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Alan Sugar

‘You cannot learn to be an entrepreneur by reading a book. You can only find out by giving it a try’

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

‘Learn from your mistakes, only work with people who share your vision and culture and most importantly, focus on your customer’

‘To be a successful business entrepreneur, you need more than just a competitive edge. You need a hide like a rhino, the ability to operate way outside normal comfort zones, a willingness to invent the rules, and a total, utter, complete self-belief – against all odds. Self-belief is a critical skill for business success’

“You’re fired!” is of course Alan Sugar’s most famous catchphrase as he grumpily dispatches another perma-tanned, teeth-capped hopeful from his famous boardroom in TV’s The Apprentice.

Lord Sugar has become Britain’s most famous entrepreneur, if not its most successful.

His last impactful business success was the green cursor-blinking Amstrad PCW computer launched back in September 1985. Walking around Tokyo’s electronics district in February that year, Alan Sugar had spotted a word processor which had a monitor with a built-in printer, so the whole package had the all-in-one compactness of a typewriter. He sketched out the design of what would become the PCW on a Cathay Pacific serviette while flying from Tokyo to Hong Kong. By the time the Amstrad stopped being produced in 1998, 8 million had been sold.

Alan Sugar truly became a household name in 2005 when he starred in The Apprentice, the BBC version of the hit US show fronted by Donald Trump. A group of would-be business executives, hoping to be employed by the gruff “Sir Alan”, would be set a daft task each week and the gimmick was that Sugar would wag his finger at one candidate each week, telling them they were no longer wanted on board. The hilarity came from the gap between some of the candidates’ (unwarranted) self confidence and their actual skills.

From 2010, the format changed so that Alan Sugar would invest in the winner’s business to the tune of £250,000. And Lord Sugar looks as if he’s picked some winners, including 2019 winner Carina Lepore (you can read our interview with Carina here) and our very own SmallBusiness monthly columnist Mark Wright, who won in 2014.

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Tim Adler

Tim Adler is group editor of Small Business, Growth Business and Information Age. He is a former commissioning editor at the Daily Telegraph, who has written for the Financial Times, The Times and the...

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