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Wednesday 18 November 2015

Top Tips for Class of 2015

It’s graduation week and what better time to catch up with alumnus and The Apprentice contestant Richard Woods. Richard had his first taste of losing in last week’s episode in a task that saw Lord Sugar fire three candidates in quick succession.

We talk to Richard to find out his best advice for graduates, how he gained the nickname ‘Tatman’ and what’s in store for tonight’s (18 November) episode.

It’s graduation week here at Solent. How was your graduation day back in 2005, ten years ago?

There is a bit of a story to my graduation. I graduated with my brother, which made it extra special. My girlfriend at the time (now my wife) was graduating two days later as she also went to Solent, and that is, in fact, where we met. I was in the rugby team and I went out with them for two nights in a row to celebrate us graduating. Two days later I woke up and realised that I had missed my girlfriend’s graduation! Needless to say she was not happy with me so I got into a lot of trouble there. She had come to mine and done the whole ‘graduation thing’ and I missed hers. It was safe to say I was in the dog house for a while but I won her (and my mother-in-law) back in the end.

What did you do with yourself after you graduated?

I took out a graduate loan and set up a few pre-orders with businesses that I had already built up a relationship with. Then I went to India and China with a few ideas for products, found out the costings involved and if they could be produced there. I shipped them back to England so I could go out and sell them on the high street, a bit like Dellboy. My wife used to call me Tatman because that’s what I sold. I would tout my tat. “Two for a pound love!” I was still living in Southampton at the time so did that for a while before moving back to Surrey.

Richard graduated from Solent in 2005 with a 2:1 BA (Hons) Business and Entrepreneurship

What are your top tips for our graduates?

  1. Remember to turn up to your girlfriend’s graduation!
  2. Don’t settle for mediocre. Don’t grab any job out there because you’re broke. Go and get an internship, learn the ropes, and do something that is interesting and special to you. Businesses use internships and apprenticeship schemes to find out if you’re good enough and if you there is a high chance you will get the job. I have employed more interns than non-interns.

Right, back to The Apprentice, we couldn’t believe three candidates got fired in one episode! Lord Sugar really pulled out the big guns.

It was quite an episode. It was an absolute massacre. Each week we are doing our calculations and we could clearly see there were too many people for the amount of episodes left, so we were really waiting for something like this to happen, but we weren’t expecting a treble firing! For Elle to be fired without even having a chance to bring anyone back was crazy. She held her hands up and said it was her fault and I think that was all Lord Sugar needed.

As soon as it happened, we looked at each other and went ‘oh no’. You have to remember Mergim was undefeated until that point too. There were three people in the boardroom who had never lost a task. It was fun to see Mergim being a project manager for all of five minutes though.

Were you worried you might be in the firing line?

I knew in the back of my mind that my track record was better than anyone else’s throughout the process. It’s true that Mergim and David hadn’t lost a task either, but I headed up the best marketing task Lord Sugar had ever seen and had been top seller throughout a number of tasks. I just knew if I kept my mouth shut I would be ok. I wasn’t destined to be in the last three that go into the boardroom. Lord Sugar had to clear the dead wood in the end.


Was the house much quieter after three of your team mates got the boot?

Massively so. I shared a room with David, Mergim and Brett, and Mergim is such a great character. We would go to bed quite early and Mergim was quite a night owl so he would come in and shout ‘Alright geezers’ and then crash into bed. With Brett having his royal navy background he would be up at the crack of dawn doing press ups, even before the phone would go off.

The task was definitely a tough one for all involved. If you were Project Manager, what would you have done differently to Elle?

I would have definitely got the flyer out so we could have canvassed people on that first day. I also wouldn’t have gone for the window cleaning. I think there were better costing projects we could have done. I would have gone for much higher end and expensive jobs and then got Joseph involved as it was really his area. Fewer jobs, higher margins, higher price.

How pleased do you think Team Connexus were that they had finally won a task?

It’s crazy to think they hasn’t won one yet. They were getting dominated up until this task but, needless to say, Brett was happy to finally be on a winning team especially as he had been in the boardroom three times. I missed the treat though!


Talking about the treats, what has been your favourite treat after winning the first five tasks?

I really liked the sushi instructor treat with Nobu, whose restaurant I have been to since, and of course meeting the legendary Mo Farrah was something I will never forget.

After last week’s show, what has been the reaction from family, friends and business associates?

Well, a lot of people were worried for me as soon as they found out it was a DIY task! My wife had to get a handyman in while I was gone because I start all these DIY projects and never finish them. My family and friends were all surprised that I managed to bumble my way through, a bit like on the shopping list episode in France. I just kept my head down and got through it in the end.

We hear next week’s episode is to do with opening a discount store. Will you be drawing on that ‘top seller’ status to get the win?

I’m a high end sales person so discounts aren’t my thing but it is still a sales task so it will be fun. I can let you know that the Richard versus Charleine feud will continue…

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.