From The Apprentice to success in business: Chiles Cartwright's sound advice to budding entrepreneurs

A new year, a fresh start and the chance to set some exciting goals and put wheels in motion.

Chiles Cartwright
Chiles Cartwright

It’s something budding entrepreneurs with business ideas might be thinking right now, especially with shows like Dragon’s Den and The Apprentice back on our screens once again.

These might be challenging times for many companies but, according to former The Apprentice contestant Chiles Cartwright, now is as good as time as any to take the bull by the horns if you have a business idea.

Inspirational Chiles runs several hugely successful businesses and is founding member of the Worshipful Company of Entrepreneurs.

Not bad for someone who had Sir Alan Sugar’s finger pointing at him in the boardroom in the very first episode of the 2014 series, alongside the dreaded words ‘You’re fired!’.

Chiles Cartwright as seen in the Apprentice on 2014

Chiles, from Whitchurch, who also runs Erasmus programmes for disadvantaged entrepreneurs, says he hasn’t watched the BBC One show since 2015.

But he is always keen to offer his own key advice to those thinking about taking on a new business challenge.

“There’s never the best time to start a business,” he says. “If you have got an idea and you are yearning to do it, it’s a case of getting on with it.

“That might not involve giving up your job right now and throwing yourself into it. You can get on with it straight away without closing the door on your current line of income.

“Test the water, start looking at the opportunities in the evenings or on weekends and start researching.

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“When you start your own business, it always takes longer than you expect so it’s better to do the research and test the market, build that website or locate those premises, first and foremost.

“It’s better to do that while you are working for someone else because you can never underestimate how long it takes to test something.”

He adds: “A recession is as good a time as any to start a business because there’s always opportunity, just as there is in a boom.

“It’s a time when people are looking to save money so are there ways you can play into that market? There are always different angles to be taken.”

Chiles Cartwright

For Chiles, two things are key – passion and knowledge.

“Do something that you are personally interested in and know about,” he says. “It might be a hobby that you do so you already have an idea of your customer profile.

“Don’t suddenly go into something that you don’t know about because you think there’s an opportunity. It’s important to be passionate about your product or an industry because you are going to have to put your heart and soul into it.

“It might not be a failure, if you don’t know as much about it, but it’s going to be harder for you to put in the 12-hour shifts and the evenings required when you set off.”

Your motivation is also a key point, Chiles says, to starting a new business – the idea of what drives you.

“You need to ask yourself why are you doing it?” he explains. “Why do you want to run your own business? What is your motivation?

“It might be money and financial but then it could be ownership of your own time and making your own decisions.

“Do you want to set up a lifestyle business or one to sell? Once you have decided that, it will decide what your targets are.

“If it’s a lifestyle business, then you don’t need to earn as much money. You can run it alongside your life and maybe not have blood, sweat and tears every day.

“But if it’s one you want to sell then you have to accept you will be doing long hours and weekends for several years. You will need to be self-motivated and understand it might take a lot of time. Try and get a mentor and ask someone for advice,” he adds.

“If you can’t, the second best thing would be to surround yourself with like-minded people – join a business club, whether formal or informal. You need to talk to other people who run their own business, people who can inspire or push you or give you ideas.”

And Chiles’s sound advice doesn’t stop there.

AShropshire Business Partnership event with speaker Chiles Cartwright.

“You have to be able to recognise your strengths and weaknesses,” he says. “Some people I have worked with aren’t accountants so I’d say look to outsource things you are not good at and focus on the good stuff.

“It depends on the size of your business, of course, but I have seen people get so tied up in social media and accounting when they have a good product they could focus on selling.

“Also, be aware of how much you are making but don’t undersell yourself. The most common failure I see in the hundreds of companies I work with is they think it’s all about price and so they feel guilty about charging lots of money and making lots of money.

“But then they end up not making money themselves. The price you charge people is what they are willing to pay, not what you think you should charge them. I’d say 90-95 per cent of companies that I work with undercharge or undervalue their product or service and so they have to work harder to sell more products.”

So what are you waiting for? The world is your oyster and, as Chiles has shown, you don’t have to wait for next January’s The Apprentice for opportunity to knock.

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