Lord Sugar's New Year message to small businesses

When will a day pass without mention of Alan Sugar? The straight-talking (some would say brutal), self-promoting, hilarious - both intentionally and otherwise, entrepreneur and TV star with the infectious giggle and persistent rage issues has penned a pep talk for small businesses.

It's a great read, full of angry jibes at government: "David Cameron... in covering his backside, stated that he sees 2011 as very challenging, still singing the same song, 'We are cleaning up the mess we inherited.' A bit of the broken record syndrome, I think" and stern reality checks: "Whatever plans you are thinking of, don't - repeat don't - rely upon government or banks or anybody else to give you ideas? Unless you sign on to the fact that it is you alone that runs your business, you will be going down the wrong road."

This is a call to arms for entrepreneurs everywhere. The battle cry of an ageing war veteran to the new blood on the battlefield.

There are some odd points, however. Lord Sugar says: "I am sick and tired of hearing people asking what to do, going to networking meetings and seminars expecting to glean some gems of wisdom. These events are money-making exercises and benefit one party and one party only: the organiser." Surely some seminars are useful? And networking can be the best way to make valuable business contacts.

'Business networking' is definitely Sugar's newest bugbear.  "They have become an escape for people to justify sitting around wasting a day bullshitting with each other while they should be working. You will learn nothing other than that there are another load of people in the same boat as you."

It doesn't get much more scathing that that.

And this might explain the war of words Lord Sugar waged with 4Networking founder Brad Burton on Twitter today. "Get a proper job," he barked. Brad Burton replied simply, "Maybe you should visit a meeting to see the real benefits that #4N brings to the table for us small business owners." Doubt he'll be along any time soon, Brad. At least your book has twice the number of positive reviews than his.

Some sage words on banks, however. "Banks are a business just like you. They are there to make money from their customers and just like you, the more customers they have the more they will make for their shareholders. They are not a charity and they do not have to lend money to any Tom, Dick and Harry." Although some banks might take exception with this bit: "They'll charge you to breathe"...

Then comes the sell as Lord Sugar slips in a plug for his book. "In my book What You See Is What You Get, I explained in detail that when I started my business in 1967, there were no free lunches. No banks lending. You wanted something? You paid for it or got it yourself. And when you could show that you had a good, viable business, then and only then would "come and see me" be the words of the bank manager." Well I've read that bit now. Does that mean I can skip the other 300 odd pages?

It's tough to know what to make of this post. On the one hand, Sugar tells entrepreneurs to undertake regular health checks on their businesses. This is sound advice. But the pomposity and aggression rankles. You can't help but think, when he tells business owners to do away with spreadsheets and use a pencil instead, that he's bought a million shares in a graphite business. Such is the self-satisfied nature of these musings. A peek down the comments reveals a conspicuous lack of criticism: only the fawning and delighted comments have made the grade.

Nevertheless, I do like this sign off for its simplicity and lack of bluster: "I conclude by saying again that it is you and only you - no one else. You know what to do, otherwise you should not be in business. It's just down to hard work, discipline and determination combined with your knowledge and experience of your sector. Trust me, you will be satisfied and happy with yourself."

Thus ends the sermon of Lord Sugar.

You can read the whole message on Facebook.

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