Alan Sugar: In his own words

Alan Sugar

Aside from Richard Branson, Alan Sugar is almost certainly the UK's most famous business person. With an estimated fortune of £770 million and nationwide recognisability as the host of The Apprentice, he is both a powerful business magnate and a beloved media personality. Yet Sugar was no overnight success. The son of an East End tailor, he grew up in a council flat in Hackney, leaving school at 16 to sell electrical goods out of the back of a van.

That he has journeyed so far and achieved so much is testament to Lord Sugar's extraordinary wisdom and business acumen. If you want to learn from his success, then this list of quotes, directly from the man himself, are essential reading.

I don't make enemies, it's just I'm not afraid to speak my mind, which can sometimes mean people don't like what I am saying.

The entrepreneurial instinct is in you. You can't learn it, you can't buy it, you can't put it in a bottle. It's just there and it comes out.

I have principles and I am not going to be forced to compromise them.

In America, everybody thinks they're an entrepreneur. That's the problem. It's not a title that anybody should call oneself.

It will take a brave person to cull the benefits system and analyse who deserves and who doesn't.

Not everybody needs to go to university; they can get out and start working straight away.

Once you decide to work for yourself, you never go back to work for somebody else.

There's too much of a culture that exists out there, what I call an expectancy culture, of things being provided.

You've got to admire Sir Richard Branson. He is a completely different style of businessman to me, but you have got to admire what he has achieved.

I believe employment regulations for women, whereby the prospective employer is not able to inquire about the interviewee's status regarding children, childcare, or indeed their intention of becoming a parent, are counterproductive.

I have always been an honest trader. I come from a school of traders where there was honour in the deal. No contracts, just a handshake and that's it, done. That's the way I prefer to do business but it's not always possible these days, sadly.

Youngsters have got to stop thinking about becoming the next Zuckerberg. It's a trillion-to-one chance. What they need is mater and pater to say, 'Get a job, son.'

4 things you need to be a great business leader

positivity business leader

There are plenty of people out there that want to run a business but, once they find themselves in such a position, suddenly realise they don't have the skills for the job. Leadership is more than business acumen, market knowledge or sound planning. It is just as much about attitude, influence, personality and passion.

Contrary to what some people may say, however, the skills of a good leader are things that can be learnt with experience and forethought. Here are five steps you can take towards being a great business leader.


Even the toughest, most discipline insistent boss has to have a positive attitude towards the business and what the business does. A complete confidence in the company and the future of the company goes hand in hand with confidence, good decision making and success all the way through the company.


The job of the leader is not to the do the work but to make sure the work gets done. Particularly in new start-ups, there is an issue with the founder of the business attempting to take care of everything themselves, though a lack of trust of those around them. Hire skilled people, with specialist skills, that you trust to take ownership of their areas and make sure they do their jobs correctly.


While all great leaders are remembered as trailblazers that always seemed to know what to do best in any given situation, the reality is likely to have been quite different. In truth, the best leaders are always open to advice from those more experienced or qualified in certain fields. Don't assume you know best in every situation but make sure it is known that your decision is final.


A leader is only as good as the belief other have in them. Your employees won't believe in you just because you pay their wages. You earn their belief and positive feelings by your actions, decisions and reputation. Never lose sight of this fact and ensure you always behave in a manner that persuades them of your capabilities.

Should you allow your employees to work from home?

work from home

Telecommuting is a word that sends shivers up many bosses' spines. The idea of relying upon your workforce to remain efficient, productive and disciplined when they are out of your sight goes against many business leaders' core beliefs about effective management. After all, you could be, unwittingly, paying your staff members to play with their dogs or sit on the couch watching daytime telly.

Yet allowing staff members to work from home either on a periodical or full time basis offers a number of terrific benefits. While it might not be suited to every company, it is well worth considering how many of these could apply to you should you allow telecommuting.

Lower costs

This is, perhaps, the best reason to introduce a work from home scheme of some sort in your workplace. The less members of staff in your building, the less you will be spending on running costs, expenses and your monthly bills. You might even be able to downsize to a smaller office, thus saving on rent, or perhaps even do away with a physical business location completely.

Lower your carbon footprint

If you are concerned about your business' environmental impact, then telecommuting is going to be a smart move. The traditional office, with its mountains of paperwork and non-stop power consumption, is not generally a green organisation. Telecommuting reduces your carbon footprint, placing a greater emphasis on digital data movement and less of an emphasis on copying and printing.

Attract employees from a wider geographical area

If employees do not need to be in the office every day, the net for who you hire becomes larger. You can even employ skilled workers living in different cities or countries. With a bigger geographical area to choose from, the chances of finding high quality workers become better.

Happier workforce

Telecommuting has plenty of advantages for the worker too. One of the key elements workers who prefer telecommuting cite is the improved work-life balance it offers. Without the daily and nightly commute to and from work, the employee gets to spend more time with their family. Similarly, it allows them to choose where they live based only on how good it is for them and their loved ones and not on its proximity to the office.

The smart business person

time do not delay smart business

Even in the most peaceful business environment, conflict is, at some time, inevitable. At times, people will disagree and, when you consider the passion with which people pursue their careers, these disagreements may turn into conflicts. As a manager or supervisor, it is your job to resolve such issues in a manner that benefits the company. Here are four important steps to resolving workplace conflicts, if they occur between two members of your workforce.

• Do not delay

As soon as you have noticed a serious issue, do not rest on your laurels. By leaving the issue to fester, you can only make it worse. In fact, if you don't step in soon, a relatively minor grievance between two workers can boil over into a major company issue as other members of staff are sucked into the situation.

• Have a private meeting with both members of staff

In order to tackle this situation, you are best off discussing the issue, separately, with both involved parties in a private location (your office should be fine). You do not want to either drag the issue out in front of the entire workforce or show favouritism to either person. Get both of their opinions on what is going on and give them time to put across both sides of the story.

• Deliberate but do not blame

Your job is not to find out who is to blame for the issue but to come to a conclusion about the fairest way for it to be curtailed. This is the most important thing – that you no longer have to worry about a conflict in your workforce affecting your business. It might be the case that everything can be resolved with a handshake. It might be the case that discipline needs to be issued. Either way, your decision should be based only on what is best for the company.

• Be confident in your decision

If you need to discipline either of the involved staff members, it is important for you to do so with complete confidence. Do not feel the need to talk constantly or fill in awkward pauses in the conversation. Be firm, be fair and have faith in your decision.