OPINION1 November 2006

Not such risky business

Marc Brenner’s editorial

Business has become a bloody and utterly compelling spectator sport. We are transfixed by Sugar’s sour appraisals on The Apprentice, by the foolhardy who are Risking It All, and by the steady stream of the cranks and the canny on The Dragons’ Den.

The programmes offer no end of fuel for a nation of armchair entrepreneurs eager to bark out “you don’t want to do it like that!” at the TV screen. From the safety of our living rooms we can all be captains of industry, without ever having to invest a penny. A case of comfy commercialism at its best.

After having watched a steady diet of these shows you may well think that there is a pretty easy recipe for business success. All you’re going to need is a decent spoonful of balls, a generous helping of stamina, a pinch of luck and a liberal of amount of gab. Mix well and expect profits to rise swiftly.

Whilst those ingredients are important, one element is often overlooked in television’s bid for zippy and controversial viewing. Little attention seems to be paid to the quiet, studious, detailed attention that needs to be paid to understanding the market. That sort of thing rarely makes for a compelling half hour or so.

Whilst TV’s business pundits are, by necessity, required to play the buccaneering creatives, when it comes to the operation of their own businesses they become somewhat less impetuous and hysterical. One such example of a market-sensitive business dragon comes in the form of this month’s interviewee, Deborah Meaden.

Meaden had built many a successful business that lies on a firm foundation of market-testing research. She has gone a stage further in her quest for market understanding, with news this month that she has invested in market research firm Marketii. In our cover story, Meaden explains what drew her to invest in the MR business, as well as what part research has played in her own business.

All entrepreneurial activity involves some level of risk, however the really smart operators realise that the only risk worth taking is managed and informed risk.

Research remains the engine that drives success enterprise. OK, televisually speaking, it may never be glamorous or particularly compelling, but without it, as Meaden makes so clear, the ballsiest salesman will end up just talking, well, balls.

November | 2006