Book club: Alan Sugar - What you see is what you get

Ricky Ghosh gets personal with this far from sweet tycoon

Aged 14, Alan Sugar made his first enemy in business. Sugar was obsessed with cameras, and was a keen member of his school photographic society. Coming from a poor family, he was mocked by a richer fellow pupil, who was also the supplier of the society's materials. Sugar �wiped the smile off his face" by setting up a business in his bedroom, undercutting the �posh tosser" and stealing all his customers. Sugar's anger at the boy still simmers - he imagines that his rival is now �probably a Daily Mail journalist�a pathetic loser who does nothing in life other than engage in spiteful sniping to cover up his own lack of achievement." This early incident sets the tone for the rest of the book - the book's title should really be �what you see is what you get, and what you get is what you deserve."

Because Sugar has opted to write solo, without a ghost writer, the text feels like a monologue - you can hear his voice on every page, more often than not bellowing incoherently. Although highly entertaining, Sugar's diatribes are surprisingly bitchy, especially with regard to the former Spurs owner's time in football. Jürgen Klinsmann is �a little sly" and Darren Anderton is referred to throughout as �sicknote". However, special venom is reserved for Terry Venables who's apparently �got no bottle" (the cardinal sin in Sugar's book). As well as the �Carlos Kickaballs", everyone from Americans (�full of sh**") to the City (�gangsters and monkeys"), and even the organisers of Comic Relief see the sharp end of Sugar's famous finger. The relentless one-upmanship and aggression does become wearing, but the range of vignettes is undoubtedly one of the book's highlights.

Sugar's memory is also impressive - he is able to recall the minute details of even his earliest transactions, and he gives a thorough account of the way his business operated in all its incarnations. From this wealth of experience, Sugar offers no-nonsense solutions to common challenges faced by entrepreneurs, from stock market flotations to dealing with disruptive employees (Sugar goes to a pub and challenges their behaviour�with a crowbar). Sugar's rejection of business orthodoxy - �the Harvard Business School manual" - can go too far, but many of his conclusions are useful, relevant and refreshingly candid.

Sugar has written the book so that the entrepreneurs of the future can benefit from his experience and, in the end, despite the ranting, it's hard to dislike a man who admits that the part of his career he has enjoyed the most was not the mega-deals but working with youngsters on Junior Apprentice.

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