Fresh back from London (I love London and still find myself spending at least two days a week down there, but am always grateful to get back to our beautiful home in the Peak District), and full of renewed inspiration for entrepreneurship...
Yesterday I interviewed Karan Bilimoria (founder of Cobra Beer) for my forthcoming book on entrepreneurship - and then went to the Big Fish entrepreneur's networking event http://www.bigfishnetwork.co.uk/sponsor.aspx in the evening to hear my old pal and co-Dragon Doug Richard talk about his entrepreneurial experiences.
Karan is the most charming man; newly appointed as a member of the House of Lords and now moving in terribly high circles. We both started our businesses back in 1989 and have both faced business meltdowns; his in 1998 when, similarly to me, the banks pulled the plug - the difference being he managed to survive! Since then, he has gone international with the Cobra Beer brand and now has the vision to take sales to £1billion - and will probably float in 2008/9.
His new book is a great read too - get it at http://www.amazon.co.uk/Bottled-Business-Gassy-Guide-Entrepreneurship/dp/1841127264/ref=pd_bbs_sr_1/202-8916901-1947858?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1182260901&sr=8-1
Doug was in brilliant form and actually it is the first time I had heard him speak and tell his own story. He started out building software businesses in the States before coming to the UK and becoming an Angel Investor.
I always felt that Doug was one of the best ever Dragons - certainly the cleverest, sharpest and most entertaining; the Show just isn't the same without him.
On that note, I saw at the weekend the BBC has just announced the line up for Series 5 - Richard Farleigh has gone in favour of James Caan - some much needed fresh blood, but personally I would have kept Richard Farleigh - who represented the only human face of business on the Panel.
Dragons' Den may be good ratings fodder for the BBC but as a business show has totally lost all credibility - and that is a view consistently echoed by the entrepreneurs I meet at business events up and down the country. The old pin-stripe suited 'greed is good' Alpha Male (& Alpha Female) face of business is now so dated, it's really time that the BBC woke up to the fact that there are a whole new generation of entrepreneurs out there doing business in a much more ethical, collaborative way, and with real integrity and respect for others.
And, ironically, it is exactly those types of business that are increasingly turning customers on too.