Dragons' Den(From Pitchers Who Got Offers From All Five Dragons!)

Getting selected to pitch to CBC’s famous Dragons’ Den was one of the most exciting things that happened at KANDY Outdoor Flooring in 2014.  We worked hard on all elements of our pitch, and during the taping we received investment offers from all 5 of the Dragons’ on set!  As we look back on our experience, we realize that we may be able to help other hopeful pitchers (like you?).

Stage One:  Knowing When You’re Ready

It’s one thing to really, really want to be on the show… and another to be ready for it. Understand your reasons for wanting to be on the show, because that will make a difference in assessing your readiness.

Remember that it is television, and the main ingredient is entertainment. The producers handling your audition are not responsible for guarding your reputation – only for searching out entrepreneurs with stories they think will help entertain their audiences.

AuditionsStage Two: The Audition

Once you’ve decided it really is time, research the audition schedule. You need to know your story for the audition, but I would probably say you don’t need to over-prepare. I worked on a presentation, very corporate-like, for several days leading up to the audition. Then once I walked in, I realized this was NOT a boardroom, and I ditched the presentation and just spoke off the cuff. That seemed to work. I felt good about the audition, but had no idea whether they were impressed.

Which brings me to being patient!  Let them come to you when they’re ready, and don’t pester them every week with phone calls or emails. It can be weeks between your audition and hearing whether you’ve been selected to tape a pitch in front of the Dragons. In my case the audition was mid-January, and I got the call the first week of March inviting me to travel to Toronto to tape our pitch.

Stage Three: Pitching the Dragons

DDThere’s quite a bit of work required to research, plan, prepare and rehearse your pitch. Like so much in life, what you get out will be directly proportionate to what you put in.

Be Professional With Your Producer

Your producer is your advocate, as well as your gatekeeper. You are not going to agree with everything he/she tells you, and you are not going to get everything you want. The trick is to understand that the producer is the television expert, and if you really want to convince him/her to change a decision, be diplomatic about it. And if you don’t get your way, don’t pout, unless you want the producer to pull the plug.

Know Your Visual Elements

What are the things that are camera-friendly that can also help you get your your story across? What will you wear? Will you use props, models, sample product? Can you plan something interactive, to get the Dragons’ up out of their seats? Run all of this by your producer, of course, and see above. Play nice.

Nail Your Numbers

You’re in business, and business is about numbers. If you don’t fully understand how to do a proper valuation, get help. Once you think you have your numbers down cold, run them by as many business-savvy supporters as you can. Ask them to try to poke holes in your numbers, and when they do, fix the gap.

Practice Your Pitch

Write your script, share it with your producer, and practice the pitch. Use a timer, get friends to videotape you, and keep doing it over and over until you are comfortable. You want to be able to focus on the Dragons’ when you’re in the studio, not be so worried about your “lines” that you fail to address their questions.

Stage Four:  Due Diligence Time

Make the Time for Due Diligence 3d Words Clock Business ObligatiCongratulations!  You’ve got yourself an offer, and a deal. Now the real work starts. Before you leave the studio, you’ll be asked to sign a non-disclosure document as well as an agreement that restricts you from entering into any other investment agreement for a four-month period. You’ll also meet the person with whom you will be doing most of the communicating as you go through the important due diligence phase of the investment opportunity. Be ready to redo a business plan, redo your financial projections, to meet in person several times, and in general to being under the proverbial microscope.  Understand here that you do not need to accept the investment offer if the terms no longer look attractive to you. Many an on-air handshake deal falls apart in the due diligence phase, and it can be either the pitcher or the investor that pulls the plug.

Stage Five: Managing the Volume of Leads

Too many leadsStages four and five happen concurrently, which reinforces the importance of Stage One!  Your business has to be able to operate normally, while you’re embroiled in the due diligence requirements, AND while your phone is ringing off the hook with new customers, and maybe new business partners.

Have a plan in advance for how you are going to manage that influx of attention. You’ll need bench strength on the phone, on email, and of course to serve your customers, all while your influx of new leads multiplies exponentially overnight.

Above all, enjoy the process.  It is an experience unlike any other, and if you are careful enough about each stage of the process, it can be one that you tell your grandchildren proudly decades from now!

KANDY Outdoor Flooring appeared on CBC Dragons’ Den January 14, 2015. Kelly and Doug received investment offers from all 5 Dragons, choosing to accept a joint offer from Arlene Dickinson and Jim Treliving. During the due diligence period after the pitch taping, the parties decided not to proceed.