Lessons learnt from an Evening with Lord Sugar…

London Filmed


On Thursday 3rd November, Apprentice winner Wright fronted An Evening with Lord Sugar: How to be Successful in Business at the Museum of London.

Speakers including Amstrad founder Lord Sugar, Mark Bower-Dyke, CEO of Be Wiser Insurance and Robin Deller, MD of Imagine Cruising, inspired a packed room of would-be entrepreneurs to refine their business plans and work tirelessly towards success.

But what were their key messages, and what must UK professionals do to be at the top of their game and leave the competition in their wake?

Believe in your staff

It was a common theme running through every discussion: surround yourself with hard-working, supportive staff who will drive your business forward and surpass its goals.

As Mark Wright puts it: “Birds of a feather flock together. To be successful you need to surround yourself with successful people.”

His assertion was backed by Robin, who says: “If you believe your staff make you successful, you must invest in those staff. I schedule time in my business to mentor my staff, utilising each individual’s different skills set.”

Robin’s ability to see the potential in someone is clear. His biggest success, he claims, was recruiting his TGI Fridays business partner when she was a 17-year-old waitress.

Instead of spending time and money working with recruitment agencies, he prefers to choose his own staff – hiring the person in the shopping mall who excels on the sales floor or the administrator who answers his questions with intelligence and professionalism.

Mark Bower-Dyke shares his view.

“My biggest success is looking at my board of directors,” he says. “Some started as juniors and we had to pay their bus fares.”

He insists on focusing on the future and driving out negativity in the workplace.

“Negativity will spread like wildfire,” he warns. “Positive people can stamp out those fires quickly. The important thing with staff is the past is the past; focus on the now and the future.”

Hunger for success

Lord Sugar, Mark Bower-Dyke, Robin Deller and Mark Wright all have one thing in common; none particularly excelled at school.

Robin Deller left without a single qualification. Mark Wright claims to have represented the “half of his class that made the top half possible”.

But what they lacked in concentration in the classroom, they made up for in enthusiasm, drive and hunger for success when they entered the world of business.

It’s this drive that’s enabled them to develop and grow multi-million pound companies in an impressively short period of time, and that’s pushed them to continue to work hard, despite seemingly insurmountable challenges.

Those challenges range from selling goods out of the back of a £60 van, to being fired by Richard Branson for not making the cut – and eventually selling a highly successful business to the Virgin boss.

But for every success, failure has surely come knocking at some point or another?

It has, but the panellists’ message is clear: there’s nothing to fear in failure. With every fall comes opportunity.

As Robin Deller says: “We fail weekly and I like it. It means we’re learning.

“A failure is never a disaster,” adds Mark Bower-Dyke. “It’s something you can always learn from’

Innovation is key

Digital marketing, insurance and travel represent three saturated markets.

So how have these business owners been able to set themselves apart from the competition, the audience asked?

For Robin Deller a crowded market highlights one thing: demand. And with demand comes popularity.

The key is to be innovative and creative; to develop a business that sells the same product or service but does it better, harder and stronger.

For Mark Bower-Dyke, the focus is getting the sell right, engaging with your target audience to make them believe your product or service is the best.

It’s particularly challenging in insurance, he warns, because all insurers are able to sell is a promise.

Pearls of wisdom from Lord Sugar were characteristically blunt.

“Stick to your expertise,” he says. Know what you’re good at, and run with it.

Be innovative in your approach. When your competitors are doing something over here, work over there – and work harder.

And when it comes to investment, he says, organic growth is always best.

So what’s Lord Sugar’s bottom line?

“How much money are you making?”