Tim Campbell MBE was the first ‘The Apprentice’ winner and he has given lots of time to support our events and causes over the years including our annual #MicroBizMatters Day. We first met at a Prince’s Trust Youth Business event in London where we had a chat about our experience of Lord Sugar. Tim worked at Amstrad for 2 years after winning the Apprentice and many years earlier I met Lord Sugar at Amstrad HQ a few times as a client of my business.

Tim, as well as being a hero of mine, is the founder of the fabulous Bright Ideas Trust (BIT) which helps 16-30-year-olds in London, on a shared risk and reward basis. These 16-30-year-olds just wouldn’t be able to start a business without BIT’s money and mentoring. Tim is very successful and is the owner of a number of businesses. Tim also has a major global role in a leading talent management and recruitment company. He is one of my favourite speakers because he has total integrity

Making ends meet

From the very beginning, we’ve agreed that 90% of successful business owners do not set out with a huge vision and to be an entrepreneur but rather they are looking for independence and how to deploy their skills and interests in order to ‘make ends meet’. If they need 2 or 3 business income streams and a part-time job in order to ‘make ends meet’ in the early years of their business then that’s better than borrowing and getting into debt.

I love Lord Sugar’s story that in the early days of his business he’d try to sell all he needed to by Wednesday to cover all the week’s costs so that all the margin from sales on a Thursday and Friday went straight to assets.

Time brings opportunities

Making ends meet in order to stay in your own business is so important. The longer you stay in business delighting your customers the more business opportunities will arise for you to grow. If you’ve gained a reputation for integrity then you’ll be in a position to negotiate win-win deals that move your business forward.

Lord Sugar’s move from buying and selling electronic products to eventually designing and manufacturing advanced technology including the first personal computers came from the opportunity to make deals with his suppliers. Lord Sugar is renowned for meeting all his commitments. He also pays suppliers as he’s agreed so that he builds credit terms and trust with them. He paid our business in days even though the marketing project we’d undertaken for him was not a success.

A good business reputation for doing what you say you’ll do is where reliable business relationships, referrals and recommendations come from. These things are priceless. They lead to the opportunity to negotiate. You may be surprised to know that the best negotiators are brilliant at asking questions and listening. They are also straightforward and honest – like Tim Campbell and Lord Sugar.

I’m lucky to have met many very successful business owners in the 31 years I’ve been running my own business and every one of them is a great win-win negotiator. Spotting opportunities and making deals is the way most business owners scale up and keep refreshing their business. It is not the business idea, business plan, pitch for funding and grow. It is build mutually beneficial customer and supplier relationships, spot opportunities and make that deal.

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