Back to basics business practice – Lord Sugar hits the NW part two!

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When I last blogged Alan Sugar coming to the NW it was part to utterly contradict what the papers had said happened at the event (because seemingly unlike a few journalists, I was actually there!) and part to blow my own trumpet for having been involved.

Yesterday’s visit to Bolton to see Alan Sugar was a totally different experience for me, as I attended, as a guest, wearing my newroomsonline hat – a weird feeling and hard not to start changing the way things were done and getting more involved than would have been polite, let alone professional.

The lesson we learned at the first event was that to go with the Government’s missive to, in effect, hold an open forum, was perhaps haphazard – it meant that anyone asked the most banal of questions, that attendees stood up with their own agenda ruining it for everyone else, or that we simply ran out of time.

This time, hats off to the change of heart – pre-submitted questions promised a better flavour.

These would be punctuated by questions from the floor and this is where it almost fell down again. What is it with some business folk? I half wondered if many of the delegates were deaf. If he had one question asking about finance he had a dozen, each one more or less identical, either that or people seemed to think he had divine intervention, could use the Force or actually was some deity of the business kind. I really felt for him. He wasn’t the only who paled at the onset of yet another moanfest about the banks.

I have to say my heart genuinely does go out to people whose businesses were once buoyant but who now are suffering, but that said, I’m in total agreement with Lord Sugar – if banks and investors won’t lend you money, there’s probably a very good reason why.

I think people just want him to say,”Yeah you’re right. Banks what a bunch of bastards – they should be heaping money on you in your time of need when they put you in this position in the first place” yet I would hazard a guess that HE’S NEVER GOING TO DO THAT!

Other classic questions included

When will the recession end?(Why not just cut to the chase and ask how long’s a piece of string?)

How can I work fewer than 100 hours a week? (with no preamble or explanation about his job or why he worked long hours)

The most sensible questions came from a hairdresser who is riding the recession to the tune of – what recession? and wondering what  she can do next to expand, a local accountant, a cancer diagnostics company, a baker and a new media company based in Manchester wary of becoming a victim of their own success in terms of rapid growth. These businesses were all flourishing and hallelujah for adding some much needed reality and positivism to the occasion. We heard the value of intellectual property, copyright, letters of credit, apprenticeships, how to approach large businesses with your ideas without fear of having them stolen and credit control!

The pick of questions were not general, but were quite specific to individual businesses, however, the information imparted back was sound and could be shared at a base level. I’m not sure he gives you pure business advice per se but he offers sound practical common sense. It really isn’t rocket science but it’s what my Dad has always called the Softly Softly Catchy Monkey approach.

Fag packet business plans are as good place as any to start!

Knowing your bank balance at the start of every week and how much you need to turnover – a must.

NOT going into a business without some sound grass roots experience in that field.

Knowing the difference between thinking you’ve invented the next big thing and KNOWING you’ve invented the next big thing.

Not reading the Daily Mail if you want to know the news (To wit tumultuous applause).

Not expanding beyond your means but to grow organically, and not through loans and debt.

Exploiting the domestic market to its maximum before ever considering overseas markets, simply because it’s a whole new can of worms with different standards, compliances and laws.

I thoroughly enjoyed the event – but truly hope that should the guy ever come back that people will listen the first time he answers a question before asking it again and again and again and again……what he had to say on other matters was fascinating, hilarious, blunt and logical – maybe they should just put a caveat in place – no banking questions!

Oh and PS Mark Blakemore – once again a great job as Chair!

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