Business guru Deborah Meaden's advice to budding entrepreneurs
The Agenda

What's the issue?

This year is set to be the year of the entrepreneur.

One in 18 people around the world now owns their own business, and experts predict that far from proving a hindrance, the current COVID-19 pandemic could be a help to millions more who may be using lockdown to perfect their potentially billion-dollar business ideas. 

So this week, The Agenda with Stephen Cole looks at what separates successful entrepreneurs apart from the crowd and what you need to become the next Jeff Bezos.

Meet the expert

Investment guru and businesswoman Deborah Meaden is best known as one of the "dragons" on the UK TV show Dragons' Den, on which she and other successful businesspeople use their own money to invest in the next generation of entrepreneurs. 

She tells Stephen Cole that the entrepreneurial fire has been burning inside her since the age of seven, when she started her first improvised business – a makeshift roadside florist.

Setting up her first real business – importing and exporting ceramics – when she was just 19, she later joined her family's amusement park business and went on to lead a management buyout of a holiday park enterprise from which she made millions.

What does Meaden say?

Meaden tells Stephen Cole that while a lot of business is about learning, there does seem to be "some common characteristics among entrepreneurs." 

One of them is staying confident and not getting hung up on failure when some business ventures inevitably don't turn out the way you expect. "You're chasing that dream, you're not going to give up," says Meaden. "It's an essential trait of the successful businessman or woman.

"It's that ability to overcome – they see beyond obstacles," she adds. "They just say, 'Actually, how do we get over this?'"

As for what she's looking for when choosing a potential business partner, she knows exactly what she wants: "They've got to have a really clear vision as to what they want to do and what they want to achieve. And I've got to trust them."

The key quote

What next for business?

Amid the economic instability in Europe between COVID-19 and Brexit, many businesses ventures could be risky. Therefore, Meaden says, timing your business ideas is now more important than ever.

"Even the best business in the world has the right time – timing is everything," she says. "You've got to question yourself in this environment at this moment – 'Is this the right moment to launch this?'" 

She says if the business can take advantage of the current situation, then go ahead – "But the answer might be 'Actually, no, things need to settle down a little bit.'"

More from The Agenda with Stephen Cole

In this week's The Agenda, Stephen Cole looks at what makes an entrepreneur and what sets the world's richest people – like Tesla's Elon Musk and Amazon's Jeff Bezos – apart.

- Dan Vahdat, Founder and CEO of Huma, speaks about how he came up with the idea of creating an A.I. business designed to democratize healthcare and how the pandemic has transformed his operation.

- Scott Omelianuk, the Editor-in-Chief of Inc., a magazine designed to inspire current and future magnates, talks about being an "underachieving entrepreneur," revealing the character traits you really need to be successful.

- Shaheena Janjuha-Jivraj, associate professor in entrepreneurial leadership at Henley Business School tackles the age-old question of whether a true entrepreneur is born or made. 

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