Meeting Lord Sugar In Manchester

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By Guy Levine
on 2/11/09

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I have just returned from an ‘Audience with Lord Sugar’ which was organised by Business Link and held at the Hilton in Manchester City Centre.

The format of the event was great. It was 2 hours of question and answers with The Lord himself.

As usual, Lord Sugar was not afraid of sharing his view point on things. A considerable amount of questions were around gaining Government Funding which did not go down that well! Lord Sugar is old school, whereby you earn the money by being entrepreneurial and should spend more time thinking of great ideas and implementing them rather than spending the time search ‘for handouts.' Contentious stuff!

Lord Sugar also had plenty to say about the banking and finance issues of the moment. He reminisced that 10-15 years agobanks would ask for business plans, projections and security from people asking for money. They wanted to know how much you were going to put in and how much you had to lose - what great motivation! He believes that since the banking industry has gone crazy over the past years, people now believe it’s their entitlement. The tax payer bailing out the banks does not mean they will be funding anything and everything. The remit of the banks is to support businesses with a viable business model and not businesses which are ‘bust.’

Lord Sugar’s view on giving away shares to staff in unlisted companies was that they are more psychological than anything else. Unless there are dividend payments attached or the company is nearing a sale they have no real worth. However, they can be used to boost employees morale in certain situations. The business owner can always create a subsidiary company to allocate the shares from.

“VC’s are sick of funding technology companies and all their brain storm thinking" proclaimed Lord Sugar to gasps from the audience. I personally believe the whole finance industry is going back to basics. They want to put in £1 and make, well.... more than £1 back. If that means the VC’s have to invest in more sure things for the moment, I can live with that. The pots have to be replenished.

So, the Apprentice star was in top form. Sharp, dismissive but happy to give out good and sensible advice.

The best moment for me was when a delegate was asked how profitable their business was. The delegate replied “Well, I have just been able to buy a Vauxhall Tigra so it must be doing well!” Classic!

Also, A big thank you to our fantastic Business Link Adviser Nancy Dykins for telling us about the event and changing our minds about Business Link!