Unlike some reality TV shows on our screens right now, BBC2’s Dragon’s Den does the unthinkable – the cameras watch what happens as ‘drama’ unfolds. And because of this, the show is all the more watchable. Hence in the first episode of the new series last night, we were greeted with what appeared to be an interminable silence as the first ‘budding entrepreneur’ to pitch stood without speaking in front of the dragons.
Finally, while viewers cringed, Bea London asked if she should speak and having been told by the bemused dragons that was what they were all waiting for, she began. Only then, having clearly revised her turnover and profit for the first three years of her business – setting up hair extensions salons within department stores where people can pop in and have them done while they’re shopping – she was flummoxed by the rest of the questions. What was her balance sheet? What were her costs? What in numbers was her profit per set of hair extensions? The painful embarrassment of not knowing these things was palpable and any viewer would surely have sympathised with her plight.
It wasn’t long before most of the dragons – with the shock that this young woman couldn’t give them all these details etched on their faces – declared themselves out. She was saved by Hilary Devey who despite the young woman’s lack of ability to grapple with business figures, recognised how well Ms London had done so far. The only problem was – having been persuaded by Hilary that they would ‘make money together’ – in return for £85,000 investment the entrepreneur ended up giving away a rather large 40 per cent (she had offered ten per cent).
But the simplicity is the joy of Dragon’s Den. There are no gimmicks, and it would seem no ‘clever’ manipulation of the audience. Thankfully (unlike so many other shows!) we are always spared chats at home with any entrepreneurs before they take their chance at their business ‘audition’. So, as with every hopeful, apart from knowing Bea London was a ‘mum of three’ that was all the information we were given. Selling themselves as individuals – something so important in business – is up to that entrepreneur to do during his or her grilling in front of the dragons.
Dragon’s Den is also vital viewing for anyone setting up in business. Apart from having an original idea that preferably cannot be copied and a unique selling point, the point of being in business is to be profitable – as is constantly pointed out by the dragons. Yet, it is astonishing how many, like Bea London, go into the den quite unprepared. The fact many small businesses do not have a handle on their outgoings and costs is of course one of the main reasons why so many fail.
The Dragons – Duncan Bannatyne, Theo Paphitis, Deborah Meaden, Hilary Devey and Peter Jones – also shine not only with their sharp business acumen but also their personalities. Last night Deborah Meadon tried to outwit her fellow dragons by making the first offer to three young men who wanted £120,000 to invest in Skinny Dip, their company making mobile phone covers and accessories. But after some debate between them they eventually opted to go with Peter Jones, who’d made a subsequent offer.
It all went to make a fascinating insight into every day dealings in the business world.
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