Secrets of success, by Dirty Tricks Inc

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The Independent Online
Embarrassed officials at the Department of Trade and Industry are withdrawing government advice to small businesses which recommends dirty tricks such as going through competitors' rubbish bins, lying about whom you represent and befriending secretaries of rival firms ``with access to photocopiers''.

The advice is contained in a 40-page Crown-copyrighted book called Marketing Your Business. It is given out to firms attending nationwide business skills seminars. The DTI's own logo and the advertising trademark of its Enterprise Initiative are printed on the front.

It urges the street-smart entrepreneur to ``pretend to be a researcher for a newspaper or magazine'' and contact rival companies to carry out a bogus survey for a fictitious organisation. Claiming to be a student doing a dissertation also comes highly recommended by the DTI for getting data on business rivals.

The book, written on behalf of the Department by a private consultancy, advises ambitious business people to make friends with receptionists, van drivers, sales representatives and ``secretaries with access to customer lists and photocopier''. It recommends looking at cartons in rubbish bins to find out who suppliers are, carrying out fictitious surveys, following rival vans and reps, and pretending to be from bogus organisations.

One businessman who attended a seminar at Manchester Conference Centre last week said: ``I went hoping to learn about business. I didn't expect to be instructed in how to con my way through life.''

In a week dominated by the Government's attack on the Guardian over a faked letter, the existence of the document was greeted with alarm by officials at the DTI last night. The department said: ``This book has been in existence some time, we think. It is still part of official course material given out at small businesses seminars. But we are now taking immediate steps to withdraw it.''

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