The countdown to getting a new business off the ground

Take Flight

The countdown to getting a new business off the ground

Carol Vorderman is a TV presenter, successful entrepreneur and author of best selling educational maths books. She is well known for co-hosting Countdown and the Pride of Britain Awards. Carol is one of the judges for Starling’s Take Flight business competition.

What makes a successful business?

Fundamentally, it comes from the top, and it’s about a passion to be one of the best. There should be a great energy behind the business, but it also needs to be managed well.

The grind of organising things well, being fussy about budgets and constant monitoring is essential. Without it, it doesn’t matter how good your product is or how good your service is, if you’re not making money, you’re going nowhere. Dream big, but plan sensibly.

What advice do you have for people aiming to get a new business off the ground?

If you are going to commit to a business, you have to commit totally. You have to give your all to it - every hour, every day, every week.

There is no easy way - you can’t think, ‘I’m going to set up a business and work 9am-5pm, and have every weekend and 3rd Thursday in the month off’, that doesn’t happen. It’s a full-time commitment if you’re going to make it successful.

What are your tips on creating a business plan?

It’s very easy to budget for costs. Say you’re manufacturing a physical product - you’ll know your production costs, raw materials, staff costs, you know your transport costs and how much is being quoted to you for external services.

The more difficult side of a business plan is predicting the sales. That’s the bit most people get wrong.

You really have to be conservative on your sales projections. It doesn’t mean you can’t aim for bigger sales but with your projections, you have to plan on the conservative side.

And you need to think about the problems that may arise, not just the good things. Prepare for the worst and then the only way is up.

What advice do you have for people wanting to create a budget for their business?

Make an initial budget and then think about it. Think about every single little thing. Then go through it again and add to it.

Then go through it again and ask yourself: Where can I save a little bit of money? Where can I make a little bit of money? That’s how successful new businesses operate. It’s about the details.

If an entrepreneur lacks confidence in their numerical skills, what can they do to boost their confidence and who can they turn to for help?

Largely in business, you need to be able to inherently understand fractions, decimals and percentages - those are the critical things. You don’t need to retake or sign up to do a maths GCSE, but you need to totally understand the basic number work.

I specialise in taking children who struggle with maths and getting them to the top of the class or top set within weeks, or at most, three months, just from four 15 minute sessions with me a week - it doesn’t take that long. So I know that strugglers can become confident with maths very quickly. There is advice on where you can go online, or you can pay somebody for one-on-one maths tutorials.

If you aren’t good at maths, the likelihood is because you weren’t taught well. And the problem with maths is, like climbing a ladder, if you put your foot on the first rung, first lessons in other words, and your teacher lets you down and that rung breaks, then you’re hanging onto the maths ladder by your hands, and people naturally get terrified.

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