Saira Khan didn’t win The Apprentice in 2005, but she has been one of the best and most memorable candidates in the show’s history. Saira is in demand as a TV presenter and regular panelist on ITV’s Loose Women, all whilst working on her own business ventures.
Kat Kynes of Office Genie caught up with Saira to get her business insights and advice for new startups on how to run and grow your business.
What is your favourite thing about running a business?
At my age, it’s the flexibility of being my own boss. I have the ability to dictate my working day. As I have children I have to plan a lot of my time around their activities. The way I do this is by maintaining a flexible and fluid work-life balance. There may be days where I am wholly focused on work, so that the next day I have more time to dedicate to my children. It’s important for me to be able to organise my workday to fit my schedule.
I also enjoy the power I have now to do business with the people I want to. I have come from a corporate background where I’ve had to deal with very rude people. Not I get to work with innovative and creative people who both motivate and inspire me. I can assess the value of people and choose whether or not I enter into a business relationship with them. It’s important for me to have the freedom to make those kinds of choices on my own terms.
What difficulties have you come up against in business?
There have been lots. Let me put it this way, I have made more mistakes than good decisions. But the thing you need to remember when you make a mistake is to learn from it. Take that experience, develop and move on. I have been on a massive learning curve over the past few years. It’s also important to use what you’ve learned to help others.
It’s still a difficult time for businesses. New startups face an array of money problems. You need to raise enough investment to make your business dream a reality, and to do that you need to sell your idea. If investors are going to part with their money, they need to get hooked into your brand and business idea. Many new business face difficulties as they don’t have this kind of money, but cashflow is still needed if you want to take your brand to the next level.
What advice do you have for people who are looking to set up their own business?
Firstly you need to understand the business you want to create. Brand identity and promotion is such an important part of business. You need to help people to understand what your business is and what you stand for. You need to know from the start what makes your brand unique, and who the brand is for. This brings us onto marketing. During my years of experience in business, I have learned that branding and marketing are crucial to businesses success.
Lastly, you need to have finances in place. As well as a marketing plan, you need a solid business plan. In order to execute the demands of your business, you need to have a plan in place to get the investment your business needs to thrive.
What is the one piece of business advice that every business, no matter the size, needs to remember?
Think of your customers. You need to know and be passionate about your business, but you also need to be able to instil your customers with that passion. Times have changed and customers now want to have a much more personal relationship with your business. In order to succeed, you need to motivate your customers with that same passion you have for your business. Build and maintain strong relationships with your customers, engage them, understand them and utilise their feedback to develop your business. If you want to take your business to the next level, bring you customers on-board for the journey.