Lord Sugar has criticised entrepreneurs for expecting banks and the government to support their companies.
Speaking during a debate in the House of Lords, The Apprentice star said modern entrepreneurs suffer from an “expectancy culture” with people believing money should always be available for “poorly run companies” or “a whim of an idea”.
In his typical straight-talking style the peer proclaimed: “The thing is, people like me are a dying breed. When as a young man I went to a bank with my hand out, they thought I was part of a Morecambe and Wise team.
“‘Do you have any collateral, a balance sheet, some history of profits?’, they asked. ‘No’, I replied. ‘Well then, clear off’, was their response.”
The Amstrad founded added: “To reflect on the past 15 years or so, it has been customary for a person dressed in a nice pair of designer jeans and a nice blue blazer with a white open-collared shirt, a bottle of Evian in one hand and a wonderful Microsoft spreadsheet in the other, to walk into a bank, mention the word dotcom and walk out with £5m. Those days, I’m afraid, are over.”
Turning his attention to the government, Lord Sugar criticised the current politicians in power for their lack of business experience. ”Take, with the greatest respect, the current business secretary,” he said. ”He has never been in business or run a business. He has been an adviser or a politician all his life. He has never touched the coalface. Frankly, what does he know?”
“In my opinion, the current government are very good at window-dressing the demise of the economy by blaming it all on the banks. It is very convenient continually to repeat the same old broken record: “It’s not our fault. It’s the banks’ fault; it’s the previous government’s fault.”
Lord Sugar admitted that the banks had been “irresponsible” but said the government’s “bleating” that they aren’t lending enough to small businesses is misleading. “The message to the small business community should be one of realism in understanding that no one is going to lend money to a lost cause,” he commented. “The banks are now looking at the traditional criteria of showing some assets or having some historic record of profits before parting with their money. They are definitely open for business.”
The peer also focused on Business Link, the business support organisation which the government has closed down. Criticising it for offering “no real business advice”, he called on ministers to use the money redeployed from Business Link for other initiatives such as turning empty factories into business incubators.
Ultimately though, Lord Sugar advised entrepreneurs that they need to doing most things themselves. “Do not rely on any government to assist you in running your business,” he said. “You are people who have chosen to go into business, which is very enterprising, and I am pleased about that, but do not expect to get any advice from the government about what products you should make, what ideas you should pursue, what services your business should provide or how you should market your products and generate income, because that is what you are supposed to do.”