and have 3 seconds to explain to passers by why they should buy. Then, when you find a message that works, keep repeating it.

Money: I’m sorry to say clients don’t always pay on time. Have a system that every week checks who is due to pay you money that week. Send polite reminders a few days before and keep a close eye until they’ve paid. Seems simple and obvious, but often clients have a range of payment terms so it can be tricky.

Use tools: Keep an eye out for tools that make life easier and smarter. I use the following almost every day: Dropbox – storing and sharing files, Evernote – making notes, Basecamp – project management, Excel – track payments and stock, Xobni – search Outlook emails and skitch – make notes on photos. All of these tools have massively increased my productivity. Keep an eye out for technologies that can make your life and business better.

For more business tips see tompellereau.com

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