Deborah Meaden is one of the UK’s leading authorities on business and one of the UK’s most successful female entrepreneurs, becoming well known for her “no nonsense” approach as one of the Dragons on the extremely popular BBC2 series Dragons’ Den.
Business Leader Magazine sat down with Deborah to talk about her advice for entrepreneurs, what she looks for in a business venture and what it takes to be a success.
In your opinion, what does it take to be a success in business?
That’s a difficult question, if only there was a magic wand. Typically, success comes about through an alignment of good timing, commitment and a nose for knowing what the mood of the nation is; and where there is demand for a certain product of service.
You also must be able to take calculated risks and be able to know the difference between a risk and a risk too far. There are no dead certs in life but if you do nothing, nothing happens. It’s also important to apply yourself fully when you have taken that risk and not allow anyone to knock you off your course.
There are plenty people out there who are happy to say don’t bother. I always say once you’ve committed, you absolutely go for it.
Does good judgement come from experience, or can it be trained?
Good judgement and emotional intelligence are present in all the successful entrepreneurs I know. You can hone good judgement, and this comes through experience, making mistakes and learning from them.
With emotional intelligence, it is more something that is part of somebody’s make-up. For example, I’m a scanner – I scan the world and I am interested to know what the mood is in my town, county and country.
That isn’t present in everybody and some people are very focused and narrow things down; and just hook onto one thing.
What would you say has been most crucial to your success?
Confidence breeds confidence and I’ve always been an extremely confident person. Being confident can be a good thing but it can can also lead you to getting into all sorts of trouble.
In my case it has helped that I didn’t really know what I couldn’t do, I just did things. I just thought something was a clever idea and just went on and did it.
In business, you’ve got to have that belief that you know what you’re doing and while you’ve always got to listen to other people, at the end of the day you’ve got to have the confidence to say this is my business, I’ve heard everything and now I’m going to make a decision.
When you are investing in a new venture, what are the main factors that you look for?
The dream ticket is when you get an interesting product that has interesting, investable people behind it.
I am always looking for better – and that must be higher, faster, cheaper, more expensive, more luxury, whatever it is.
What I am deeply disappointed in is when somebody comes into the den and they can’t explain why anyone would want to buy it or why it’s better. They think it’s a great idea, but they can’t explain why it’s better than anything that currently exists.
I want to know why it’s better and I want to know that the person, even if they’re not pitch perfect, has been honest and truthful in their pitch and I want to get to the point where I believe they get it.
Also, at the end of the day I expect them to run their business, I’m not going to run it for them.
What does the future hold for you?
The absolute joy of not having the slightest idea what he future holds, I hope. I’ve spent my life planning. When I was in the holiday park business I’d already started doing next year’s tariffs in May, so I was always thinking at least a year ahead and living a year ahead too.
Now, people expect me to be a planned person with all these goals to achieve but I’m having the absolute joy of thinking I can do pretty much what I want to do, and I am open to opportunity.
I’m scanning the horizon and if something comes up that I want to do, then I’ll do it. Strictly Come Dancing was never a plan, they just phoned me. Dragons’ Den was never a plan either, they just phoned me too. Some of the most exciting things that have happened in my life have come completely off plan.