Tim Campbell first came to our attention when he was hired by Amstrad tycoon Sir Alan Sugar on the reality TV show ‘The Apprentice’. But he admits that in comparison to actually working for Sir Alan, winning the £100,000 a year role was a ‘doddle’. He tells Jon Card what he has been up to since winning the show.
After recording for the series ended in November 2004, Campbell was catapulted into a world very different from his previous job at London Underground.
However, unlike the others in the show who were, understandably, attempting to make the most of their fifteen minutes of fame. Campbell was put straight to work on a new project for Sugar.
“There were no parties or film premiers for me,” says Campbell. “I was kept away from all of that and had to get on with business.”
Specifically, Campbell’s business is now running Integra, Amstrad’s foray into the health and beauty market – and despite the lack of TV work, he is delighted with his new role.
“I love coming into work and sitting in my office – it’s brilliant. It is the first time I have ever had an office of my own.”
Campbell works on the ninth floor of the Amstrad HQ, known by those that work there as ‘Brentwood Towers’. However, his new role means that he regularly has to go up to the tenth floor for a word with his boss.
“I report directly to Sir Alan and have regular feedback from him,” he says. “If I don’t see him then there will be an email or a phone call. He is not only my manager he is also my mentor.”
Yet has Campbell ever been on the receiving end of one of Sir Alan’s infamous verbal tirades? Campbell nods and his eyes open wide as he remembers a recent ear bashing.
“He’s a hard boss and makes no bones about it. He doesn’t suffer fools gladly and if he thinks something is wrong he will tell you in no uncertain terms!”
The real Amstrad office is very different from the plush and brightly lit boardroom used on the TV show. However, the general mood of the office is apparently less tense than firing sessions on the Apprentice, although the hours are long.
”It is like a family environment,” says Campbell. “Even Sir Alan comes in to have a joke and sends emails around that are funny. I get into work about 8am though sometimes it is earlier and I rarely leave the office before 8pm. Then at the weekend I am off - but the Blackberry stays on.”
Prior to working for Amstrad, Campbell worked on the Tube, where he fought his way into a management position. However, he has found that the publicly run transport service is a world away from a global electronics company.
“Amstrad is run by the bottom line and is customer focused the whole way through says Campbell. “London Underground, on other hand, has a seemingly endless supply of government money.
“You get people who stay there for years – I was there for seven. Amstrad is much more dynamic. You could say tomorrow that we want to start a new product and it would start straightaway and we will have processes working by the end of the week.
“It’s a good feeling being trusted like that. But it focuses the mind and if it all goes wrong then I know it will be in my lap.”
Viewers of the show will remember Tim as being a good-natured and non-aggressive contestant. It raised the question whether he was hard-nosed enough to succeed in business – particularly at Amstrad. But Campbell doesn’t agree with this portrayal and suggests that he was a victim of the cutting room. “I am tougher than that, I am a very resilient person,” he says.
Campbell’s life has changed dramatically in the past 12 months and it follows that he will have to adapt to new realities. He says he has been on a steep learning curve but feels he is getting to grips with the corporate world.
“What I have learned about business is that it is another language. It is not this hard intimidating place where only certain people can succeed. Business is about making money – the bottom line.”
And despite witnessing a dozen fellow contestants on ‘The Apprentice’ being ‘fired’ Campbell is not a concerned that he will be hit by the same fate.
“I have fear of failure, of personal failure, but being fired is not big thing for me,” he asserts. “It may sound big headed but I’m confident that I can adapt myself to any environment.
“I navigated my way through the London Underground and I was one of the youngest people ever to become a manager there. But I have a set of transferable skills that can be adapted to any environment.
“If I make a mistake I will hold my hands up and accept responsibility. But I don’t see me getting fired in the foreseeable future.”
Backed by his experiences to date, Campbell has encouraging words for entrepreneurs about what is needed to get ahead in the world of business.
“I believe that anybody can be in business,” he says. “Some people think qualifications get you ahead or think you have to talk in a certain – way but those are just barriers. You just need the will to succeed.”
Watch Tim Campbell introduce the British Library and explain all the research and planning resources available through its extensive archive and Business and IP Centre at www.bl.uk/onlinegallery/visits/video.html