PEOPLES ★ ALAN SUGAR : The simple secret of making a fortune ★

Alan Sugar - 1987 - the Simple Secret Of Making a Fortune (The Amstrad User)
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Alan Sugar is one of the British success stories of the 80's. Now 40, the East Ender who left school at 16 and sold car aerials off the back of a van, has built up Amstrad into Britain's most successful computer firm.

It is Sugar's aggressive leadership and marketing genius that have taken his firm to the heights. In an address to London's City University Business School, he revealed his formula for success. This article is based on his speech...

For some reason I've been called a barrow boy. Maybe I'm not smooth enough for everybody, but what does it matter? The turnover of my business has doubled every year since 1980. It was £300 million in the last six months so they can call me what they like.

'Barrow boy', incidentally, I take as a compliment. I would only take exception to it if my ambition in life was to be seen nightly at Annabel's ;n the celebrated company of Lord and Lady Beescenwith.

It isn't.

My ambition is continued success and growth. I want to give the punter exactly what he wants - that's why he'll buy what I have to sell.

And that's why marketing is just like a stall in Pellicoal Lane. No different at all, really. The stallholder is offering his or her wares. The sales pitch may be loud, seeking attention, but is that any different from a high-cost national advertising campaign? No: really, if you think about it, you just reach a wider audience that's all.

My philosophy is all about aggression, energy, realism, instinct, not conforming to the standards that are written down in books, but using innovative ways to cut corners and achieve objectives.

I sometimes break the commercial rules of self-preservation on sheer gut feeling.


I remember when two Spanish lads who had sold a small number of my computers came back and asked for a big shipment. The only problem was money. This highly undercapitalised pair couldn't pay for them

The traditional response would have been a thudding door. The financial advice was not to touch them. Bui I liked them. Frankly, they reminded me of myself -urgent, aggressive and hungry as I was once when 1 went around selling car aerials from the back o: a van.

So I gave them the business and now they are a £100 million Spanish company mopping up 55 per cent of the Spanish computer market with Amstrad. Which is good for them, Good for me. And at the end of the day good for Britain.

My philosophy is all about realism: Swift thinking and decision-making without committees. Pan-Am takes good care of you. Marks and Spencer loves you. Securicor cares. IBM says the customer is King. At Amstrad 'we want your money'.

At Amstrad the staff start early and finish late. Nobody takes lunches - they may get a sandwich slung on their desk - and there's no small talk. It's all action, the atmosphere is amazing and the esprit de corps is terrific. Working hard is fun.

They're a bunch of Alan Sugar clones, learning to work like me. Amstrad bought the Sinclair computer business when I was out of the country and out of touch. The board did just as I would have done if I'd been there.

There's no room for people who are not aggressive and hungry. If they are not that,they're out. Everybody earns their pay every day.

We attract people who either catch on quick or are out in two minutes flat. It's all about swift thinking and decision-making without committees, rising or falling by your own decision or getting out, possessing a sense of urgency to get to the point. There isn't time for waffle.

The longer they are with us the more they assume the corporate identity of the company. With IBM it's blue suit, button-down white shirt. At Amstrad it's confrontational, speedy, incisive, powerful and definitely no bull.

The Japanese use the phrase 'value analysis'. We would call that 'knocking the cost down'.

We pay attention to detail, too. So do the Japanese, of course, but in a different way. When I was still in the design stage of my first computer I went to a Japanese casing manufacturer and told him I wanted white. Immediately he showed me 25 different shades of white.

Indeed, real forceful marketing is coming from the Japanese and the rest of the Far EAst - it certainly isn't coming from the States any more.

The Japanese salesman knows everything about his product. His American counterpart is a relatively empty fellow who can usually be found saying, Have a nice day,' moving from job to job either ir.side his massive corporation or jumping from company to company - there's such a big turnover of staff there. And we swallow all this bull thinking they really arc great salesmen. They are not.


So we at Amstrad follow the Japanese way in creating a corporate personality that sustains all the personnel. It may be brash, but it works. Like the big Japanese companies, we feel like a family.

We encourage a restless spirit in our company. If a product is selling well we instantly begin to examine ways of reducing the cost to make it even more profitable while the product is selling.

And when our managers walk away with a big order from Dixon's (a large UK electrical retail chain) for say a new computer, instead of celebrating they are worrying and thinking about the instruction books, anxiously making sure it is ready and readable. Without it you don't have the whole unit. One screw not ready and you're done for - you haven't made a sale.

If a product isn't selling I don't cut it's selling price to shift it, I'll wipe my face - my East End jargon for getting out. I got out of videos when they weren't selling. I'm back in now.

In the UK we have achieved market shares of up to 70 per cent in some product areas, so the next move is to plant our philosophy in other world markets.


Frankly, if we got the same market share in all the products we sell now in all the countries in the world, we'd be bigger than General Motors. So we still have a long way to go.

It's highly competitive, just like a bunch of street traders. Whatever your accent, we're all barrow boys in the marketing business. It's a hell of a battle. There will always be people who are happy to be non-achievers in their life, who get buried in a big corporation or flit from job to job, never growing, never changing their ways.

There are others who are like me. They never expect anything for nothing. They know only how to put their head down and get on with the job.

That's all it is. No great secret. Just intelligence and hard work. Britain is beginning to realise this. When it becomes part of our national philosophy we'll be or. tor the world again. There's no reason why we shouldn't be.

This article was originally published in the Daily (UK) on 2nd May 1987 and has been reproduced with kind permission from the Mail Newspapers PLC.


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L'Amstrad CPC est une machine 8 bits à base d'un Z80 à 4MHz. Le premier de la gamme fut le CPC 464 en 1984, équipé d'un lecteur de cassettes intégré il se plaçait en concurrent  du Commodore C64 beaucoup plus compliqué à utiliser et plus cher. Ce fut un réel succès et sorti cette même années le CPC 664 équipé d'un lecteur de disquettes trois pouces intégré. Sa vie fut de courte durée puisqu'en 1985 il fut remplacé par le CPC 6128 qui était plus compact, plus soigné et surtout qui avait 128Ko de RAM au lieu de 64Ko.