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Talking Shop: Theo Paphitis

21 July 08 09:04 GMT

Entrepreneur Theo Paphitis returns along with his Dragons' Den colleagues for a sixth series of the BBC business show.

The series enables people with ideas to pitch to the panel, in a bid to win financial backing from at least one of them.

The Cypriot-born businessman, who is chairman of stationery chain Ryman and a former chairman of football club Millwall, reveals what makes a successful pitch in the den and how competitive he gets on and off the show.

Why did you want to get involved with the show?

It was either that or do the ironing with Mrs P, and when it comes to ironing I'm pretty useless.

Seriously, I resigned as Millwall chairman and coincidentally I got a phone call form the BBC asking me if I had seen the show.

How financially rewarding has backing some of the ideas on Dragons' Den been for you?

You have winners and you have losers, these are all really early start ups. At this level you expect quite a high failure rate, but when you get one right, you expect a very high reward.

A prime example of that is Imran Hakim's iTeddy which we launched in August of last year.

We got it into Argos, it became a big seller at Christmas. That's made Imran a millionaire and has made me and Peter Jones a fair few bob too.

Do you ever want out of a deal?

The way it works is dead simple. We make a verbal agreement. But you have a person there, in front of the lights, who is a bit uncomfortable and might make a deal that they're not happy with.

What happens is, afterwards, as long as everything they tell us is true then we're committed.

I have had, on a couple of occasions, a few people say to me: "I know I agreed to this but since the programme has been on, business has been great, the products really picked up, you know what, I don't think I need the money."

So you have to shake hands and say good luck.

Does it annoy you?

Yes. Got to be honest, I wouldn't have made the commitment otherwise. But, whilst it annoys me, I can understand it.

What angers you about people who pitch to you?

You wonder why they bother, these people come in and they don't know what they're talking about.

They've invested £100,000 of their families' money already and they want another £100,000 from you. They've been doing this for two years and they don't know their basic numbers.

Do you judge people from the way they look and speak?

I've got to be honest, I am a first impressions man, but I do have an open mind.

Why do you think the show makes such great TV?

It's the sheer jeopardy of it - the fact that there are winners and losers.

The fact that it's interesting, the fact that it could be you - you could be that person.

Does it get competitive amongst the other Dragons?

I am at the moment travelling to Dunfold race track to meet Peter Jones. We're going to race Mr Clarkson's reasonably priced car round there for Top Gear.

We're going head to head. We're very competitive in and out of the den.

What are the three main components to becoming a successful?

Know your numbers. Know your business, never underestimate how hard it's going to be.

Above all, make sure whatever it is you're doing is so exciting for you and you're so wrapped up in it, that in the pub with your mates you can bore them to death.

If you can't do that, then you're unlikely to be successful.

Do you think Peter Jones is trying to be the Simon Cowell of the panel?

He's a media love. He's by far the campest entrepreneur, but I love him dearly.

Are there any projects that you wish you had never been involved in?

I think that would be unfair to say - there have been challenges if I'm honest. There have been one or two that I think "why did I do that?"

What is the most ridiculous idea you have been presented with?

It was last night when Peter Jones insisted I pay the bill at an Indian restaurant in Gerrard's Cross, when I'd driven down there to meet him. I thought that was absolutely appalling.

Did you pay?

No, I did not.

Dragons' Den can be seen on Mondays at 2100 BST on BBC Two.

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