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4 Important Business Lessons I Learned Early (and one later)

Sugden A48I thought I'd share some more lessons I learned early in my career - this time from back in the days when it was (relatively) easy to be a grey importer. Well, I had to do something, Grant Thornton were paying first-year trainees in my office less than I had been paying in tax in the job I gave up to become a CA.

I set up a mail-order business importing goods from the USA (and exporting Welsh hand-knits to the USA: being able to manage both sides of the currency costs saved us a fortune). I had a product that was sold here by everyone at £42.50  and I could land them duty and VAT paid for £14.61. Whilst there were much better products out there at the same price point, this one had the ear of the 'experts' and was a hot item. I put them on the market at £29.99 and they didn't sell. So, we put them on the market the next month at £39.99 and they just flew out.

 Moral of the Story 1. Being too cheap just destroys credibility.

We took so much of the official importer's market that they did something very clever. They changed the colour of the product (different colour dye in the injection moulder), repackaged it and announced it as a new, improved model...and that was the end for that product in our range..

Moral of the Story 2. Your competitors will never lie down and take it. If you hit them, they'll hit back.

The reviews of the new model were excellent.

Moral of the Story 3. Never ever believe a review.

The imposition of fibre tariffs, qualification as a chartered accountant, and the wildly unstable exchange rate persuaded me that the crazy world of accounting was the better option. And Richer Sounds had just entered the market and looked a very fearsome competitor.

Moral of the Story 4. You'll never control the market. The market always changes, so be prepared to change.



And finally

14 years of equity partnership was as much as I could take. The call of business was too great.

You can take the man out of commerce, but you can't take commerce out of the man.




PS The photo is the wonderful JE Sugden A48 class A amplifier. We bought ours in 1973. It is still one of the best-sounding amplifiers I have ever heard (and I've had a few). It is a wonderful design and ours is still going strong. It was launched to an underwhelming press response. I rest my case.

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