Thursday, 27 December 2007

There's no business like showbusiness...

I was interested to note that all the non-business commentators featured on the 90 minute Dragons' Den 'Christmas Special' were comedians.

The penny must have finally dropped with the BBC that what started out as a credible business show is now regarded as something of a joke.


Mr Robot said...

Gets to something, when you forget to watch something, realise and switch over half an hour in - then decide to tape it - only to decide later on that you'd rather watch match of the day - so you tape over the Dragons Den tape you taped on 2 hours before.

Somehow, i don't feel that i missed that much though - especially as Spurs won 5 -1.

Human Dynamics said...


I'd agree that the business model of 'explain yourself in 3 minutes' and then recieve tons of criticism is not completely accurate. Nonetheless, in terms of comedians, there is many a true word spoken in jest!

All the best

Peter Cook

Author - Sex, Leadership and Rock'n'Roll

bluemonkey said...

Dragons Den is a television show aimed at a much more than a business audience. I think of it as X-factor for business, I don't really take it seriously.
I think the xmas special was quite boring as the whole '10 rules of investment' were obvious and I could tell which clips were going to be shown. Without the funny comments, I probably wouldn't have watched it.

Also, mr robot, I was down the lane for that match, I knew we would win but 5-1 really takes it. Though it seems the reading match was better? I'm out of the country and wasn't able to watch it anywhere.

Mr Robot said...

Hi everyone,
Here is a much more interesting and comical programme format than Dragons Den.

Take 1 Jester.
Introduce him into the boardroom of a major corporation. Lets say - RLD.

[Jester] says lots of speculative, yet funny things about how the directors don't got a clue - in front of their shareholders>

[Jester] waits for a response
If it is clear from the response that Jester has identified weak points

[Jester]homes in on weak points - until Jester has clearly paid for his time (and more)

Agree with Peter Cook - comedy is a much underrated vector.

Rachel for Jester ok!
Nice one BM - You Spurs!!!!!!!!!!

Mr Robot said...

Forthcoming ad for a new TV channel called Counter-Strike TV -
and Dragons Den sequel -
The Revenge of the Court Jester!!

Now that really would be educational and fun!!!

Duniya said...

Rachel, there appears to be a lot of sour grapes on your part. Dragon's Den always had an entertainment value in that the viewer could take delight in the gladiatorial nature of the show. It hasn't changed since you were on it, only the characters have changed. If it was a purely educational business show about venture capital, marketing innovations or scaling up small businesses, it would be a completely different format. The format of Dragon's Den is both educational and entertaining, and far more so than Alan Sugar's Apprentice programme, which takes itself far too seriously. I also think you seem to have it in for Peter Jones and Theo Paphitis and perhaps there is more background to this. If there is, it is a bit pathetic to take swipes at them on a blog. Move on.

Mr Robot said...

It is not pathetic to take swipes at people - it is by doing so that you can someday (when its out of your system) move on.

I also think it shows a sign of honesty. If you think someone is a creep - say it to their face and publicly. It really doesn't do anyone any good - holding back.

I am sure Theo and Peter - are big enough and ugly enough to take the criticism. Much of which is probably true - (if their TV persona is anything to go by.

Duniya said...

"If you think someone is a creep - say it to their face and publicly."

Sure, say it once. But Rachel Elnaugh is getting a little bit obsessional. As for Peter Jones and Theo Paphitis, I agree that they are egomaniac and aggressive. That's why they make good television, as opposed to being good bosses, business partners or friends.

I also think the Dragons ham it up to fulfill certain roles. As I can recall, Rachel Elnaugh never came across as a gentle, understanding person when she was on the series. In fact, the only "nice guys" featured on the show are Doug Richards, Richard Farleigh and James Caan - and I think it is the producers' intention to have a range of characters. Rachel Elnaugh and Deborah Meaden fit into the "ice maiden businesswoman" stereotype, Duncan Bannatyne is the shabby working-class boy made good, Peter Jones is the arrogant Tory Boy and Theo Paphitis and his predecessor Simon Woodroffe are the no-nonsense "I never needed a degree to become a millionaire" guys. It's "reality" television, for god's sake. The audience loves to hate, loves the drama and conflict and enjoys seeing these stereotypes. I've seen Meaden on TV outside of her Dragon's Den role and she seems completely different to the persona she projects as a businesswoman. I would imagine that Paphitis and Jones are also not as bad as they like to make out.

The educational element to the programme is to highlight the basic requirements of starting a business. If someone cannot grasp their figures or shows little initiative or originality, then the Dragons have every right to tear their ideas apart - just as Rachel Elnaugh did when she was in the show.

It's no use Rachel moaning about the showbiz element of the programme when she was a part of this little reality TV circus. I'd like to see her talking about other aspects of celebrity businessmen beyond Dragon's Den. I also think she needs to lighten up a bit and perhaps embrace this celebrity culture and move on.

Rachel Elnaugh said...


Absolutely disagree.

Re-watch the first series of the show (it's now available on DVD). The comments the Dragons made in that original series were heartfelt, and not manufactured just to maximise individual airtime or to make the Dragon delivering the comments look good on camera.

Just my opinion, but the current show lacks the originality, authenticity and edginess of that first series, which started out life as a true business investment show, not a vehicle for the Dragons' now celebrity-sized egos.


Duniya said...

You don't need to buy the DVD if you have Freeview - it is being re-run on Dave:

Mr Robot said...

Think about designing a new company, a new product a new brand. This brand is innovative, entertaining and dynamic. This brand generates significant interest and notiriety around world.

Think about how much effort, how much genius it must take to design a "Red Letter Days" vs. take over someone elses business or act as consultant.

Then think about how you might feel if it was all suddenly taken away from you - without regard to your real investment.

