The best business school (and cheap, too!)

I heart Dragons’ Den, the best “reality” show around.  It features 5 highly successful entrepreneurs (the “Dragons”) who have experience building companies, have money to burn, and are looking for the next great idea to invest their venture capital.  Entrepreneurs pitch their idea, state the value of the company and make an offer to the Dragons.  The Dragons decide whether or not they love the idea so much that they invest in the company with their own funds.  In the U.S., Dragons’ Den is essentially Shark Tank (but is, alas, a more superior version). 

Looking for money for your latest HR venture? Brush up on the basics of the perfect pitch.

This show is so great, it should be mandated viewing for all HR professionals.  If you’re looking to brush up on your business know-how, then tune in.  Here is a recap of what I’ve learned so far in my free business school: 

To sell an idea, tell a compelling story.  There are no PowerPoint presentations here!  It’s a bedtime story for adults, talking about the inspired way you came up with the idea and describing your vision.  The story seems to get the Dragons more excited than the actual product. 

Show decision-makers the money.  The Dragons react positively when shown sales figures, profit margins, revenue, projections or target market size.  They’re not looking for a novel or again, a PowerPoint presentation.  They are most excited when these numbers are concisely presented to them on a 3 x 5 recipe card.  After the deal is sealed with a handshake, the Dragons have their staff look at the detailed fine print. 

Promote a greater cause, while making money.  If the idea you’re presenting makes money and promotes a greater good (e.g. environment), the Dragons will definitely be interested.  They want to make money but they are also interested in leaving a legacy. 

Prove that you’ve done your grunt work and that your idea is viable.  Your idea may be brilliant but if you haven’t yet invested any of your own time / money / life to bring that idea to life, no one is interested.  Put it all on the line and prove your idea works before presenting it to anyone else. 

Make a realistic claim on the value of your idea.  One of the biggest mistakes that entrepreneurs make in their presentation to the Dragons is an overvaluation of their company.  You may think $1 million is a realistic valuation but it’s more than likely that the Dragons think your idea is worth a lot less.  When you inflate the value of your idea, company – or even yourself – you lose credibility.  Do the long division and make sure that the cost/benefit analysis is real.
One frequently heard quote on the show:  “Don’t be greedy”. 

Understand the trends.  The population is aging… provide services and products to assist them.  The new generation is entering the workforce… figure out how to tap into their energy and offer work/life balance.  Figure out what people need first and then offer it.  

Understand your audience.  Know who you’re pitching to and whose purse strings you’re after.  Each Dragon has a different background and different spending habits.  Figure out who you want to convince and learn everything about them.  Then, target your presentation to what they care about. 

Now go into the world, HR’ers.  Talk the business talk and go make us proud in 2010.

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3 Responses

  1. I heart it too! My kids (8 &12) watch it with me, and once when we had a power outage, we had to re-enact it, since we would be missing the broadcast. I figure it is better to start them young, and my 12 year old is very observant and can often tell when they are going to make an offer. I consider it part of their “consumer education”.

    The other aspect that I like is that they often invest in the person not necessarily the product or idea, but recognize the passion or humility of the “pitcher”, which is another good lesson – be real.

    It’s also a good show to watch for those non-verbal communication cues – when did you lose their interest? what was their initial reaction when you entered the den? and how can you think on your feed to connect, which is relevant for anyone giving a presentation, especially to busy and powerful people.

    I’ll think of you tonight (Wednesday) while we all tune in!

    • Oooh, good point, Holly! The Dragons do invest in the person… if they believe in the person and have respect for their skills, they are more willing to work with them. Great insight from you to be real and be the type of person the Dragons want to work with.

  2. […] should he care, indeed? 2010 January 7 by hollymacdonald Strangely enough, my friend Helen blogged about Dragon’s Den the other day, as a great way to hone business acumen.  I could not agree with her more.  Last […]

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