The star speaker today was Touker Suleyman, who it is fabled to have bought a failing shirts maker in England for a £1 and turned it into a company which now enjoys £21 million in turnover. This is a man with a naturally quick wit and incisive mind, who enjoys to work hard, and seems a gifted and persuasive salesman, whose honesty impresses greatly.
"Just by being here today is going to change lives," he says enthusiastically. "I am not a speaker. I have a day job." That is managing his chain of retail shops and exporters.
"My expectation is to be hardworking, passionate and a good communicator....When you wake up, you know you are doing something.
"If you love what you do, you will be happy. Be passionate about it. Be focused. Don't have four ideas and chase all of them (focus on one).
"You need to have goals : One month, 6 months, a year. When I bought Hawes & Curtis for £1, it had debts of a million(!)
"There is only one king in business : cash. To pay your bills, keep it going. Work out your cash flow. If you haven't got cash flow, you need to know what you can afford to invest."
The following may seem harsh judgement, but seems born of reality. "If there's a business worth £500 million but no cash flow, it's bust."
What have the low points in business done for him? "The low points have made me a better person, to appreciate the simple things in life, to count on friends who will help you out in tough times."
Property has made him money, held for the long run. He was very inspired by Richard Branson, who "took an upside-down business and turned it around".
What does he think about the future? "Technology is going at a phenomenal rate. The simplest little thing can help you make it. You see youngsters making fortunes marketing some everyday item.
Before being confirmed to speak at the Business Show, Touker was asked whether he would do a screen test. He wanted to give something back to society, to share his story, so he agreed. Of course, he appears on Dragon's Den (he does look similar to Theo Paphitis).
What's his day job? Fashion retail and exports.
Regarding today's Business Show, he was full praise. "I have never seen so many business opportunities as here." That is so. A number of businesses in Cloud computing, Internet marketing, Web hosting, Website designing, Accountants, Lawyers, regional development departments offering funds to suitable companies, representatives of overseas organisations offering advice on doing business with their respective countries (such as Sharjah, India, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Poland), etc, etc.
Touker gave a Question and Answer session for 10 minutes.
Question was about Focus. "Choose what gives you the best return."
What else is important? "Quality is the most important."
Touker was an Articled Clerk at a Chartered Accountants in the 1970s. At that time, most people were making money in London in Fashion and Properties. Touker started by selling his grandma's clothes to her friends, and he expanded from there. That's when he became an Entrepreneur.
Q: If I am working part time at my business, when do I turn to it full time?
Touker : Everybody starts working for themselves part time. Once you believe you can earn more if you dive in full time, take the jump. We can't all walk on water."
Q: What do you think about Africa as a region to trade with?
Touker : My company ships shirts to West Africa.
Q : How can we start with little finance?
Touker : There has never been a better time for raising finance. Start with your own and family money. Once it's working, you'll be able to borrow more from banks and other lenders.
Q: You said you would have liked David Cameron to attend this show. Do you think Britain stay in or come out of Europe?
Touker : I agree with Mr Cameron's strategy : Stay in, but with renegotiation.
Q: Some say failure is part of success. What is your view on this?
Touker : I bought Bamber Stores when I was 27. They said it had assets of £27 million. The auditors were Coopers and Lybrand or somebody.....I forget. We looked at it, and considered a Rights Issue. But the company turned out to be £28 million in the red! Lesson learnt was Do you due diligence. Invest your time and some money studying it before you pump your money in.
In Touker's view, most of manufacturing industry has moved offshore from Britain. What may have worked fifteen years ago may not work today. (Use today's market intelligence for today's business).
Q: What would you say is most important In business?
Touker : Cash is king. You need cash flow to keep business going, and expansion if possible.
Q: I am 23, I have started my company. I wish to grow it by recruiting young people as apprentices and interns, perhaps people of my age. How should I choose?
Touker : Choose those who respect you. Who trust you. Who can see you are first in, last out each day. Who can see you are the boss.
A small band of people gathered around Touker, to have their photograph taken with him, to shake hands, to share a few words. (I'll be glad to hear what Touker thinks of my blog.)
I will write up about some more people I met at the Business Show today, and put it on line in the next few days.