If you are a flash harry entrepreneur then you might be back in the market the very next day. But authentic brand owners can take many years to recover - and many of them never do.

mike_b said...

Agree with rachel

It has become too much of a circus - and the worst factor of all - is that the dragons who did not seem to need to radiate arrogance to bolster fragile egos -such as richard farliegh and doug richard all get sacked.

Agree with duniya

Move on rachel...they are all beneath you now...use your blog to make more serious commment about more serious issues

Mr Robot said...

I'd ask them to give me my F* company back - before they really mess it up. RLD is a huge concept.
To big for people who sell pencils or telephones for a living.

Surely there must be some serious ultrapreneurial backers out there who would want to back Rachel?

After all - she is the authentic brand.

Duniya said...

A circus is what people want. So long as the circus has some message, it's OK by me. And that comes through clearly: write a business plan and be realistic about the value of your business before asking for investment. It's amazing that people going to the show seeking investment have not grasped the school-level basics and, frankly, if they have been watching Dragon's Den, they should not be surprised if they are shot down in flames.

Mr Robot: A good entrepreneur is always able to overcome short-term difficulties. Rachel may even feel she's been shafted. My father lost a very good furniture design business because a large corporation really skrewed him over, leading to his bankruptcy with the entire family pulling together to save his home. Within five years, he was a millionaire (richer than he was before) because he had the drive, energy and determination and didn't mind starting from scratch (working temporarily as a double-glazing salesman while he got his business together). There's no point brooding.

I don't think that Rachel spends much time brooding, I think she makes statements about Dragon's Den because that is the one way she's able to communicate with the wider public; people know her for it, so they like to know her opinion. It's just that it's looking a little tired saying the same point over and over again - as I seem to be doing!

For me, the most disappointing element of Rachel's post-RLD career is her comments about women being incapable of IT. A former boss of mine was excellent in IT, my aunt was a university lecturer in IT and there are female entrepreneurs such as Tina Knight who have done well in hi-tech business. It would have been good to see Rachel show the way for female entrepreneurs, instead of confirming this stupid stereotype.

There is probably a large number of women who had professional careers, took time off for children and now the kids are in school they are looking to start a business. This is the market that Rachel can really appeal to.

Joel said...

Hi all

Slightly of the point but...i would love to see a young people version of the show (say 14-19 year olds).

As a 27 yr old entrepreneur, i started my business from stratch, because no one would give me the time of day.

I try to pass on my life lessons learnt to budding young entrepreneurs in my local community and am so amazed to see the wide range of business acumen and creative skills that many young people possess, particularly those who are non-academic.

I wonder how the dragons would react to our Generation X young people? Young people who dont take any nonsense and go through unimaginable trials in their everyday life.

That would be worth seeing.


Duniya said...

Joel: Firstly, as someone educated to a Masters level, I do get tired of the attitude that education does not matter in business. Sometimes you can get away with zero GCSEs, but it is a lot harder. Learning a skill - even if it is a manual skill - can be invaluable to starting a good business. A friend of mine worked in the City, but found it too stressful and started up a handyman business, having learnt a couple of trades at FE college - he is now earning more than he did in the City and employs people. Skills and education need to be cultivated. Moreover, I would like to see engineers, scientists and innovators learn business skills to turn their ideas into profits.

Secondly, I'd like to know whether you ever had any contact with Business Link in your area and what you think of their mentoring. I think this is an area that needs serious quality control and which I think people like Rachel could help enhance.

Mr Robot said...

It is not easy to walk away from something you love. Especially as that something you love is always there to remind you that you walked away from it.

It is like abandoning a child.

If the child does much better without you - you feel bad. If the child does much worse without you - you feel that it is your fault.

It is like a never ending nightmare - that never seems to go away - and you can't do anything about it.

This is the personality type of the highest potential entrprepreneur (the artiste) - but it is also the personality type of the most vulnerable.

Surrounding these people with unconditional love is the only way to get them to fly again.

mike_b said...


Not quite the same thing but did you hear about andrew reynolds initiative?

He gave 10000 school kids a tenner each, and asked them to make what they could. Several came away with 200!

Great experiment..sadly reynolds is misunderstood by many. He really is trying to put money back into the system.

Human Dynamics said...

Mr Robot mentioned jesting,

Hey Mr Robot, thanks for your comments.

Corporate Jesting has been used in British Airways (not Bob Ayling) as a means of 'unsticking stuck up cultures' - I know a fellow OU innovation tutor who is an astro physicists and worked for Abbey National in a similar role.

It is perhaps a sad testimony to large companies that organisational psychology requires them to have 'Ben Elton with an MBA' to shake some sense into them!

If you enjoy pithy humour you might like my tale of entrepreneurial woe of a punk rocker who tried (and failed) to take his fans on a record breaking tour. A great idea, poorly executed - see

All the best

Peter Cook

Mr Robot said...

Cool article Human Dynamics.

There is clearly a role for comedy in business, but one that is tempered with a good deal of business nounce.

I'd like to see a programme where at the beginning (instead of the usual "look how successful this millionaire has always been") you hear all about how many failures they've had - in both their personal and business lives).

Then switch to a scene where a well informed jester is grilling "Mr Gorilla" entrepreneur about his current business affairs.

"In a funny way - of course".

We could call it "people in glass houses shouldn't throw stones".

Ouch... So much pent up resentment Mr Robot!

Seriously though - i agree comedy
is a great tool for "introducing change, for team building, for self-introspection and for cultivating paradigm-shifts.

So many things are left unsaid in business - and i believe this is largely to do with the British stiff upper lip. How much money is wasted because of what goes unsaid.
Room for the court jester - me thinks.

Russell Brand for Prime Minister.