HR & Management

Hilary Devey: Interview with the new Dragon

6 min read

28 July 2011

Hilary Devey makes her debut appearance on Dragons' Den this Sunday. Why did she join the Den? What kind of businesses interest her? We interview the "new girl" Hilary Devey.

Hilary Devey will be joining Peter Jones, Theo Paphitis and Duncan Bannatyne on series nine of Dragons’ Den – with the first episode airing this Sunday (July 31).

Bolton-born Hilary Devey, who replaces James Cann on the show, is the founder of pallet delivery and distribution business Pall-Ex, which pulls in sales of more than £100m a year.

Ahead of the programme, we decided to quiz new Dragon Hilary Devey…

Which Dragon did you enjoy working with most and why?

Hilary Devey: I have enjoyed working with all of the Dragons. I think that we all bring different insights and skills to the Den, thanks to our rather diverse range of professional and personal backgrounds. 

Did you clash with any of the other Dragons?

Hilary Devey: Well, my lips must be sealed on this, but I can tell you that off camera we all get on extremely well. They have all been very nice to this new girl! 

Which particular sectors interest you? What kinds of businesses can you see yourself investing in?

Hilary Devey: I have made some unexpected investments. I’m not allowed to go into specifics, but let’s just say that I have chosen to back a variety of companies and I have surprised even myself with some of my choices.

Why did you decide to become a Dragon?

Hilary Devey: I’ve always enjoyed giving talks at charity events and business conferences – people seemed genuinely interested in the story of my business and my often difficult personal struggles – and these led to my appearing on The Secret Millionaire. I suppose it was my appearance on this show which led to the call from the BBC. 

When did you start filming Dragons’ Den?

Hilary Devey: Filming began only a couple of months ago. It has been a startlingly rapid turnaround. 

Having watched Dragons’ Den in the past, which one business would have you liked to invest in?

Hilary Devey: It’s hard to pick a favourite episode from previous series, but you do remember the pitches that have gone spectacularly wrong every bit as much as you remember that ones that went well. I suppose I am with the public when I cite Levi Roots as having been one of the most impressive businesses on Dragons’ Den – it was that magical combination of a product that revolved around a really charismatic personality. 

Tell us one thing no-one else knows about you.

Hilary Devey: I have no secrets! I’m not meaning to dodge the question when I answer that what you see is really what you get. 

What car do you drive?

Hilary Devey: I am fortunate enough to have a Rolls Royce.

Economy, business or first class?

Hilary Devey: I like to travel business or first class. I wouldn’t go out of my way to pay through the nose if the particular airline had a perfectly adequate economy class – but I do like to be comfortable when traveling. 

Most extravagant purchase?

Hilary Devey: My most extravagant purchases – and the treat I allow myself – are clothes. I am a huge fan of Alexander McQueen, and have to admit that I have a pretty sizeable wardrobe. 

Most played song on your iPod?

“Hero” by Enrique Iglesias

Favourite business book?

Hilary Devey: I don’t really have a best business book. I think that you learn far more from practical application than reading any of the hundreds of “How To” books that are out there. 

Worst business moment?

Hilary Devey: I don’t really have a worst business moment as such. I think that in developing my business there have been some really tough times, but thankfully my focus has meant that I have only realised that they were low points in retrospect. 

Best business moment?

Hilary Devey: Pride should be ongoing, and you should never pat yourself on the back when you should be making phone calls instead!

Who is your mentor?

Hilary Devey: My father was one of the people who probably most instilled my work ethic. In spite of finding himself – through no fault of his own – bankrupted in the early sixties, when a supplier further up the chain went under, he persevered and succeeded. 

In your view, what’s the “next big thing”?

Hilary Devey: To be the next big thing, British companies need to look at how they can be competitive in a global marketplace. Expanding the Pall-Ex model into Italy and Romania was an acknowledgment that for British businesses to succeed, they cannot depend only on the domestic economy. If you have a great idea, it will work anywhere.