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Simon Woodroffe gives his tips for success at work

19th June 2008

Simon Woodroffe, OBE, is the founder of the YO! Sushi restaurants. He is a supporter of the Growing Strong campaign, run by the children's charity NCH to highlight the impact of emotional well-being on young people's futures.

What did you want to be as a child?

My dad wanted me to join the Army or be a stock-broker; I wanted to be a rock star.


I had low self-esteem, I left school with two O-levels, and I wanted to be somebody people recognised. That's what the NCH Growing Strong campaign is about – kids who are struggling inside themselves.

What was your first job?

Bus conductor, and then assistant stage manager. The job was advertised at the back of Stage magazine. It was for a musical called Life is a Sell, and paid 10 shillings a day. I was keen and willing to work for peanuts. I also had a posh voice and the luvvies thought I looked like a nice boy.

How did you then become a stage designer?

Rock'n'roll in the Seventies was all about the music, not showbiz, but people were just starting to want lights and all that, and I was there at the beginning. Then I got my big break designing a stage for Rod Stewart. I carried on through the 1970s and 1980s until I thought, "I've got to get out before I get found out".

What would you get "found out" about?

I was brought up to think that you had to be properly trained to do a job, and I wasn't. I'm quite talented but I've also talked my way out of a lot of trouble – what used to be called "bullshitting".

Do you consider yourself successful?

Beyond my wildest dreams. But when you make your first few million quid, you think, God, that's amazing, then you meet people with 10 or 100 million quid and you feel inadequate. It's a form of madness.

When did you first realise you were a success?

The day we opened YO! Sushi. I'd raised £150,000 and had no restaurant experience, just an original idea. I thought that at least, if I had a year left to live, I'd feel I had done something.

What are your interview tips?

I look for what I see in myself: ignorance and enthusiasm, not qualifications. But I also look for business operators who are solid and stable.

And your CV tips?

I find CVs very difficult. I've been overwhelmed with a pile, wondering how to sift through them, when I've thought: there are always lucky people in life, so I've shuffled the pile, thrown half away and been left with the lucky ones!

How do I get to be where you are?

There has to be a drive inside you, something that makes you give up a reasonable day job and go out there and take risks.

What's the best perk of your job?

Being able to do what I want and meet whom I want.

Is there anyone left you'd like to meet?

No. I've met my heroes and I've realised they're ordinary people. Now I judge people by how nice they are.

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