Showing posts with label Leadership. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Leadership. Show all posts

Thursday, 9 July 2015

Would you rather work for Alan Sugar or Richard Branson?

Lord Sugar and Sir Richard Branson are perhaps some of the UK’s best examples of starting at the bottom and making it to the top. Both from humble backgrounds, Sugar grew up in a council flat in Hackney starting his business from the back of a van, with Branson setting up his first record shop in an old church.  Despite similar beginnings for these two entrepreneurs their management styles struggle to be more contradictory, so the question to be raised is who would you rather work for?

Lord Sugar

Alan Sugar’s credentials cannot be contested, as a billionaire and the 101st richest man in the UK he runs the company Amstrad, and has also owned Tottenham Hotspur in the past. Sugar is an international household name following his success with the television show The Apprentice which averages over 7 million views per episode. Lord Sugar is not without his critics however, the Daily Mail has labelled him a “model of bad management” and even compared his rule by fear approach as similar to Joseph Stalin.

Sugar’s authoritative style is easy to see through The Apprentice, his approach in the boardroom not only makes for good TV but goes viral on social media. The internet is full of Lord Sugar’s greatest put downs, including telling Tre Azam “I have an imaginary remote control in my hand- and you’re on pause”. However, cynically it is easy to wonder whether his persona is all a front for the show, as Sugar has a reputation for being fair and must be doing something right to be granted the title of Lord. It is very hard to judge what Lord Sugar is really like in business of the real world, but if you are someone who prefers working under a ‘tell it how it is’ figure then Sugar may be the boss for you.  

An image of Lord Sugar from The Apprentice.The past winners of The Apprentice have gone on to have mixed success. Series One’s (2005) winner Tim Campbell has hit heights working as a head for a recruitment firm and as an ambassador for London Mayor Boris Johnston. On the other side of the spectrum 2010 winner Stella English quit her role at Lord Sugar’s business Viglen claiming that she was just an “overpaid lackey”. The jury on how good it is to work under Lord Sugar is still out, but having him as your boss may not be as good as it sounds.

Sir Richard Branson

One of the only people who can surpass Lord Sugar’s business achievements is Sir Richard Branson with a net worth of over £3 billion which puts him as the seventh richest person in the UK. Branson started with a single music shop in 1972 and now stands as the owner of Virgin Galactic, Atlantic, Mobile and Hotels respectively. Branson is famed for his laid-back management approach and a nurturing and innovative style, very different from Lord Sugar.  
Picture of Richard Branson and staff at Virgin.

Richard Branson comes across very much as a free-sprit, owning Necker Island which is visited regularly by celebrities for indulgent holidays without the paparazzi, a week’s stay will cost you over £280,000. He also stars in Virgin adverts with Usain Bolt, and has a reputation of charisma.  The business man follows a philosophy of caring for his workers as he argues “The way you treat your employees is the way they will treat your customers”.

Branson claims that one of the benefits of working for him is that there is no policy for holidays, ultimately you can have as much time off as you want. Again this is one of those things that probably sounds a lot better than it really is, in reality taking an unlimited holiday will probably not put you in your boss’s good books, and for career driven people the policy will hold no value. Branson himself is even quoted as saying that the policy relies on the assumption that “their absence will not in any way damage the business”.  


There is obviously more to working Lord Sugar and Branson than appears at the surface level, but maybe there are a few questions to ask yourself before picking your dream boss. Could you survive the boardroom? Is working for Branson as fun as it is portrayed? Which boss would further your career more? Let us know your thoughts. 

Written by Andy Boyle at Aaron Wallis Sales Recruitment, an avid watcher of The Apprentice and an admirer of Sir Richard Branson. All things considered I would prefer to work for Richard Branson, as the opportunity to visit his island would be a great company perk!