For serial entrepreneur Matt Jones, stepping up to pitch in the Dragons’ Den was the ultimate challenge. With the new series of the hit BBC show on our screens, Matt has reflected on his experience in the Den. Here’s what he learned, so you can ace your next pitch.
During lockdown in 2020, an unexpected email landed in my inbox. It was from the BBC, asking if I would be interested in pitching one of my businesses, MESOA Skincare, on Dragons’ Den.
My immediate reaction? Absolutely not. I deleted the email.
At that stage, I was at a low point in my life. I had launched MESOA Skincare after successfully selling my first multi-million-pound national business, S3, through a management buyout in 2019. Going back into start-up mode in a new industry, imposter syndrome was crushing me and I’d become reclusive, far from the outgoing business persona I’m known for.
After I deleted that email, one thought continued to play on my mind. If not now, when? There is no bigger stage for entrepreneurs than Dragons’ Den.
I decided to take on the challenge. To push out of my comfort zone and battle the imposter demons in my own head. After all, growth starts at the edge of your comfort zone.
That pitch became about much more than securing investment, gaining a business partner, or the publicity for MESOA Skincare. It was for me. A chance to sharpen my skills under pressure and continue to grow as an entrepreneur.
And let me tell you, pitching on Dragons’ Den is just as scary as it looks. Having worked in advertising since 2003, I’ve done my fair share of pitches for business. But nothing compared to this.
Ultimately, I was successful in securing investment and received an offer from Touker Suleyman. Due to the structure of the deal and the control provisions, it turned out that it wasn’t for me. I didn’t progress with Touker. I did, however, learn a lot.
Here are my three biggest learnings to perfect your pitch. Whether it’s big or small, you’re pitching to win investment or secure business, get ready to apply these tips to all of your pitches.
I can’t emphasise this enough. That doesn’t just mean repeatedly practising the presentation element of the pitch. Think about the questions too. Put yourself in the audience’s shoes and consider every single thing that they might ask you. Then, you can have an impressive answer ready to fire back.
As much as we strive for perfection, making mistakes is part of business. Don’t panic if the audience points out a shortcoming in the product or service you’re offering, and don’t argue with them to try and protect your stature. Admit it, own up, say you’re aware. Then say how you will fix it. How you’re working on putting it right. This technique is much more effective than telling the people you are trying to convince to invest in you or buy from you that they are wrong.
Manage your mindset
Walking into a pitch is daunting. With the right mindset, you can face it. At the end of the day, you don’t make any progress if you don’t get in the ring. As entrepreneurs, business owners, and those who work for SMEs, we’re constantly presented with opportunities or facing new and scary things. If you’re preparing for a pitch and feeling like an imposter, remember that there’s no growth in our comfort zones. Go and do those things that scare you. Everything that you want is on the other side of fear.
After my episode aired, the orders for MESOA Skincare flooded in; we acquired over 1800 new customers, were inundated with stockist requests, and our brand grew in authority. Despite all this, the most important growth was my own self-belief.
So go on, have the confidence to back yourself for that big pitch. If not now, when?