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Dragons’ Den: A little humiliation in business isn’t a bad thing

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I read with interest the article criticising the Dragon’s Den TV programme by Jonathan Richards.

Whilst I understand his sentiments for reactions to potential Entrepreneurs for TV Show audiences, in my experience this reflects real life. True entrepreneurs will view the Dragon’s Den show as amusement rather than a bible for starting their business model.

When I started in business 35 years ago as a commercial photographer there was an adage that you were “only as good as your last job”. This is as true today as it has always been. 

There were times when I presented my photography work to Advertising Agencies which was publicly “ridiculed” by Creative Directors. You then had a choice of either repeating the job overnight – or accept the fact you would never work for that agency again. True entrepreneurs will take the humiliation.

The same scenario works in the sales business. You make 20 calls to potential clients and get “knocked” 19 times but you are driven to keep going until you get the one that takes the call and you get a meeting. 

This happened to me countless times during the growth of TPS Visual Communications. After losing a contract with a very large client 5 years into the business, we had no choice but to go out and get more clients or face closing the business altogether. 

In my case this involved writing to every Visual Merchandising Manager in the Retail Industry who in 99% of cases either did not bother to reply or take my calls. After 2 months of negative responses I finally got a “come in and see us” meeting with the then Visual Manager of Dorothy Perkins.

He gave us a transparency and asked for a proof from it for the following morning. (The business was then doing short run, large format photographic colour printing). In the event the proof was taken in and the result was “ridiculed” by the Department Head as the green in the image did not match the garment. 

I then asked for another chance to get it right and took the garment with me back to my studio. The following morning we took a proof back to a perfect colour match – something that no other printer in London had been able to achieve. That company then became one of our biggest clients for more than 10 years.

The purpose of the story is that humiliation sometimes brings out the best spirit in an entrepreneur. A true entrepreneur thrives on the knocks, refuses to be beaten by them and increases the determination to succeed at all odds.

Similarities can be seen in all sportsmen, from race car drivers, to football teams.
They don’t collapse after being beaten a couple of times but learn from the mistakes and try harder.

Entrepreneurs need the knocks to gain the staying power in the long run. Dragons Den is certainly harsh on people sometimes but true entrepreneurs will take the humiliation, rise to the challenge, learn from it and move forward the stronger for it.

Keep the programme as it is – its great fun to watch. A sister show that gives a bit more depth to how products are subsequently brought to market would be a good addition though.

Lawrie Alderman is the director chairman of TPS Visual Communications

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