Monday, 5 December 2011

"The Way I See It" - Alan Sugar

Lord Sugar's "The Way I See It" is an informative, entertaining, mind-boggling lesson that should be heeded by everyone.

Within its pages he vents his frustrations that are shared by so many of the British populace in his plain-speaking manner, and handles controversial suggestions for improving the state of the nations's unemployment and crime with reason and logic.

He also explains the financial situation within our national sport of football. Those of us who simply follow a team's progress with no idea of what goes on behind the scenes often wonder why despite the eye-watering numbers teams make from television rights the team is actually in debt. Sugar does a marvellous job of explaining in layman's terms the actual income and outgoings of a football team in England.

Time and again he reiterates his message to small businesses that they should expect no help from the government or banks and to do it themselves if they want to succeed. It may seem a harsh, unwelcome message, but it is the same message he himself received when he set out to form his own business. After the extraordinary rate at which the banks were lending money, they are simply having to revert back to their prior position of not lending to anyone who could not provide some collateral.

Having not read Sugar's autobiography "What You See Is What You Get" (it's now on my Sony reader), I was astonished and inspired by how he first seized on an opportunity to make a bit of money at the age of 11. While watching road workers resurface a road in Clapton, he saw them dig up old wooden blocks that had been impregnated with tar. As these blocks were no longer needed, they were to be thrown away. Yet the workers threw a couple onto their fire where they burned with consummate ease, and the 11-year-old Alan recognised that the blocks could be made into firefighting sticks and would work better than ordinary wooden lighting sticks.

How many 11-year-olds nowadays are making their first forays into business ventures?! Aside from selling the odd video game on eBay, there can't be many around with such an entrepreneurial mindset.

As well as delivering his take on such recent news stories as the phone hacking scandal, bemoaning the draconian health and safety and outrageous litigation culture, he indulges himself by telling the reader of his passions for tennis (I love it), cycling (I hate it) and flying planes (not tried it, yet). Then there are the obligatory few paragraphs on his Twitter and personal relationships with Piers Morgan, including a delightfully wicked retort to Morgan's bragging about the advertising in Times Square for his television show.

Although some of Sugar's views will offend, something he freely acknowledges in the first page, the majority of them make sense. The most controversial, after some consideration, do seem a better, more practical option than the current situation; and with a new approach and mindset to a serious issue such as drugs, with proper thought and execution, could work. Frankly, should Lord Sugar stand for election with this book as his manifesto, he would be in Number Ten tomorrow. Sadly, he states categorically that "no way could [he] ever be a politician, let alone prime minister".

"The Way I See It", despite its reality check to small businesses expecting handouts from the banks and government and young people hoping to be the next Mark Zuckerberg, is still an inspiring read.

If you will allow me to end on a personal note: my mother and I agree wholeheartedly with his solution to unemployment: in exchange for leaving their jobs at 55, workers who have paid tax and national insurance should receive a million pound bond to spend on British cars, British homes and British holidays, and make way for the younger generation to get into work.

I am 24, unemployed and currently not receiving any Jobseekers payments because I failed to apply for one job the Jobcentre gave me as I mixed up the closing date for the online application, a job in which my experience is minimal and two years old but I have to pick jobs in that sector as they are more attainable in my local area. Yet since signing on the dole in July I have applied for around 150 jobs that I have found myself, for which I have a degree and over a year's recent experience, and only about ten of them have been in my local area.

Because of one job I have had my payments stopped for four and a half months and will receive nothing until the end of February, by which time I will have no money left at all. As I am under 25 and living at home, I cannot even claim hardship payments and due to some ancient social services legislation my parents are expected to support me financially until I am 25 in March. Then it is a different matter entirely.

I am even going in to do some voluntary work for my previous employer to keep my hand in and my brain ticking over. Clearly I am looking for work, wanting to work and am not content to scrounge of the state. Sometimes I am searching for jobs at one and three 'o' clock in the morning when I can't sleep.

My mother is 64, works two days a week in human resources in HMRC after taking partial retirement at 60 because she wanted to work for a couple of years, yet despite a lot of noise two years ago about government cutbacks and possible redundancies, she is still there hoping they will soon let her go. She stays to earn a bit extra money and to get out of the house for two days a week. My father is already retired, so we don't have much money.

After reading "The Way I See It", should I receive no answer from any of the jobs I have applied for by the end of the year, I will sign up as an Avon rep to earn some money.