Obstacles En Route To The Dragon's Den

January 9, 2015 | Kathryn

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Currently in its eighth season on CBC, the Dragons' Den has been one of the most successful shows on Canadian television. The program features entrepreneurs making pitches to millionaire business owners (dragons) for investment money and professional support. 

The dragons, who ask hard-hitting questions to the hopeful contestants, have become business icons in the eyes of televison viewers. Many of the dragons have written successful books that have become best sellers. 

Cold Hard Truth on Business, Money and LifeSeveral years ago on a flight from Hawaii to Australia, I ran out of reading material and read a book that my husband had packed for the trip: Cold Hard Truth On Business, Money and Life, by Kevin O'Leary, one of the original dragons.  At that time, a business book didn't appeal to me but, to my delight, it was extremely well-written and full of engaging stories about O'Leary's experiences. 

What surprised me the most about O'Leary's book was the number of obstacles he had to overcome on the road to success. He has the on-air persona of a business guru who has experienced only success. But his biography clearly indicates he faced many challenges along the way. 

That's what I like about this book and others written by the dragons. While they do talk about their successes, they also discuss failures and how they can be important learning experiences. O'Leary and the other dragons point out that the most successful business people are those who see barriers and mistakes as learning opportunities that can propel them forward.

DecisonsAnother veteran dragon, Jim Treliving, CEO of Boston Pizza, also discusses how running a business is not without problems. In his book Decisions: Making the Right Ones, Righting the Wrong Ones, he discusses the importance of reassessing decisons when things are not going well and having the flexibility to make changes.

As an example, Treliving writes about how he stretched his franchise empire too far in the 1990s, which required him to pull out of the Asian market. He says it wasn't an easy decision, but the move became vital to guiding future Boston Pizza expansions.


Similarly, Dragons' Den veteran Arlene Dickinson also believes bumps in the road can be blessings in disguise. In her book All In, Dickinson says "Profits spur you to do more of the same thing: losses and mistakes push you to do things better."

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Brett Wilson, another former dragon, talks about misplaced priorities and mishaps in his book Redefining Success: Still Making Mistakes. Like many of the dragons, Wilson talks not only about professional failures, but also about problems balancing work and personal life.

So, while you may have resolved that 2015 will be a fail-proof year of professional achievements, think again! Those stumbles in the road are a natural part of running a business and provide the invaluable experience. For more advice from the den, the business department at North York Central Library has the dragons' books in print and sometimes ebook format.

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