In his opening audition tape, Valente boasted that he is the definition of success. Rather than shy away from the bold statement, he explained success to him is achievement and recognition for what’s been accomplished. “It’s a matter of passing stepping stones and moving on. I set myself strong stepping stones, whether that’s a new qualification, vans, a car or money. Money is a byproduct of success, so when I’m achieving the goals that drive my success, money is the reward,” he said. And, despite operating in a crowded market, Valente explained Impra Gas is able to distinguish itself by delivering an A-grade service. “For us, we sell our vision as a five-star experience. It’s plumbing and heating carried out to a high standard in the way we manage customers from start to finish,” he explained. “Installations comprise a ten-year warranty and service plans, so all products in that package give customers a ten-year peace of mind and value for money. We replicated larger firms’ offerings, bettered it, and halved prices. And we’re not a one-man band either, so we deliver what they can’t. “We’re the middle players at an affordable price and that’s our identity. It’s a fragmented industry with 80 per cent of small firms occupying the market and 20 per cent the large. We’ve seen a gap in the middle and we’re running with it.”
While Sugar inspired Valente to give business a shot, he acknowledged that drive has always been there, having sold sweets and stickers to friends when he was at school, or hitting the streets washing cars. Open as always, Valente had admitted that his time in education saw him expelled from school – a topic we touched on. “I didn’t learn well in that [classroom] environment. I had a different skill set to learning from books, which drove me to be disruptive in class,” he recalled. “I couldn’t understand why I was doing subjects that didn’t give me anything I needed. I thought ‘I can’t draw, so why am I doing art?’ Grades don’t mean anything and a lot of kids are being penalised if they don’t achieve results based on grades, but it’s not the way forward. Most successful entrepreneurs are practically-minded.” In a sense, the competitors on The Apprentice can be perceived as the students, with Sugar the teacher. And when it came to the show, Valente said in his audition tape he’d beat anybody in his way. Clearly he proved that to be true, and explained what set him apart. “My work ethic, drive, passion, vision and honesty. I don’t know everything, but if I did know something then I put hands up and made sure he [Sugar] knew,” Valente said. “I’ve got a hunger to do whatever it takes to achieve my dreams. I think that’s what he saw – I won’t stop until I get what I want.” I pressed for the specifics of what he’s looking for, at which point he quoted Al Pacino’s power-hungry mob boss Tony Montana aka Scarface. “I want the world – and everything in it,” he said, only half joking. “I don’t have anything specific, but every time I do get something, I want more.” Another audition tape quote was calling Playboy founder Hugh Hefner a role model. “The Hugh Hefner remark was a standup one. Whether you agree with what he did or not, the guy was a pioneer and very successful with what he produced. Plus, he worked with very beautiful women,” Valente laughed. Working with the very successful Sugar, his true role model, however, has been everything he expected. Prior to winning the show, Valente had funded the business with a £15,000 personal bank loan. With that, he was able to buy a van, tools, uniform, branding, a website, smartphones, tablets and a computer, while he was left with £5,000 as a backup fund. “Within the first week, I started to make a return. Things just blew up,” he said of the launch. “I signed two property companies in two weeks and got access to 600 houses.” With Sugar on board though, Valente has even more pulling power to attract clients and open doors.
Continue reading on the next page for the most valuable lessons Valente learnt from Sugar, as well as what he took away from the biggest mistake he made on The Apprentice.
By Zen Terrelonge
Share this story