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Alan Sugar Leadership and Business SuccessAlan Sugar Leadership and Business Success


Alan Sugar (1947- )


English founder of Amstrad, the electronics and computer business, and host of the British BBC TV version of The Apprentice.

He (pictured right) sold Amstrad in 2007 to BSkyB, Rupert Murdoch’s satellite TV business.


What does he say about leadership and business success?

Alan Sugar Leadership and Business Success


1. Quality and customer satisfaction

You must know your customers and what they want, he says.

He had troubles in the 1990s, because of unreliability in his business PC’s, which ruined his computer business.



2. Innovation

In the mid-80s his biggest money spinners were new products:

  • computers. Alan Sugar Leadership and Business Success
  • stacked hi-fi systems.
  • word processors (pictured right) 

His computer game machine failed in 1990, because it wasn’t innovative enough, being technologically inferior to its rivals, Sega and Nintendo.

But he was the only manufacturer producing satellite receiver boxes and dishes, scooping the market when Sky satellite TV was launched in Britain.


3. Cut costs

“Margin is king”, he says, i.e. the difference between price and cost makes a business successful.

He likes to sell lots of products at low prices by keeping costs as low as possible.

So he bought components and products from cheap Far East suppliers.

 Alan Sugar Leadership and Business Success

4. Risk taking, hard work and knowledge

Sugar (pictured right as a young man) has a keen eye for any potential money making activities.

At 16 he started selling vegetables out of the van he bought with his savings of £100.

Sugar then sold products like cigarette lighters and TV aerials and at 21 set up Amstrad.

There are three essentials to success in any new business he says:

  • hard work
  • knowledge of the industry (keeping an open mind and learning from others and experience)
  • selling something special which will attract customers.


5. Be flexible

Change your products and policy when you have to (particularly to meet changes in customer requirements).

 Alan Sugar Leadership and Business Success

6. Be tough

He is ruthless, autocratic, decisive and doesn’t suffer fools gladly.

He has been described as “Richard Branson (pictured right) with a personality bypass”!

He’s tough, but fair and honest with a caustic sense of humour.


7. Respect other people

Listen to and learn from others, and never try to be someone you’re not.

People will fail, if they:

  • are dishonest.
  • try to succeed at the expense of others.


8. Determination and ambition

His life is a classic rags to riches story, having been brought up as a poor tailor’s son in a council flat in Hackney, London.


9. Management and selling skills

He is a:

  • brilliant salesman (with an excellent eye for publicity)
  • tough negotiator.
  • good time manager – his motto is “clear your desk every day”.


10. Motivating employees

He earned the commitment and trust of his employees through:

  • high expectations
  • honesty and humour
  • support and delegation.
  • integrity (keeping his promises)



Key quote on leadership

A good leader is not necessarily always the most liked person in the company, but the best are liked because they are respected for their clarity and vision.

Key quotes on influencing people

No one trusts a faker.

In order to gain respect, you need to be true to yourself. There is no point in trying to be brutal, if it’s not in your nature.


Key quote on success

You’ll never be successful, if you’re cautious.


Key quote on pricing

Margin is king.


Key quotes on motivation

Motivation is all about inspiring people.

The marketplace is a battleground and unless you go into battle with an army that backs you 100%, you will lose.

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