Having been disappointed with Alan Sugar's autobiography I wasn't certain what to expect from this volume which appears to be based on conversations which have been turned into chapters by a competent professional writer. The thoughts, views and rants, belong to Sugar and, in most instances, represent commonsense which is at a premium in an age of political correctness and the pernicious world of health and safety. He regards himself as straight talking and is annoyed when others fall below the standard he sets for himself. He asks the question "Has the World Gone Mad" and concludes it's lost its moral compass.
Having been successful in business he berates the additional cost imposed by the health and safety industry with their tin-pot dictatorial attitude. He abhors the compensation culture and encourages people to fight what he regards as blackmail. On many occasions companies find it easier to give in than incur the cost of defending their reputation. He has sympathy for teachers, police officers and prison officers who he feels are under-appreciated. He understands, as too many people in life do not, that work is not about money, it's about respect. If you pay peanuts you get monkeys. Pay people a decent wage and they will respond positively. Sugar came from a poor family and worked his way to wealth, others use poverty as an excuse to fail. His language is direct, "You are dealing with thieving thugs who don't want to work because it's easier to steal or leech off the benefits system." Sadly, he's right.
He's no time for the lack of resources argument either. "How come we can spend many millions taking military action in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya, yet we don't have the money to build more prisons? It is a stupid false economy." In classical economics it's called opportunity cost. Once you've spend money on one thing you've lost the opportunity to spend it on another. It is, as Harold Wilson is reputed to have said, "the language of priorities". It's also the language of efficiency with public service tendering methods fostering poor commerical judgement. In fairness he doesn't confine his attacks to the coalition and his message is applicable across the political divide. They are all equally culpable. He advocates the legalisation of drugs using the argument that if everything was legal it would undermine the illegal drugs market and free up resources to deal more effectively with other forms of crime. He writes, "Some people reading this may think I'm totally out of my brain to event consider legalising drugs and having them freely available." Got it in one.
His chapter on football is particularly interesting. He blames himself for not speaking up against the insanity that passes for normality in the football world. The amount of money spent on players' salaries is disproportionate to the overall running costs of clubs which leads to clubs borrowing, falling into unrepayable debt and going into adminstration. His proposal that the money from the deal with Sky should be split 50/50 with the Premier League retaining half the money which would be released for purposes other than players' wages and agents' fees. In his time at Tottenham he was frustrated by Darren Anderton who was often unavailable through injury but always available to play for England. He would gladly support a breakaway group of nations forming an alternative to FIFA and its machinations.
Although at times he criticises the Daily Mail he admits he sometimes sounds like the Daily Mail. He regards the libel laws as too favourable to publishers who defame people deliberately. As a result he's guarded in what he says. He knows some newspapers print lies and he expresses sympathy for members of the Royal Family who, in practical terms, are precluded from replying. His distaste for the Mail is apparent throughout the book but more surprising is his support for the BBC. He believes Jonathan Ross was worth £6 million for his three year contract. He misses the point that the BBC doesn't spend its own money, it spends ours and often unwisely. It is surprising because he taught his own children that if they wanted something they should work for it. His own children took Saturday jobs in McDonalds. Sugar is wealthy but has never forgotten when he had nothing.
Inevitably he addresses the question of "What makes an Entrepreneur?" Sugar believes the ability to spot an opportunity and turn it to your advantage cannot be taught, it's instinctive. In addition, it's important never to be complacent and assume your success will always be a nice little earner. The competition will soon catch up. It's important to be able to recognise those who don't have your principles. The rest is commonsense. Stick to what you know best, master sales and marketing and do a job which brings satisfaction rather than one which simply brings in money. Other techniques include getting in front of the person who has the buying power and have a disciplined daily routine. With modern technology it's possible to be at the heart of a business from anywhere in the world 24/7.
Of course the "I've done it, you can do it" approach has its limitations. No one would argue that we live in "an expectancy culture, where people still think there should be money freely available to finance lost causes, or poorly run companies, or the whim of an idea." It goes beyond that into the benefit culture something Sugar detests. The real key to success is to be able to run everything yourself but, ultimately, it's down to hard work, determination and a refusal to give up. There are no free lunches. I don't think Sugar is as balanced as he believes and I disagree with some of the things he advocates but those are outweighed by the good points. Five stars.