The Interview: No longer the Apprentice

Tim Campbell was famously the first person to be told "˜You're Hired' by Sir Alan Sugar when the popular reality TV show, The Apprentice, first began in the UK. Since then he has founded The Bright Ideas Trust, a social initiative to inspire the next generation of entrepreneurs

Throughout my career I've looked up to certain role models. One that sticks out for me is Sir Trevor McDonald. I admire the fact that he stands for two virtues, both crucially important in business: integrity and dignity. Everyone loves Sir Trevor, and everyone respects him too, because he embodies these two things.

Integrity and dignity are two guiding principles I've stuck to throughout my career. A little bit of humility goes a long way too.

I've now worked and interacted closely with business leaders like Sir Alan Sugar and Stelios Haji-Ioannou. What I've noticed is that they all share a few common traits.

First, they all seem to have had a special opportunity - so sometimes serendipity plays a role.

Second, top businesspeople display an openness to new experiences. This is an important thing for students to be aware of especially since it's all to easy to go through life as though you were on rigid train tracks: first station GSCEs, then A levels, then uni, and so on. The successful businesspeople that I know don't live life in this way: they've reached their positions and achieved their goals through doing things out of the norm.

Third, they also take a maverick approach to opportunities as and when they arise; top businesspeople are not risk-averse. This, again, is important for students to remember as you are entering a competitive global community - only those with an appetite for risk will succeed.

Fourth, you've got to have the ability to sell - all the successful businesspeople I know have lots of charisma and are great at working with others and developing good working relationships.

Finally, to do well in business you need to be optimistic and realistic at the same time.

If there's a single thing in business that leads to failure, it's greed. Don't get me wrong, drive and steely determination are good things. But being greedy for its own sake is not good for your career. You won't get the respect of your peers that way and you won't be happy either - so don't be greedy! Instead, pursue wealth creation through being excellent at what you do.

There are two words of advice I've been given that I remind myself of everyday. One comes from Sir Alan Sugar. He told me, 'Focus on the numbers, and you will be successful'. I really believe that. One failing of some reality TV shows is that they put the emphasis on coming up with radically new ideas. This is misleading because most businesses that do well aren't based on radically new inventions or anything. Instead they are based on selling a product or a service that already exists - but they do it better. And the way you do it better is by focusing, as Sir Alan advised me, on the numbers - your financial targets.

The other very good tip is summarised in the following Five Ps: 'Proper Planning Proceeds Perfect Performance.' The point is, planning is crucial. Take it from me, spending of your 80% of your time and efforts planning, and 20% executing is the formula for success. If you're getting it the other way round, you're getting it wrong.

I've been very fortunate in my career in that I have not suffered major setbacks. Sure I've been passed over for jobs and not been given certain positions I've wanted. But I've always used setbacks as positive experiences.

Instead of banging your head against the wall when you experience a setback, you should take a positive attitude towards them. You will get knocked off-course every now and again. The key is to pick yourself up, dust yourself up, and keep on going.

The Bright Ideas Trust is my current project - it's personal to me. The motivation behind it is that I've benefited from my experiences working for Sir Alan Sugar and everything else that's followed since I won the first series of The Apprentice, and I wanted to use the ability I have to inspire so-called 'tearaways' - after all, I used to be one myself. The aim of the Bright Ideas Trust is to provide support for young people trying to start up their own business. These young people have so many things stacked against them: their age, the fact that it can be hard getting financial support from banks, and the difficulty with getting good business advice. So what the Bright Ideas Trust does is, it helps with start-up funding, and it also provides dedicated entrepreneurship mentors, experts in their field, who can act as advisors to young entrepreneurs.

You don't need the wealth of Warren Buffet or Bill Gates to be able to make a positive difference. Many young people live and breath the very issues that wealthy philanthropists try to put right - so young people are actually in a great position to make a difference even without enormous wealth. If you don't have that wealth, you can always go out there and encourage those who do to help you make a difference.

It might sound cheesy, but sometimes we need to listen to our hearts, and take notes. I heard someone say this on the radio once and I've kept to it ever since. You need to have the courage to do what you believe in.

As told to Mawuli Ladzekpo

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