Look at the person not just the product
- Date: Friday 9th October 2009
This week’s Dragons’ Den online included Darren Fenton from Northern ireland that Julie and I both warmed to. His presentation was logical and engaging and he made a really good first impression. The problem was that the product he wanted us to invest in didn’t have a lot going for it. If I’m rude, it was a torch with an elongated bit on the top to make it look like a shortened version of the Star Wars lightsabre. We couldn’t see how it would make money. The other issue was that if it did start to make money it would take no time flat for a big manufacturer to imitate it and pretty much put him out of business: he had no patents of course, because you can’t really patent a torch!
But he was good and I would be glad to talk to him again about the possibility of getting together in a business that sold a product that had legs.
It made me think about how I choose my business partners. In the end, if truth be told, I invest in people rather than products. I still want to be sure that what I call a product/market exists. (Product/markets is a simple concept that says your company does not have a product unless there is also a market. Ask yourself what am I selling and to whom am I selling it?) But investing in people means that I look folk in the eye and decide whether they have the passion, the commitment and what I call the business nous to take a product to market. Darren had all of that and I hope he finds a feasible product/market that will take him into a successful business.
The person that Julie and I did invest in,David Warr, had a well-developed product with a feasible and potentially large market.
Tip from Shaf – Measuring up people
I use a simple formula to decide who I want to work for me or with me – Do I trust the person, could my people and I work with them and are they good at the job they are going to do. In some ways the first two questions are more important than the third.
I’ve said before that anyone can be an entrepreneur and I believe that; but I’m working on a checklist that people can use to see if they fit into the profile of an entrepreneur now or, if they don’t, what they might do to put their weaknesses right. Watch this space!
In football they say “Play the man not the ball”. In business I say hire the person not the product.