Sweet Success Yvonne Taylor takes a look at the heady world of Amstrad's Top Dog Alan Sugar.
David Thomas has written on a range of subjects for the Financial Times, including industry and employment. He began to follow Amstrad while covering the electronics industry for the FT. It was this that led him to become interested in writing the Alan Sugar/Amstrad story. Alan Sugar had never agreed to this before, when it was suggested by other writers and publishers but he fully co-operated with David Thomas, as did the Sugar family, friends and business associates. Alan Sugar did see a draft copy of the book but the book is essentially the Thomas view of Amstrad and Sugar, as he states in the Preface.
No doubt many of you will be thinking, "Oh no; not another one! This sort of book just has to be boring, technical and probably pretentious into the bargain." Well, if you think that, you are very wrong. Alan Sugar The Amstrad Story is a good read from page 1. It starts in the summer of 1979, as the senior partner of one of the City's most prosperous stock-brokers meets an untidy, unshaven Sugar in a run-down ware-house. It doesn't exactly sound like an auspicious be-ginning for a man who wants his company to go public but it works, although you will only see why if you read the book! After that, the story goes into flashback, to show how Sugar brought himself and Am-strad to that point. "So what?" you say.
"Why should I care?" The Amstrad computer sitting on your desk at home or at work should tell you why. This book is not just about a few business deals; it is about a man whose ideas and drive have brought you help for your business and personal satisfaction. Maybe you only use your machine to play games, or perhaps you have become a skilled programmer or saved yourselves time and money at work: all that is because of Sugar and Amstrad. Those are all good enough reasons for you to read the book but there is another. This book tells the story of the rise of a small company until it has today become one of the most successful consumer electronics concerns in Europe. You may not be interested in Alan Sugar personally but his business philosophy is another matter. This segment is taken from only the fourth page of the book:
"Amstrad designs cheap and simple products by cutting out features which consumers do not really want; undercuts its competitors by manufacturing its products wherever it finds the best prices; retains the flexibility to switch its source ofsupplywhenevera cheaper one emerges; drives prices down still further by manufacturing in large volumes for a mass market; stimulates that market through massive advertising campaigns; and transforms markets by encouraging a whole new segment of consumers to start using its simple, inexpensive products."
Now thai is some philosophy, it even has its own name: the "Amstrad effect." An effect developed and implemented by a born entrepreneur. At the age of 13, Sugar was selling his home-made ginger beer to local kids. Later, he made money from photography and market stalls. Sugar knew what he wanted and went out and got it. The book quotes Lord Young, former Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, as saying of Sugar: "He's one of a new breed of British entrepreneurs. I would like to see people like that as role models foryoungpeoplecominginto business. I want people to say: damn it, if he can do it, I can." The point is that you can. This book may not offer all the answers that you need but it can show you one very successful way to go. It's not just about computers either; other Amstrad interests, including Sky television are detailed too. Apart from all that, Alan Sugar The Amstrad Story is an excellent read. At 14.99, it's cheap too: perhaps the "Amstrad effect" has struck again!