Why you’re NOT fired…

on July 19th, 2017

In my last article, I wrote a review on Richard Branson’s autobiography – ‘Losing my Virginity’. In case you’ve missed it, you can read it here. Last month I was given Alan Sugar’s autobiography and, motivated by my last read, I was more than eager to learn about another mogul’s entrepreneurial life and business experience.

Most of us know Alan Sugar from the British TV series, ‘The Apprentice’, and are well acquainted with his famous line, “You’re fired!”. But, did you know, he is also known as ‘mop head’?:  a family nickname because of his profuse, curly hair – always a good fact to know should you ever meet him!








‘What You See Is What You Get’
is the name of the autobiography, and it couldn’t be more true of how Sugar represents himself to business partners and colleagues throughout the book.

It is an inspirational book targeted at budding youngsters, business professionals who can benefit from a few tips, and football fans who want to learn what the industry is like, off the pitch.

Many of us know Alan Sugar grew up on a council estate in Clapton, Hackney. Coming from a poor family background, with uncertainty of money being brought home by his father, Sugar is fuelled with a drive to succeed. In comparison to his father, who even as a skilled tailor decided to work for someone else, as opposed to setting up his own business, Sugar surprises everyone with his entrepreneurial spirit.

Like Richard Branson, Alan Sugar starts at a young age, he sets up his own company Amstrad (later to be called Amshold Group Ltd), selling hi-fi and computers, as well as satellite dishes to Rupert Murdoch at BSKyB (now Sky), and separately fights his way in the boardroom as chairman of Tottenham Hotspur FC.

As a marketer, I was pleased to read about Alan Sugar’s interest in marketing: “I am a marketing man, I give people what they want.”

Sugar writes about how the importance of marketing: how the strategy, branding, messaging, positioning etc. has an impact on the success of the business. Sugar himself displays many examples of how he positioned his brand to big retailers like Dixons and became competitive with corporations like IBM. He knows his audience well enough to be able to market his products to reflect needs.

One good example is how he set Amstrad up to compete with IBM. IBM PCs had a fan in the base unit to keep the sensitive microprocessor circuits cool, because this is where they kept their power supply. Alan Sugar’s computer had been built with the power supply in the monitor, therefore did not need a fan. But the BBC put out a statement to say they wouldn’t buy from Amstrad because they had no fan, and led people to believe that without a fan the computer would overheat and conk out.

As Alan Sugar comments, ‘It was a complete load of cobblers’. Alan Sugar realised that people were not buying and he knew the next step was, to give them what they wanted.

“If they want a fan, I’ll give them a bloody fan. If they want a computer with pink spots on, I’ll give them a computer with pink spots on. I’m not here to argue.”

The way he marketed his products contributed to Sugar’s success. He understood the market, he kept up to date with his competitors and he continued to build his brand and establish Amstrad’s USP.

I would recommend Alan Sugar’s autobiography. He is a witty opportunist who writes realistically about his failures and successes in business. If you believe that anything is possible, if you believe in yourself and will work hard to reach success, then ‘you’re NOT fired’.

by Tina Chohan

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