Entrepreneur Claire Young was made famous by her role as the highly driven runner up of series four of ‘The Apprentice’ where she was dubbed a ‘Rottweiler’ by Lord Sugar for her tenacious approach in the boardroom and drive not to quit. She beat 40,000 candidates to reach the final and this experience inspired Claire to set up ‘School Speakers’ - the UK’s No 1 speaking agency working alongside schools, colleges and universities across the world to provide talks to students and staff. She also works within the media as a journalist & radio presenter in addition to advising the government on a range of projects supporting young people and women.
During these unprecedented times, Claire shares her views as a business owner:


Riding the Coronavirus Wave

The life of an entrepreneur doesn’t tend to run smoothly, it has its ups and downs with no day ever the same, however, I think it’s fair to say that for many at the moment it feels as though we’re on a fast rollercoaster heading into the unknown. The business landscape as we know it has been thrown up in the air and no one is sure where it’s going to land. With this ride comes twists and turns that we could never previously have imagined and sometimes it takes a deep breath on a morning to face what’s coming next.
Business owners are power houses of energy, we like to see progress and we are driven by achieving results. Many say that ‘happiness is the journey and not the destination’ it is the day to day zig-zag journey which many entrepreneurs thrive on. So when suddenly someone tells you to stop and shut up shop it is very difficult, it goes against our natural instinct to make things happen.
My day to day business life sometimes feels like I’m in a surreal game show spinning a wheel on potentially life changing decisions – but someone else is spinning on my behalf! I have little control to the circumstances affecting my business so I’ve have to adapt my mind-set, and business strategy, in order to survive. To a certain extent we are creatures of habit, like routine, and embracing change is one of the hardest factors people need to accept in life
I find it ironic that we’re in a lockdown situation where we’ve been given an abundance of one of the most precious commodities there is in life – TIME – however from a business perspective you simply cannot afford to sit back and keep your fingers crossed that all will be OK. Do not put your head in the sand! Time is of the essence and being proactive will not only make you feel better but potentially save your business.

Knowledge is power

We’re living in a new era with ever changing information. You need to keep up to speed with this and not expect it to fall into in your lap. For advice I proactively contacted my accountant, the council, my MP, the Chamber of Commerce and followed a number of useful pages on social media. My brain was a sponge and I wanted to know everything which could potentially help me.

Your vibe is your tribe

Surround yourself with like-minded people. If there is anything positive to come out of CV19 is seeing networks and communities pull together, I feel that there is a strong sense of really helping one another. The motto ‘We’re all in this together’ definitely rings true. I have signed up for weekly Zooms by various experts, joined Facebook groups, used social media more for a conversation and contacted business associates more so than normal. I have found these conversations invaluable, knowing that I am not alone has helped and the swapping of information been business essential – there is no greater form of marketing than the word of mouth.

Avoiding a tax shock down the line

My everyday daily conversations now covers furlough (who knew that word a few months ago?!), grants and loans – the lifelines which have been thrown to businesses in order to survive. Cash is king, and positive cash flow will keep us alive but it’s so important to understand the tax implications around them to avoid a potential tax sting next year. Grant income is taxable for corporation tax and any money you take out needs to be done in line with the directors loan rules, dividend rules or PAYE.

Keep your house in order

Organising, and doing, all the admin which you always put off due to lack of time. It’s good to have a focus, to be productive and also means that when we are back open again you will ready to hit the ground running with a tidy business house in order.

Asking for help

Pride comes before a fall – this is not the time for falls – so if you need help ask for it. For example HMRC have announced delaying VAT and taxes until March 2021 which is a big help on cash flow for many. Your local council will most likely have a business advice centre, or the LEP (local enterprise partnership) and the Chamber of Commerce usually are at the heart of what is going on in terms of support. I’m of the mantra ‘if you don’t ask, you don’t get’ – that applies for funding and grants too. Ask the questions, lobby your case and see if you can receive any assistance.