Lesson #1: Always be Selling

Sugar started by getting part-time jobs. Everything from boiling beetroot for the local greengrocer to picking up left over debris from road work job sites. He noticed that the road crews leftthe wooden blocks they used to lay down asphalt. Since these pieces of wood were coated with asphalt and flammable, he could chop those up into smaller pieces and sell them.

At that time, central heating and air conditioning did not exist. Most people used kindling to start their fires in the winter. Sugar saw that starting a fire was easier using these chopped up wooden blocks. He began selling them to homeowners.

Sugar would begin selling all kinds of things, from the beetroot at the greengrocer and a local paper route to the asphalt fire starting sticks and pastries at a local bakery. Eventually, Sugar would bring in more money than his father did working as a tailor in the garment district.

By 16-years-old, Sugar would informhis father that he was starting his own business. According to his autobiography, his dad asked him how he would get paid and Sugar replied, “I will pay myself.”

He scrapped together $150, bought a second-hand van and some used electronics, car antennas and other gadgets, which he began to sell out of the back of the van. The first week he was in business, Sugar would make a $90 profit on those goods. He was officially an entrepreneur and would later be quoted as saying, “Once you decide to work for yourself, you never go back to work for someone else.”

Over the course of the next five years, Sugar would sell just about everything he noticed people needed. When he was 21, he would have enough money to start his own electronics company, Amstrad, which he would name after his first enterprise and his initials, Alan Michael Sugar Trading.

Sugar would begin manufacturing hi-fi turntable covers within the first two years of operation of Amstrad. He would undercut the other manufacturers of these devices by implementing a new type of manufacturing method. Sugar decided that making these covers by injection molding would save a lot of the production costs, instead of the more expensive vacuum-forming processes the other manufacturers used.

The company would continue to grow over the next ten years and in the 1980s, Sugar would identify another market that was just getting started, home computers. He would place a lot of effort in developing his own personal computer to sell and the methods to use that would allow this device to undercut the other personal computer manufacturers.

During an interview with the New York Times in 1987 and after the success of his inexpensive personal computer, Sugar would say, “Pan Am takes good care of you. Marks & Spencer loves you. Securicorcares. IBM says the customer is king. At Amstrad, we want your money.”

It was the idea of identifying what people needed and selling that product to them that allowed Sugar to become the billionaire he is today. It would also allow him to expand his company business into professional sports ownership, private executive air travel, advertising and the business venture that made him a star all over Great Britain, the British version of The Apprentice, which has ran from 2005 and Sugar hosts.

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