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Wednesday 16 December 2015

Alumni: Richard Woods' Success Story

After a gruelling ten weeks we have seen alumnus Richard Woods make quite an impression on season 11 of BBC’s hit TV show, The Apprentice. Having lost only one task before last week’s episode, where neither team sold anything, Richard is in a strong position.

We catch up with Richard to find out his reactions to being brought into the boardroom last week, and he tells us a little bit more about the business plan that he will be presenting to Lord Sugar’s most trusted advisors in tonight’s (16 December) dreaded interview episode.

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You have made it to the final five! How does it feel?

Amazing! Being in the final five was the target I had set myself at the start of the process so it feels really good to be among the strongest candidates and battle it out in the interviews. I know I have a good business plan. It was really important to me to step away from the competitive side of the process, where we have to work in teams, to have the opportunity to present what I want to do for the next 20-30 years to Lord Sugar and the general public.

richard-woods-tweetWe couldn’t believe both teams drew in the last episode. How did it feel to finally have the chance to fight for your place?

It’s the first time ever that there has been no sales and a draw. I have still only lost one and drawn one though. It was so gutting to not have made any sales.

I went into the boardroom with my hands still dripping in oil. There was without a doubt a huge oil issue. I said to the guys I thought there was a problem, but Varna just refused to admit it. We were in Virgin Active health club trying to flog them a product that they could wring out and feed to the fryer! I saw the faces of the clients and they didn’t look impressed; the guy couldn’t even open the next bag because his hands were so oily! I honestly had the perfect oil imprint of his hand in mine when I shook it after the pitch. No one in their right minds would buy our product.

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In the boardroom I had confidence that Lord Sugar wouldn’t fire me though. I am a top performing candidate, highest seller and winning project manager. I did think Varna would go into the boardroom because of the oil mishap and that I would be back at the house drinking champagne, but I missed that three letter word that should have gone on the packaging – it was ‘rawgate’ last week. To be honest with you I think the packaging I designed looked great visually and graphically, the design worked well. I did miss the fundamental point though; I missed the uniqueness. But when you’re rushing with ten minutes until a deadline and Varna is screaming the ingredients down the phone to you, you are bound to make mistakes. I’m actually still quite annoyed at myself because of this task.

Out of both team’s healthy snacks, which one would you take to a desert island?

I would bring ours because then I could wring out the oil from the crisps and use it to get my tan on.

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We think you did a good job on the branding but it was criticised by Lord Sugar in the boardroom. Anything you would have changed on reflection?

I would have definitely put that three letter word on the package and then I could have just sat back and watched Varna and Brett battle it out in the boardroom. The product was so much better than the other team’s. I took a photo of them both next to each other and there was no comparison. Theirs was just awful. With our crisps, the aim was to take on the Kettle crisp market, kind of old Englishy and with mass market appeal. I thought that if I could make something that feels familiar to the buyers then they would see it as something they would buy. My idea was to go for the mass market and add an interesting twist, but I messed up on the interesting twist. In my mind I thought the point was that it was vegan and gluten free as they are massive trends in the market right now; the raw factor is a bit left field. Plus, it wasn’t raw – it was mush.

Why do you think that you have been seen as such an integral member of the teams?

It’s funny as I don’t really think anyone wanted me on their team so much as that they needed me. When I was on Team Versatile they won up until task eight, then I moved on that task to Team Connexus and Team Versatile have lost every task since. How do you like them apples?

What makes me an asset is that I understand how to get to the bottom of the tasks and I know what the fundamental building blocks of a successful task are. Everyone else worries about the cameras and how they’re going to stand out as individuals but I see the bigger picture. I wouldn’t have won as many by listening to my teammates, which is why I tried to work alone where I could.

Next week it will be time for you to face Lord Sugar’s most trusted colleagues who will be analysing your business plan. Any tips for our students and graduates who may have high-pressure interviews?

I’ve never ever experienced anything in my life like this interview. In fact, I have never been interviewed before I was in the show. I came out of university and set up my own business straight away. The nearest to an interview that I have had was the application process to get on the show. My advice would be to be open and honest. You will see the people that try and blag it and then they run into problems. Understand what you’re about, be an open book.

We think the other candidates see you as very strong competition. Who do you see as your top competition out of the remaining five?

That’s a tough one. Gary is definitely the nicest out of all of us. If you put Joseph, Charliene and myself in a room together only one of us would come out alive. It would be like Battle Royale!

We can’t wait to see you in the interview stage next week! We assume you will be your confident self and we look forward to hearing about your business plan.

I can reveal that my business plan is very closely linked to the book I released recently Digital Trailblazer, which has now made me an Amazon top seller. More to come on that soon so watch this space.

Richard has a 2:1 BA (Hons) Business and Entrepreneurship from Solent (graduating in 2005), and has gone on to start four successful businesses, including digital marketing agency Yomp.