Peterborough’s winner of The Apprentice is cooking on gas with Lord Sugar’s £250k investment in his plumbing business.
Joey Valente is now hiring and pushing ahead with that business plan that helped him win the BBC show.
ESP’s Pep Cipriano caught up with our local business hero and thought he’d try out for the job but it looks like it was more of a case of ‘You’re fired…’ so he grabbed a word with the Yaxley based entrepreneur for some tips instead.
Joey, first of all, the most pressing question…
can you come round and fix my leaking tap?
“Of course! Visit www.Impragas.co.uk and book one of our highly trained plumbers.”
Done! So, it’s been six months since your win, how has the £250k helped you to grow your business during this time?
“Since the start of the year, our focus as a business has been to offer a five-star experience to our customers. This has prompted us to invest heavily in our management infrastructure, allowing us to put the right team in place to build a solid foundation to carry this out. We now operate a job watch scheduling and management system allowing us to streamline our booking, work completion and invoicing process. We now also have a number of fantastic new vans, smart new uniforms for staff and a new website. Our head office is having a makeover too.”
So what level of involvement has Lord Sugar had up to this point?
“Lord Sugar’s involvement is controlled by how much I need him, but he’s always at the other end of the phone or an email. As a minimum, we have a monthly board meeting, but other than that he leaves me to get on with it on a day-to-day basis, as I know what I’m doing, so it works well.”
Has being The Apprentice winner lived up to your expectations? Do you feel pressure?
“It’s been an amazing experience; quite literally a life changing one and I’ve loved every day. I’m working harder than ever, but if you want to be successful then you have to. For me, pressure is a driver. It pushes me further and is a great motivator.”
Are you a different person in any way?
“I have a lot more confidence in meetings and feel like I can hold my own in most business situations. When someone like Lord Sugar believes in you, it gives you a great confidence boost and it’s a great feeling.”
But people must treat you differently I guess?
“Overall, people have been unbelievably supportive. I really appreciate this and it’s great to see – especially from my fellow Peterborians! But for all the supporters you sometimes have your critics and this goes with the territory, which I embrace in a positive way.”
So what was it like meeting with Lord Sugar as his Apprentice for the first time?
“It was surreal! Sitting in his office as his new business partner planning how we were going to drive the business forward was a strange feeling, but from that point, I knew that’s where I was meant to be and it felt great.”
Let’s look back at your journey. In the lead-up to the show producers tried to create a picture of you based on your application bravado. Were you initially concerned how you may have come across to Lord Sugar and the viewers at home?
“Not really. I knew people would judge me in a certain way because of the things I said in my application, as well as the way I looked. But as a result, people initially underestimated my ability to win.”
At what point or after which task did you feel you became a serious contender for the win?
“I honestly felt I was a serious contender from the day I applied. I think the moment both the viewers and Lord Sugar started to consider me was in task six, the construction task, during which I won immunity.”
Did you ever feel out of your depth or intimidated by any of the contestants?
“I didn’t feel out of my depth as such, but there were a number of occasions where I felt uncomfortable, given that some of the business situations I found myself in were new to me. However, I’m a strong believer in the ‘sink or swim’ philosophy and I wasn’t prepared to drown.”
Did you consider anyone to be a threat and did you at any time think Vana’s business idea was going to win it?
“I thought Richard was a very strong contender. He was an acquired taste but he was good. I wasn’t worried about Vana’s idea, as I had so much confidence in mine.”
What was it like watching yourself on TV? Would you have done or said anything differently?
“I absolutely loved it! I’ve always loved being centre of attention and that hasn’t changed. It all felt natural to me even though on occasion I came out with some lines that were a little cringe-worthy!”
Why do you think producers picked you to be on the show?
“I’m a character – loud, confident, with an individual look and hopefully because they saw me as a potential winner. I’ve got a great background story too, which helps.”
Did you take advice from anyone before filming began?
“My mum, she told me to go for it.”
Your performance in the interviews with Lord Sugar’s advisers looked like a walk in the park. Was it that easy for you?
“It may have looked easy, but rest assured, it was tough! I’m very confident in what I’m capable of and I work well under pressure. My philosophy is if you’re honest from day one then you don’t have to worry. It’s always the ones that play with the truth who suffer the most in the interviews.”
What did you learn about yourself and business after going through the process?
“The main thing I learnt was that I’m tough, dynamic, relentless, hardworking and that I can succeed in anything as long as I work hard to get it. The sky is the limit and we’re victims of the limits we set for ourselves.”
So, looking ahead have you fulfilled your ambition or is there still plenty you want to achieve?
“The Apprentice was just one (albeit a huge) stepping stone on my road to success. Watch this space as there’s a lot more to come!”
What advice would you give to anyone thinking of applying for the show?
“Ensure you stand out, fly straight, don’t get dragged into pointless arguments and only talk when you have something important to say.”
Photos: Andy Vernum @ Studio One for ESP Magazine