The Apprentice: Nick Hewer reveals his favourite business and why you should start-up today

Despite the recent season of The Apprentice drawing to a close, Lord Sugar’s aide Nick Hewer shows no signs of slowing down. Taking inspiration from the show’s successful contestants, both past and present, Nick is collaborating with Vistaprint.co.uk, the UK’s leading business card specialist, on their ‘Build your Small Business’ discussion. 

You’ve enjoyed a great partnership with Alan Sugar, how can businesses build their own partnerships with the right people?

Very simple. Under promise and over deliver. That’s it. Then clients will never go away, and others will come because they’ll recommend you. Too many people over promise and don’t deliver. That’s how you kill a business.

Now, if you under promise and over deliver too much, expansion is held back because you’ve not got paid enough, but it’s a matter of degree. If you over deliver by 50%, you’ll go bust, but if you over deliver by 10%, you’ll keep the client.

How would you have done if you were a candidate in The Apprentice?

I couldn’t have done that at their age! On The Apprentice, the intensity exaggerates everyone’s behaviour. When it’s all over, they all return to humanity, but there’s so much pressure.

Does the Apprentice format still work now that the candidates are business partners rather than apprentices?

The thing about the job for the year is, it worked, but Alan Sugar thought the new system was more meaningful. It’s a big deal for someone with no pedigree to get a £250,000 and Lord Sugar as a business partner. That’s a huge deal. Much better than a job for a year. To have their own business is fantastic!

One candidate, Jason Leech, struggled in The Apprentice this year because he was too nice. Do “nice guys” have a place in business?

There’s a place for Jason in business. I’m not suggesting Jason should go into the construction business. It’s unlikely he could run a team of brick layers. That’s not his skill. But there will be somewhere for him. It’s horses for courses.

Just like Zeeshaan would be unlikely to survive in the academic world.  Actually, I don’t know where Zeeshaan will survive.

What’s your favourite business to come out of The Apprentice?

I like Miamoo (natural skincare brand) very much, Saira Khan’s business.

Susan Ma was born in a paper bag and now, at the age of 21, she knows three languages and has helped her mum pay off the mortgage. She runs her skincare brand, Tropic. What an incredible kid.

Tim Campbell’s charity, Bright Ideas Trust (getting young people in London who can’t get jobs to start their own businesses), is great.

They all have that thing and young people need to know they might too.

What drove you to run your own business?

There are people with a need to be in charge of their own destiny, and there are people who like to be immersed in the cocoon of a big business. I am definitely the former. I always wanted to be my own boss. I was frightened that unless I was in charge, I was vulnerable.

What are the biggest lessons you learned from running a business?

Always treat the people who work for you well, and always treat the people who pay you well, your clients and your customers. I’m not Mother Teresa, but I would say always run an honest business. It pays dividends.

When did you know it was time to sell your business?

I always had a desire to sell by the time I was 55, to give myself a decent retirement, knowing that I would work very hard while I was working. I sold out when I was 55, but it didn’t really work out that way. Alan Sugar kept me on with another client until I was 60. Then, I really demanded to be released, which he reluctantly granted.

A month later, I was swept back into The Apprentice and I’ve been working ever since for the last nine years. It hasn’t been difficult because it’s been a blessing. I have no business doing what I’m doing. I’m not trained for it, I have no talent for it. I found myself in the right place at the right time. It’s luck, but some would say you make your own luck.

You've done a lot of great things for charities, do you think small businesses should have a greater focus on charity?

It’s probably very politically incorrect, but I think you should do what you think is right, not what’s good for business. I don’t like the “charity is good for business” thing, because it’s false. I think you should only do it if you think it is right.

What advice would you give to businesses trying to build up a client list?

Treat every client you’ve got as the most important in the world. They’re not interested in your other clients or how busy you are. You work for them so you have to juggle it. They just want to know you’re on the case for them.

What would you like to say to anyone thinking of starting a business?

Young people leaving school shouldn’t wonder what to do. Do it yourself. It’s  a question of confidence, drive, watching The Apprentice and watching Dragons’ Den. For the first time ever, young people have been exposed to how to build a business, and it’s not that complicated! In trading, retailing, tuning motorbikes or whatever is, you can start with nothing!

Even websites are accessible now, not complicated ones, but simple ones. People shouldn’t be frightened. People are scared of tax and accountants. It’s nonsense. Just get out the door, sell and get testimonials.

All the kids I meet know so much about the tasks, about when people should reduce the price. Fourteen year old girls understand business so well because The Apprentice and Dragons Den have blown away the mystique of business and made it attractive to young people.

Have the balls to do it! See what’s available for nothing, get that done and go. It aint hard. It just needs courage

 

To continue Nick’s support to small businesses he will be hosting a Q&A session on the Vistaprint Facebook page on 2nd August at 11am. Fans of Nick will be able to send in their burning questions. Everyone who takes part in the chat will also be entered into a draw to win a one-on-one Skype consultation with Nick to discuss their small business or idea.

Find out more at Vistaprint.co.uk

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