Oh No! 2 x 2 = 5 ??!!

Imagine. You have 5 Dragons, 3 cameras, a production team, and soon to be 3 million people staring at you; and you’re trying to figure out why apparently you’ve just stated the equivalent of 2 x 2 = 5 on national TV. That would be mightily embarrassing.

You’d thought long and very (very) hard about doing the show in the first place, because the stakes were high, and frankly it's scary. Reputation and self-esteem is everything; and although everyone said “you’ll be great”, you didn’t want to risk very publicly screwing up.

But you did it for the business. As an entrepreneur battling for every ounce of awareness, there was no choice. An audience of 3 million viewers, PR off the back of it, and the ability to claim “as seen on Dragon’s Den” was just too compelling. After all, “He who dares…”.

So given that pre-show due diligence suggested funding from the Dragons was not all it was cracked up to be, there were just 2 simple objectives. PR the product, and don’t make an idiot of yourself (a.k.a, make sure you get your numbers right!).

The pitch is more like 75 mins long vs the edited 10 mins you see on TV. Peter Jones was at his most dragon-like grumpy. My valuation was “ridiculous”, “an insult” and the product “just a bag of net and ropes”. A little harsh, but I can live with that as par for the course. As a P&G chief once said; “Halitosis is better than no breath at all.”

I’m pretty good with my numbers. So over the hour I'd reeled off a diverse range of all sorts of useful forecasts, market sizes, financial projections, and other. Which meant that thankfully my 2 objectives were still in play – PR the product, and don’t screw up.

... until the arrival of the simplest of possible questions from Touker. “So Jonathan. Talk to me about your cost price, margins and retails”. No problem. I correctly reeled them off, and then full of confidence (fatally) decided to be proactively helpful.

We all have our shortcut ways of doing certain calculations. So I spontaneously volunteered one of mine. “If you want to get from ex vat sell price to inc vat retail, just times it by 2.5” I helpfully offered. No..ooo! Times 2.0 is the number I always use for a 40% retail margin. Why had I said 2.5?! That’s the rough 50% margin shortcut. Luckily... no one noticed, including me though. And the conversation happily moved on.

Until 10 minutes later…”Jonathan. You said your cost was 75?”. ‘Yes’. “You said to times it by 2.5”. ‘Yes’ ... I said repeating and so subconsciously reinforcing my own mistake. “Well that makes your retail price about £190 not £149?”. ‘No it doesn’t... Of course not … But… Actually… Yes it does… That can’t be right… ’. Oh fuck.

Maybe I should have quickly figured the mistake in my helpful but unnecessary offer. Or rather maybe I should not have offered it in the first place. But the pressure was on. Imagine…

You have 5 Dragons, 3 cameras, a production team, and soon to be 3 million people staring at you; and you’re trying to figure out why apparently you’ve just said something like 2 x 2 = 5 on national TV. Oh dear!

Two objectives, … but only one achieved. Please send all comm's to my new address… in Panama. : ) : )

... and buy an Open Goaaal!