Julie Meyer: Sugar isn’t on message

‘Alan Sugar clearly doesn’t seem to buy into the policy initiative that the UK government has set about the banks lending to SMEs to help them weather the current economic storm.   He is confusing his role as a potential lender of last resort with that of the government or bank in that role, and I do believe this is evidence that he may have forgotten the lessons of his early years as an entrepreneur.
 
Far from calling SMEs who have been refused financing “moaners”, those of us at Entrepreneur Country take a ‘roll-up your sleeves’ approach to business building.  We are trying to be a part of the solution, rather than adding to the problem and simply passing the buck of blame.
 
I find, whether it’s in the Dragon’s Den or through the companies we meet at Ariadne or through Entrepreneur Country, that it is training and guidance which is required to help match the right funds to the right company and at the right price.
 
Many Managing Directors who run SMEs will not have encountered such bad trading conditions before in their lives, and so they need extra assistance in understanding how to navigate their ships through the current challenges.
 
In particular, they need to understand better how to reduce fixed costs, tighten contracts, negotiate, market and sell more effectively , prepare more detailed and more flexible forecasts, and access more types of finance from grants, to factoring (where appropriate), to private equity, private debt and bank finance. 
 
There is generally a price at which debt or equity can be concluded if the entrepreneur is prepared to be flexible; he/she may not like the price, but that’s much better than not being offered a deal at all.   Indeed, a large part of what we do at Ariadne Capital with the entrepreneurs we work with is to help them understand the real value that they have achieved in their business, and how the market of investors will judge them.  
 
Historically a lot of money and cash may have gone into a firm, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that the firm has achieved the revenue, profit, market share or momentum milestones which would lift its valuation to take it to the next level.   That can be a tough conversation to have with an entrepreneur.  But if being straight with them leads them to secure financing at a proper valuation, then they are happy at the end of the day with being able to move their business forward.
 
Indeed, my contacts who head up the large retail banks in the UK are interested in partnering with Entrepreneur Country.  This is because through the training programs and the access to successful mentors  which we will be offering , we will prepare SMEs who are looking for bank finance to be ready to have a full and fruitful discussion with their bank manager.
 
In my experience, none of us would have got wherever we have arrived without some help and understanding along the way. We try to “send the lift down” at Entrepreneur Country and help the next generation of entrepreneurs and SME business owners to get to the next floor up.
 
We are unrepentantly optimistic as well about the role of the entrepreneur in society. It’s a better place to be, as dynamic entrepreneurialism is the only way to create real, sustainable wealth in our economy and the growth will intimately benefit all of us. Alan Sugar of all people should know that.’

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