Plumb business is heating up for Apprentice winner Joseph Valente thanks to Lord Sugar's help
The self proclaimed '˜Godfather of business' has turned up the heat on his rivals as he continues to grow his own firm - with help from mentor Lord Sugar.
Joseph Valente won a £250,000 investment when he impressed business tycoon Lord Sugar in BBC 1 show The Apprentice last year, taking the top spot.
The plumbing boss from Peterborough has grabbed the opportunity with both hands - and has seen Impra Gas expand dramatically in the year since he picked up the big prize.
He is now looking to the next chapter, thanks to the crucial help and mentoring he has been given as a result of winning the title.
He said: “The business has grown massively in the last year.
“We have gone from Peterborough to covering an area up to Leeds, Birmingham, Norwich and down to London.
“The investment from Lord Sugar has really given me the chance to expand.
“As part of the investment, we get mentorship and expertise - it has allowed me to make sure we have the right people in the right place.
“The way we have been able to move forward is almost 100 per cent thanks to winning the show, and the help we have been given.
“It has also given us time to think about what Impra Gas is - and what it should be.
“One of the things we have done in the last year is change our focus. We were a plumbing maintenance firm, who did lots of little jobs.
“We have now rebranded and are now focusing on being the best boiler installation firm we can be - it is better to focus on being the very best at one thing, than spreading yourself too thinly.”
While the prize for winning the popular BBC1 show - the latest series of which started earlier this month - was a £250,000 investment from Lord Sugar, Joseph said the prize was worth much more than that for the Yaxley based firm.
He said he was still learning - but had come a long way as a result of lessons he learned on the show.
He said: “We have regular board meetings on a monthly basis with people from Lord Sugar’s firm, and also more regular meetings with their financial team, It’s a great team they have put together for us.
“I think I learnt a lot from being involved in the process, and taking parts in the tasks too.
“I don’t think you learn things like how to be an accountant during the tasks, but I learnt a lot about how to manage a team, how to deal with big egos, things like that.
“I think you also learn a lot about yourself during the process as well - how you can adapt and change to take on different challenges, and how to handle yourself in big board meetings with a billionaire.
“It is a lot about character building things, rather than technicalities.
“I am still in touch with a number of the people I was on the show with - Gary especially.”
Despite his success over the last year, he said sticking to his Peterborough roots, and finding time to see his family and resting was important for him.
He also said he appreciated the chance to go into other areas he had not had the opportunity to try before.
He said: “The head quarters of the firm is still in Yaxley, and I still spend a few days a week in Peterborough.
“My role is to run the expansion of the firm across the country - its a role I really enjoy at the moment, and spend a lot of time travelling.
“I’ve also been able to develop my public speaking - giving motivation and key note speeches. Its something I really enjoy, being able to go out and talk about my role and my story, and helping others as well.
“It is a very intense schedule I have, I think I spend about 80 per cent of my time at work.
“I manage to find 10 per cent of my time to see my family, and another ten per cent for some valuable R and R.”
While he has come a long way since winning the show, in a final broadcast in December last year, he said he still had plenty of ambitions to grow Impra Gas even further across the country in the future.
He said: “My aims for this year are to continue to grow and expand the business.
“It is very important not to rest on your laurels.
“We want to be the very best boiler installation firm in the land - the equivalent of Michelin Star restaurants. We want to be the best of the best.”
‘I’m less shouty when I watch it’
A year after starring on the popular series, Joseph is still hooked on the Apprentice, and the successful - and not so successful exploits of the candidates.
He said: “I do watch it - it is very strange watching it now compared to how I used to watch it. It has been a very quick year - I can’t believe I was winning last year.
“I think I am a little less ‘shouty’ when I am watching it now - I have a bit more sympathy for the candidates, as I know what they have been through, and I know what they are up against.”
There was a unique situation in the boardroom in last week’s episode, as Lord Sugar decided neither team had done enough to win - and there were six people facing Lord Alan and his assistants, hoping not to hear ‘You’re Fired’ from the famous entrepreneur.
But Joseph said: “I would have won. I would have taken control of the task to make sure we won.
“The key to success is being true to yourself. Hold your head up if you have done something well, but always focus on yourself.”
This year’s series is the first since 2013 without any candidates from Peterborough.
In 2014 Nurun Ahmed took part, making it through a few early rounds. Nurun is now planning on opening her own shop in the Westgate Arcade in Peterborough city centre, having expanded her business that started in the city market.
The Apprentice is broadcast on BBC 1 on Thursday nights at 9pm.