Lord Sugar returns to our TV screens today (4 October) hunting for a new entrepreneur and business plan to invest in, in the latest series of BBC One’s, The Apprentice.
But while 18 candidates will soon be whittled down to one victor via a number of business-focused challenges, Moneywise speaks to 2012 winner Ricky Martin to find out what he’s learned about business and money.
Ricky, a qualified biochemist, started specialist science and technology recruitment business 'Hyper Recruitment Solutions (HRS)' following a £250,000 investment from business partner Lord Sugar.
Ricky on starting his own business: “Running a business will take over your world and you have to try and balance that”
What are the positives of running your own business?
When you’re an employee, how you operate is determined by the organisation you work for. But when it’s your own business you can define exactly what’s best. You’ve got the freedom to innovate and make your own decisions and to follow them through. I’ve had people who have been with me for years and it’s great to see how they’ve progressed through the opportunities I’ve been able to give.
What are the negatives of running your own business?
The negatives are that you don’t do a nine to five. Running a business is a full-time thing. It impacts your personal life, your friends, and family. It will take over your world and you have to try and balance that.
I had to put my life practically on hold for two years. I wrestled in my spare time for eight years but I couldn’t commit the time to do it while I set up the business. I wanted to set the business up, so I had to make these personal sacrifices.
What advice would you give to someone thinking of starting their own business?
You need to be realistic and you need to have a business plan. One of the first questions I ask people who want to set up their own business is, “do you have a business plan?” And I’m always surprised by the number of people who say “no”.
The difference between a great idea and an innovator, is that an innovator is someone who not only has a great idea, but someone who makes things happen.
What’s been your worst business decision?
I’ve made bad hires in the past. Always hire someone who lives and breathes your values and visions and understands you. Buying a CV and not the person is bad.
What’s been your best business decision?
Also, my hires - we’ve got some fantastic people here.
In addition, I’m really pleased with the structured training and development plan we’ve set up for staff. We give people a career, not just a job.
Ricky on his attitude to money: “People assume you’re a millionaire and try to get in your pocket”
What’s your attitude towards money?
Easy come, easy go. My mum was a single mum for a number of years and my dad was a bricklayer. So, I haven’t come from wealth or been used to buying brands. But I can do that now and I enjoy it. But they’re toys; they come and go.
If you want to make money, you put the graft in. If I lost it all tomorrow I’d still be happy with how I’ve done things, and I’d strive to get it all back again.
Are you a spender or a saver?
Both – although I don’t like to spend on ridiculous things. I’ve got nice watches – you can buy £5,000, £10,000 watches, but equally I’d be happy with a £100 watch.
Do you plan for your financial future?
I’ve started investing in property in the last few years and I’m also building an extension on my own property.
I’ve got a personal pension plan but I don’t invest in anything else at the moment. Over the next five years I will look to invest in other businesses in this sector or elsewhere. But I want to focus on investing in my business for now.
Has your attitude to money changed since winning The Apprentice?
My attitude has changed as I’ve got older but not because of The Apprentice. I value being happy in life and having a good work life balance.
The Apprentice does, however, change your perception of other people – they assume you’re a millionaire and try to get in your pocket. So, it makes you more aware of what other people think about your finances.
Ricky on how to bag a dream job: “Having a job is like having a girlfriend or boyfriend, once you’ve got one, other opportunities seem to be around”
As you work in recruitment, what would your advice be to someone looking to find their dream job?
Be realistic; you don’t always get the perfect job the first time. Take a job to build your skills and move on from there. It’s like having a girlfriend or boyfriend, once you’ve got one, other opportunities seem to be around. But when you’re single, it’s hard to find someone.
Equally, don’t just take the first thing that comes around if it’s not right simply because you’re unsure of what’s around the corner.
You’ve been back to interview candidates on later series of The Apprentice, how can people perform well in interviews?
Too many people are very nervous but interviews are a two-way process. The business is checking you out in terms of your suitability, and you’re checking the business out and the role and what it can do for your career.
To help the interview go well, you can start thinking about questions about progression, training, social life. You’ll relax more and make it more constructive and you’ll come across more natural.
You also have to be positive. It doesn’t matter what the knock backs are, forget the past, and see today as a new day. I’m not a “glass isn’t half full” type of person, I’m a “my glass is over-spilling kind of person”.
How should someone negotiate a pay rise or promotion?
Think about the business – is the company succeeding and doing well? If it is, you’re likely to have more success asking for a promotion or pay rise. If it’s having problems, everyone needs to make cut backs so you may have to wait for a better time.
Also look at what are you going to give the company in return for a pay rise. If you’re doing the same thing and expecting a pay rise or a promotion then that isn’t a good trade, but if you offer new opportunities, skills, or take on more management then that could be a good trade.