Lee on the importance of winning the Apprentice in getting a business off the ground...
It was an absolute necessity in my opinion. I cannot underline enough how important it was and how much I learnt working for Lord Sugar for the past two years.
I went in at a time when Lord Sugar and his son were setting up a business called Amscreen. All they had at the time was an idea; they had no markting, they had no engineers, no product no services, nothing.
Everyone’s under pressure, everyone wants to do well, no one wants to mess up in front of Lord Sugar and people respond to pressure in different ways
I walked in as development director and built that business with them from a standing start to over 650 petrol stations. All that we achieved in such a short space of time, which was brilliant. Ir had a knock on effect, the ball continued to roll from the Apprentice.
When you emerge from those tasks it gives you the confidence and belief to say “you know what, if you hone in on and use your talent you can start a business and start making money if you put your mind to it."
On whether candidates who bow out early of the Apprentice, sometimes looking foolish, benefit from the experience...
I worked in a corporate organisation for six and a half years and when I left my business unit it turned over £32m. I had 30 staff working for me, 22 of which were revenue generating.
I had a really good job but what my company wasn’t giving me was the exposure I needed to launch my own company. And that’s exactly what Lord Sugar’s company gave me, which is why I’m doing what I’m doing now.
I think they benefit from the experience but I also think that when they look back on it they... well I’m not saying they regret it because who am I to say that anyone else would regret it?
For example, this year Dan, who went out in week one, banged the table and put himself up for project manager. His ego got in the way of rational business thinking.
My point being that people who go out early on probably look at the experience and realise: “I need to change things and use that as a learning experience,” which if they do then obviously they’ll benefit from it.
It’s the people who come into the Apprentice thinking the best way to win is to backstab people and start having bitchy conversations who are completely deluded.
And you get it year on year on year. That’s the thing that amazes me, the amount of people who come into the Apprentice and still want to bitch and backstab. It’s just not the way to win.
You’ve got to learn from other people’s mistakes, but equally you’ve got to learn from your own.
On whether he watched the series he starred in....
I watched all of it, course I did. It was my TV debut! Interestingly, we only get to watch it when you guys, the public get to watch it.
On whether the programme portrays people misleadingly through selective editing...
Yes, it’s a TV programme and yes, they edit, but I have to say, they can’t edit you saying something that you didn’t say. They can’t put words into your mouth.
So people do come out and say the things that they do. Yes, I did the reverse pterodactyl, yes, I fibbed on my CV... I can’t comment on the others’ mistakes.
Claire, who’s a very good friend of mine now, could have got fired five times in my series, but she learnt and progressed throughout the process.
I think when you’re sitting one to one with someone and you’re having a glass of wine when the series has finished, people will speak slightly differently. [During filming] you’re in a very different, high pressure environment.
You get hardly any sleep. Everyone’s under pressure, everyone wants to do well, no one wants to mess up in front of Lord Sugar and people respond to pressure in different ways.
Sometimes they do well and sometimes they don’t. And one of them who doesn't do well will get fired - as Lord Sugar would say!
I’m not a production expert. I’m sure they merge things together to make it a bit more spicy but ultimately what you see is what you get.
On working for Lord Sugar...
To work for Lord Sugar is an absolute pleasure. He’s firm, he’s fair, if you do something wrong he’ll tell you about it.
If you do something right he’ll tell you about it. He’s very clever, has a huge amount of attention to detail. A lot of people think Apprentice winners go there and then they leave.
No, they don’t. We stick around, we learn from him, he gives us the opportunity to learn and allows us to set our own business up.
If you look at everybody that’s left him, they’ve all gone on to set their own companies up; it’s not as if they’re leaving him for any other reason. It’s the nature of the beast.
A lot of people think you go and work for him and just get stuck in a broom cupboard somewhere – that’s total rubbish. I probably saw Lord Sugar once or twice a week while I worked there.
On the qualities that elevated him above the rest...
Well put it this way, I had the best record. I won three times as project manager. I won more tasks than anyone else.
I only lost three tasks, which was fewer than anyone else, and I never went into the final three of the boardroom. My record spoke for itself.
But to strip a layer off that, the reason I won was because I built really good relationships with people, I planned and prepared for my time in the Apprentice, for every single task as much as I could. I made sure I had a structure and a strategy around that.
I worked hard, worked as part of a team and I delivered. I bring the best out of people and that’s why I won.