Lord Sugar Image: Lord Sugar

Running a business is challenging. So it’s always useful when successful business people share their advice, gained through experience and their own ‘wins’ and ‘losses’.

Ahead of The Apprentice series restarting this month, star of the show and renowned business leader Lord Alan Sugar has shared his advice for business owners via the Company Check Hub. Here are his tips and what they mean for your business.

1) Be financially aware

It’s a common mantra amongst business leaders; know your numbers. As managers or owners, it’s our responsibility to know where we are financially - when and how money comes in and when and how it goes out. 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.”

Make time to meet with your financial director on a regular basis and don’t just rely on what they tell you - know your own numbers inside out.

2) Understand the businesses you work with

Understanding your own financial situation is essential. But have you thought about how important it is to understand the financial standing of the companies you work with?

Whether they’re clients or suppliers, knowing their numbers can put you in a much better informed and powerful position. As Sugar says:

“Due diligence sounds like a big undertaking but 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. That’s where websites like Company Check are so powerful.”

Do your due diligence to better understand how well positioned those businesses you enter into relationships are to fulfil their end of the deal. This isn’t to say you should say ‘no’ to any relationship with a company that doesn’t have the highest credit rating, but that this knowledge enables you to start conversations to ensure both parties are best served by the agreements in place.

3) Build better relationships

The relationships we build with those we work with play an essential role in the success we experience as business leaders. As Sugar puts it:

“It’s really important to build those relationships over time and work on nurturing them even when you don’t have an immediate need for something from that person. 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.”

Take the time to nurture your working relationships and maintain contact with those who have been useful to you in the past. Tools such as LinkedIn are useful in doing this.

4) Be honest

It sounds cliched but Sugar’s advice is sound:

“I’ve never pretended to be anything other than who I am. And that’s important in business. I’ve invested in a lot of businesses over the years and one of the things I expect from them is that they are transparent about what’s happening, and what’s going to happen in the future.”

Of course, this doesn’t mean sharing every detail of your business with everyone you meet. But practically speaking, it does mean being clear and honest about how you wish to deal with people and how they should deal with you.

Tangible examples of this include having clear and easy to read terms and conditions in your contract, setting clear payment plans and agreeing in advance what will be delivered and what is expected from the relationship.

Business is challenging. But by learning from our own experiences and those of others around us, we stand a much better chance of success.

By Alastair Campbell, founder of business data website Company Check