Dear Dragons….

Some of you may have seen, or be familiar with, the television show ‘Dragon’s Den’.  For anyone who hasn’t, the basic premise is that budding entrepreneurs get three minutes to pitch their business ideas to five multi-millionaires willing to invest their own cash.  Being television, the ideas are often ridiculous and the ‘Dragons’ can be quite sarcastic in their responses.   The whole show is based around the premise that good ideas will get investment and should therefore make money.   Before making any decisions on investment, the ‘Dragons’ expect to see business plans and clear projections or how and when they could expect to recover their investment along with some profit.  On the face of it, this seems entirely reasonable and sensible.

I’ve often wondered how my business would fare on Dragon’s Den. I suspect the answer would be very badly.  For a start I’m not really into business plans. I did write one once for a company I formed about 15 years ago.  I sat in a coffee shop with my then business partner and we wrote some numbers on a napkin to show what we planned to achieve in the first year of trading.  By the end of month 3 we had already made more profit that we had originally forecast for the whole year, so ripped up the plan and focussed on the ‘doing’ rather than the ‘planning’.

Since then, I have never bothered with business plans, forecasts, cash flow projections or anything of that nature.  Now of course I can already hear the sceptics amongst you scorning this ridiculous approach and muttering ‘failing to plan is planning to fail’.   In certain situations I would agree totally. For example I plan all my choir rehearsals months in advance based on forthcoming events. I also meticulously plan every last detail of each recording I undertake with 4 Part Music. Everything is worked out in minute detail.   It is for this reason that we have never turned up on the wrong day, we always know what to expect when we arrive and, I think it’s fair to say, we always meet our customer’s expectations at every point.

Despite this, I don’t think the Dragon’s would approve. We once took on a recording which wasn’t really going to make much profit, but required us to do some over dubbing of soloists, which at the time (2007), we hadn’t previously done on location. This sounded like fun and gave us the chance to go shopping!  It was discovered that in order to do this ‘properly’, we needed to spend nearly £300 on an exciting looking box which had lots of flashing lights on it. This ‘box’ would help us record a soloist singing to a previously recorded backing track.  It seemed such a good idea, we bought 3 of them.  Did we make a plan or put together some projections for how we might use these boxes again? No of course not! But, since then we have used them on a number of occasions and they continue to give us the edge over a lot of our competition!

Ultimately, all things considered, the only plan we have involves cake.  Why is the company called 4 Part Music you might ask?  That’s an easy one; it’s because the abbreviation is 4pm which is of course the time for afternoon tea.  Quite often a customer will ask if there is anything they can do to help prepare for the recording session.  The standard answer to this is to ask them to provide tea and biscuits for the engineer (that’s usually me!).  To my mind this seems an entirely reasonable request, but again I suspect it’s not really what the Dragon’s would be hoping for!

I’m probably not qualified to offer business advice in the same way that the Dragon’s are. But my view, is that you should stop faffing around creating documents and spreadsheets which no one will read, and just get on with running your business.   With that in mind, I am now going to eat cake!

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Jules Addison is Musical Director for The BlueBellesThe Pewsey BellesCirencester Male Voice ChoirBlue Notes & Great Western Harmony.