No longer an apprentice

One-time Apprentice finalist Jim Eastwood, now an ambassador for Young Enterprise Northern Ireland, is in this week’s spotlight

What was your first job?

My first job was in my dad’s chip shop although I suppose for it to be called a job you have to be paid and my financial reward was less about money and more about chips and fizzy drinks.

What qualifications do you have?

I have a first-class honours degree in sports science from the University of Ulster, an MBA from North Carolina and I am a graduate of Harvard’s ‘Leaders for Tomorrow’ programme. I am an advocate of lifelong learning.

Who do you look up to in business?

When thinking of people I look up to, I don’t have to look very far. My whole family has a very strong business tradition. My dad is a serial entrepreneur, my brother is self-employed and my sisters have been successful in climbing the corporate ladder. My family have instilled in me a strong work ethic and have shown me the value of having a passion for what you do.

What do you attribute your success to?

It’s in a large part down to my family and competing in sport. The quality that they’ve taught me above all others is persistence. Through my mum and dad I’ve learned a great deal about the best ways to combine academic achievement with business savvy. Sport has exposed me to teamwork, individual excellence, leadership and a competitive edge. When I’m working with kids on the Young Enterprise programmes I try and get across the need to combine all these skills.

How would you describe yourself to someone who had never met you?

I think that I’m someone who strives every day, in every way, to ensure that I come closer to fulfilling my potential in work and life. The thing that drives me to keep going and keep trying new things is that I never want to look back and think “I could have put more into that”. Some people are driven by the fear of failure. I am driven by the fear of never having tried.

How do you get the best out of people who work for you?

By being honest and passionate in my communication with people. If you’re straightforward and clear about what you expect, it’s much easier to build trust and respect with colleagues. Having that kind of relationship also makes it easier to motivate and inspire people on your team.

If you could change one thing about doing business in Northern Ireland, what would it be?

Northern Ireland does have a fantastic track record of over achievement, both at a company and at an individual level. It would be great to see people continuing to look outside the traditional rules of engagement when it comes to new business development opportunities be that in e-commerce, or by exporting their business ideas to new markets.

Tell us something interesting about yourself?

I think out of all the things I’ve done in my career what I enjoy best is public speaking. That’s what’s so refreshing about my role as a Young Enterprise ambassador – it means I get to address different groups at different levels be that high-level corporates, encouraging them to engage with the programme, or the kids who put such hard work into participating in the scheme and getting a real sense of how business works.

What’s your greatest passion outside work and family?

I’m a very keen cyclist. For me it represents total escapism and even when you’re suffering in the saddle, it’s definitely worth it.

What advice would you give to someone starting out in their career?

One of the most important attributes for someone starting out is to have confidence in your abilities and the mental fortitude to showcase your strengths.

You need to be committed to learning from every experience and to acknowledge your weaknesses and be fully committed to improving on them – that’s the key to developing quickly.