Six ways to defeat your own dragon
Not a regular Dragons’ Den watcher? Fear not. Our six tips will help you defeat your Dragon – and no horse, sword or shield is required (unless you’re about to set up some kind of Knight School).
You would imagine that small business owners, or those considering becoming one, would be glued to Dragons’ Den whenever possible, learning all they could. Yet even would-be entrepreneurs who know they’re going on the show don’t always watch it beforehand and learn the valuable lessons it can teach them. We know this because many of them seem totally unprepared, often dissolving into a puddle when a dragon asks them for solid facts and figures.
Here are the tips they should have picked up by watching the show.
Be Pitch Perfect
Plan and practise what you will say. If language skills aren’t your forte, find someone with better literacy skills to produce a good written version and then rehearse, rehearse, rehearse. You may not be on TV, but you must still try to sound confident and in command of your material. Talking of material, take any physical props you need but keep your presentation as simple as possible. It sounds obvious, but ensure any demonstration product you’re planning to use works exactly as it should, and if you can’t avoid using unfamiliar technology, make sure that come pitch day it is not Getting flustered because you have no idea how to go back to a previous Powerpoint slide or turn off a projector is not going to give the best impression – and nor will a wonder-gadget that doesn’t work.
Present your USP
Know your Unique Selling Point and if possible, try to name and explain it before you’re asked to do so. If you’re about to launch yourself into a market filled with thousands of similar competitors, then anyone considering investing in your business or awarding you a grant, partnership or affiliation deal will want to be assured that you’re offering something different. Convince them that you are – and be prepared to prove it.
Have the Facts and Figures at Your Fingertips
Having printed material to refer to is fine, and you should have printed business plans and projections to show your Dragon (needless to say, ensure these are accurate, immaculate, easy to read and word perfect). But any entrepreneur worth their salt knows the key figures off by heart. If you’ve been in business for eighteen months and you don’t know what your net profit was for the first year, then you won’t instil confidence in anybody – least of all a wily, business-savvy Dragon.
Be Sure Your Concept is Copy-Proof
If your USP is a concept or physical invention, ensure you make it yours (and that you’re legally able to do so). It’s marvellous to have a great idea, but if another business is able – and legally allowed – to replicate your product or service, it stops being your USP and becomes a trend. Nobody is going to invest in something that a larger, well-established company could hijack and promote far more successfully.
Measure Your Market
Be prepared to discuss the potential market in detail. Is there a risk of saturation? Is it a limited niche that you nonetheless believe to be lucrative – why? How will you expand or move on? How will you retain your customers? Know your target audience and be prepared to tell your Dragon where those customers live and work, what they buy, how they spend their leisure time and money, and how much disposable income they have, particularly if what you’re selling isn’t a necessity.
Inspire them to Invest
You are selling your business to your Dragon in much the same way as you will have to sell your products or services – by presenting scenarios and stories that convince them their investment portfolio is better off with your business than without it. Show samples, give demonstrations and recount customer experiences. Weave stories and describe potential scenarios where your product or service can make a difference – and most importantly, sell your Dragon the story of you.
How did you get here? Do you have the necessary skills or is this just a pipe-dream? If you don’t have the necessary skills or contacts, how will you acquire them? Perhaps you plan to employ others to fill your skill gaps? Make it clear you know yourself and your limitations, and you’ve included these factors in your planning.
Keep these tips in mind next time a dragon comes your way. No horse, shield or sword required.