Cards on the table. Sir Lord Alan of Sugar isn’t a close personal friend. We’ve rubbed shoulders once or twice, sure, at various charity fundraisers (which you know I love) and big hitting business events. We’ve both advised the government on business. We may even have exchanged words in the directors box at City, United or somewhere – fact is, I can’t remember. But what I do know is this – Baron Sweetner was 100 per cent bang on the money when he told the nation that engineers are no good at business.
He’s had a bit of stick has Alan. First you’ve got that Luke Johnson, the Pizza Express bloke, even Loz Jones has piled in. And of course there are a few exceptions to this rule. Sir James “Jimmy” Dyson for one, who makes ace Hoovers, so our housekeeper reckons anyway. But does Jimbo really sit down in his shed messing about with bits of metal and pipe cleaners like some crackpot science geek? I doubt it.
Business is all about selling a dream. When you think of the titans of business- Branson, Buffett, Trump, Cashman – the similarities are obvious. We’re all good-looking, charismatic men that people will follow. Natural leaders and born sellers.
Frankly, there’s too much of that clever-clever “oooh I’ve been to university” bollocks about. Well not at RC Solutions. The last certificate I got was for swimming and I’ve not done too badly for myself. For me, the only qualification that counts is a degree from the University of Life and frankly, we’re a bit suspicious of the techies.
That little dot com bloke, Manoj Ranaweera (who’s alright, to be fair) – said to me: “Roger, surely you’re a solutions business, how come you’re so successful but you don’t understand technology?” You don’t need to know the first thing about all the technical gubbins, pal. If you can convince bankers that you’ve got the stones to make something work, they’re picturing their bonus before you’re even out of the door, cheque in hand.
Sales is where it’s at. You can have the greatest idea ever and more techy know-how than you can shake a stick at but if you can’t sell you’re stuffed. Our sales lads aren’t even allowed a chair at their desk until they hit a weekly target. It’s a competitive environment that weeds out the weak and rewards the strong – someone once said it was like Darwin in action, but I don’t hire Lancastrians either.
That’s when you hire some specky geeks and middle-aged virgins to actually do the work. These people don’t have the vision and ambition to be great businessmen – it’s men like me that make them what they are. It’s even better now, because Russian maths graduates are even cheaper. I love globalisation.
Yes, the bar at Panacea is littered with tech investors and their hard-luck stories, but some of us are very comfy in the booths – the winner’s enclosure of life.