Deborah Meaden – 15 growth tips in five minutes

Deborah Meaden: 15 growth tips

The formidable investor is no stranger to the trials and triumphs of business, from being left in debt by her first venture to exiting Weststar Holidays in a £33m deal. The entrepreneurial advice that Deborah Meaden offers here may take only a short time to read, but it could give your business a lasting boost

1. Focus on your fundamentals

“Early in my career I asked [hotelier] Rocco Forte for one piece of advice – the usual question you ask when you’re young – and he said: ‘Don’t lose sight of what matters.’ In business it’s very easy to get caught up with great new ideas and lose focus on the very thing that your customers love you for. Every now and then I’ll still run through the following questions: what’s actually important in this business? What really matters to our customers?”

2. Make an investor feel wanted…

“It’s vital in any presentation that an entrepreneur can demonstrate clearly what their proposition is – the customer, the market, the usual technical stuff. But the thing that makes a pitch really good is when they can tell me why I’m their potential investor. Why have they chosen me? What will I get out of it? Make me feel wanted, make me feel like you’ve said to yourself: ‘Of all the possible investors, we want to talk to Deborah Meaden.’”

3. … But don’t over-rehearse the pitch

“During a presentation I’m trying to understand the individual as well as the business. If you’ve over-rehearsed, there is a barrier between us – it’s like there’s an actor in front of me. Rehearsing is good, but learning a pitch to perfection is a danger, because you might get lost if I were to ask you a question requiring you to go off the script. That’s not a good signal to me. I’d much rather deal with someone who knows their business so well that, no matter what I ask them, they will know the answer.”

4. Beware of asking a lot of your backers too soon

“People often want contacts. They want me to pick up the phone, call the CEO of Asda, say, and ask him to stock their product. I could do that, but I haven’t spent this long building my reputation just to ruin it because I’ve introduced someone who’s not ready to put their product into Asda. I’m not going to make those introductions if I can’t see the roadmap, the shape of the business or the people needed to get it there.”

5. Remove the barriers to talent

“One of the dominant reasons for the gender pay gap is the lack of women in the most senior positions in organisations. To tackle that issue you first need to identify its cause by considering the following questions: are women being overlooked or under-promoted? Does your organisation encourage women to be confident and ambitious? Does it use gender-biased language or imagery either at recruitment stage or beyond it? Does it offer sponsorship programmes whereby a senior sponsor will champion a talented individual of any gender? Identifying the cause and removing it will help you to fill your organisation with the most talented people, because talent has no gender bias.”

6. Be honest about your weaknesses

“There is not a team in the world that’s perfect. I want you to articulate what is missing…”

The full interview with Deborah Meaden can be read exclusively by IoD members in the latest edition of Director magazine, out Thursday 20 September

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About author

Hannah Gresty

Hannah Gresty

Until she left the magazine in August 2019, Hannah Gresty was the assistant editor of Director. She previously worked on a local news website and at a fashion PR company before joining the Director team as editorial assistant in 2016.

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