‘Apprentice’ winner comes to Cambridge

Sita Dinanauth 13 November 2008

Tim Campbell, the first winner of hit television show ‘The Apprentice’, visited Robinson College on Monday as part of the Cambridge Business Lecture series.

Campbell beat several other razor sharp business minds in a cut throat environment to win the reality show and remained at Sir Alan Sugar’s side for two years, before deciding to leave and establish his own company.

John Bird MBE, founder of the big issue, praised Tim Campbell from the stage of Robinson College, commenting “Since winning the Apprentice, he has become incredibly influential.”

Under the title, ‘‘Much Sugar is a good thing: the power of mentoring”, Campbell spoke to the audience about his life before and after the show.

The lecture included amusing anecdotes about his Jamaican mother’s discipline and playing truant from school, but there was a serious undertone to the talk, in which Campbell concentrated on the drive, hunger and strategies needed to succeed in the business world.

After graduating with a degree in psychology, Campbell became an human relations employee for London Underground. He discussed his dissatisfaction in this job with the audience:

“I saw lots of people who were being promoted over me. They didn’t see I had potential, they just wanted me for that particular role.”

Campbell later left this job, to retrain as a project manager in marketing and planning at the age of 24, seeing those who had previously turned down his job application begin to work for him.

It was during this time that someone suggested he applied for The Apprentice. Speaking to the audience about his initial disinterest in the reality show, he said;

“I couldn’t be bothered, I had no interest at all in being on television. I was content, earning a decent amount of money. The day before the closing date I filled out the form.”

He branded The Apprentice a ‘life changing experience’ , citing that fact that it was a level playing field, where determination and hunger for success were more important than contacts. He also pin pointed what he thought made Sir Alan so successful;

“Alan could convince you to follow him to the end of the earth. He also employed people he thought were better than him, which was important.”

Campbell concluded by speaking of his desire to set up a business which focused on looking after young people, rather than maximising profit, giving them the opportunity to work with a mentor to guide them in the business arena.

It was this desire which led to him setting up an organisation called The Bright Ideas Trust. The trust is now a registered charity, which looks after young people from 16-30 who want to get involved in the entrepreneurial field.

While determination, hunger and intelligence may all be positive attributes, they are not a guarantee for success.

When asked what qualities he thinks have enabled him to become the first winner of The Apprentice, he told TCS he believes the root is something instilled in him by his mother:

“I’ve always walked into situations with a lot of confidence in my abilities. There was never anywhere I felt I didn’t deserve to be or any ambitions that seemed unachievable.”

Sita Dinanauth