Meet the MD: Neil Clough, Prime

Meet the MD: Neil Clough, Prime

If Neil's name looks familiar to you, you're probably one of the millions of regular viewers of BBC One's The Apprentice - he is a former finalist, who went on to found a sales recruitment start-up. An unsurprising advocate of taking chances in business, he also joins the emerging BQ list of former footballers!

Describe your role in no more than 100 words

As co-founder of a start-up business, I’ve been involved in a bit of everything really. I oversee the day to day running of the business, people management, the marketing strategy, as well being heavily involved in selling and securing deals.

What is it the company does?

We are a sales recruitment and training specialist with a difference. Our vision is to change the perception of sales, making it a career of choice for graduates and trainees. We are doing this through training all of our candidates both before and after they start their new sales role. Our aim is to give our candidates the skills they need to succeed in what can be a pressurised environment.

Give us a brief timeline of your career so far – where did you start, how did you move on?

I’ve been in sales now for over 18 years, starting my career in telesales after not making it as a footballer. As my knowledge in sales grew, I progressed into a team leader role, then sales management before finally reaching my goal of becoming a director.

The experience I gained allowed me to expand my knowledge by branching off into different industries such as debt management, cosmetic surgery and more recently the leisure sector. My wealth of sales experience inspired me to apply for the popular TV show ‘The Apprentice’.

Unfortunately, I didn’t win the show, falling in the final, but the show was an important learning curve for me, and taught me a lot in terms of strategy and how to approach things differently. From that, I co-founded Prime, which is by far my proudest achievement.

What do you believe makes a great leader?

Aiming high and leading by example are essential for a great leader. It is important to always believe in possibilities; otherwise you won’t have the confidence to take chances and progress. Inspiring and motivating staff will help others as well as yourself. It creates an environment in which people can thrive. For me, a place where people want to work is a place where success is more achievable.

What has been your biggest challenge in your current position?

Starting the business from scratch was probably the biggest challenge. It’s extremely difficult at the start, as you have to sell the concept of the business rather than facts and figures of previous successes. However, year two of the business has been a lot smoother. With great figures and success to show, it is easier to remove doubt from people’s minds.

How do you alleviate the stress that comes with your job?

A great way of keeping calm is staying fit. I tend to go for a run every morning, and go for two long runs every weekend.  Exercise helps me deal with the stress of running a business. I try to live by the quote “a healthy body means a healthy mind”. A few pints of Peroni at the weekend helps me to relax too.

When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?

I’m sure a lot of people say this, but my dream was to be a footballer for Manchester United.

Where do you see the company in five years’ time?

We hope to be the go-to business for recruitment and training of salespeople in the UK. We have already seen our client base grow exponentially in the past year, with more and more graduates coming to us for training in sales. We are impressed with the levels of growth we have seen since Prime was created, especially in such a competitive market, but we can always do more and strive to be the best.

What advice would you give to an aspiring business leader?

I would advise people to always believe in themselves, and to think in every situation “what is the worst that can happen?” If you don’t take chances, you will never know what could have been.