What Can Small Business Owners Learn from TV Series Like The Apprentice and Dragons’ Den?

January 19th, 2016


With the return of Dragons’ Den to our screens, a new batch of hopefuls are lining up to bid on TV for funding for their ventures. Both this show and The Apprentice have proved hugely popular with audiences – and part of the appeal is seeing the Dragons or Lord Sugar shooting down badly thought-out ideas or inept projects.

But, on the more positive side, what can the owners of Britain’s small businesses, or would-be entrepreneurs, gain from watching these shows? Here business office space providers Basepoint take a look at some of the lessons to be learned.

Lessons from The Apprentice

Being Realistic: Some of the contestants’ descriptions of themselves at the start are wildly over-optimistic. For instance, one candidate in the past claimed to have a “brain like Einstein” and  another claimed to be “business perfection personified”. However, all the candidates find it harder actually carrying out business tasks than thinking up soundbites. The message here is that it’s good to be confident and determined, but at the same time there’s a need to be realistic, both about your own talents and about any new projects you are embarking on.

Checking Out the Market and Pricing: This ties in closely with the previous point. Time and again contestants come unstuck by launching a product or a service nobody wants to buy or pricing it wrongly. It’s equally damaging to set a price too high so nobody will buy, or too low so that it doesn’t make any profit or even cover costs.

Effective Leadership and Teamwork: Every viewer of The Apprentice will be only too aware of the  kinds of problems which are caused by the lack of these qualities during the weekly challenges. It’s a recipe for trouble when nobody leads a project properly – or alternatively when the project leader decides just to do their own thing and ignores other people’s suggestions.

One memorable example of bad leadership was when a project leader organised an upmarket coach trip, but insisted on passengers joining in a sing-song. The discussions between the candidates when arranging a project always show how important proper organisation and planning are, with a chance to get input from everyone, while at the same time being clear about who is doing what.

Lessons from Dragons’ Den

Working Out the Figures: Real-world business funders hopefully won’t breathe as much fire – and sarcasm – as the Dragons sometimes do! But it’s still essential to convince anyone you are asking to invest or put up a loan that you have a properly worked-out, sustainable business idea. This means you need to know all the figures and include everything which is relevant. Here it helps to get expert financial advice both at the outset and when you are looking to make any changes to your business.

Having a Unique Selling Point: As with The Apprentice, Dragons’ Den also stresses the importance of being sure there is a market for your product and looking at how that market is going to grow – and making sure you have the right selling points. Many products have all the Dragons declaring they are “out” because it isn’t at all clear who would buy the item or service in question, or how it differs from those already on the market.

Finding Mentors and Getting Expert Input: Many of the people coming on the show aren’t just motivated by wanting cash input. They also hope that, if they get one of the Dragons on board, they will have them as mentors and benefit from their expertise and contacts. This underlines the importance of mentorship and experienced business contacts when starting out in the real business world.

Both series have come in for a lot of criticism over the years, with claims they give a misleading view of business. It is also feared they could create false expectations, with people thinking they can become a big success overnight.

However, there’s no doubt that the shows have also inspired some people to start up their own businesses. Often Dragons’ Den in particular is used as a format for smaller sessions and workshops for school or college students to pitch their ideas to local business people. This can help to build expertise and confidence, and stand them in good stead if they go on to create their own small businesses later on.

Basepoint Business Centres offer the Mibase business support service for licensees taking on business office space. This is a round-the-clock service giving access to experienced mentors by means of Skype, live chat and Messenger, as well as giving the ability to exchange knowledge with other small business owners. There are business centres in 31 different locations, including Eastcote, Bournemouth and Crawley.

Business Office Space  – Follow the link to contact Basepoint and find out more about our range of services.