Enter The Dragon

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“I’m a life long entrepreneur, so I tend to look at things from a very entrepreneurial  perspective, and as entrepreneurs , we’re optimistic about a lot of things” Bruce Croxton told SaultOnline.com Thursday morning, Croxton – probably best known for his role as a “Dragon” on the hit CBC series Dragon’s Den for three seasons is in Sault Ste. Marie as a judge in the Annual Northern Ontario Case Competition at Algoma’s Water Tower Inn and Suites.

The Northern Ontario Case Competition is part of Algoma University’s Business Strategy and Policy course, and requires students from Northern Ontario to develop a thorough strategy and solution to an unknown business case.

“I see a lot of small businesses not understanding their priorities every year, the best thing they can do is focus, set some goals each year, achieve those goals , see how they’ve done, measure their success and then select different priorities the next year.

It’s that type of advice that will come in handy for business administrative students over the next two days and it was also what Croxton brought to the table on Dragon’s Den.

“The hardest thing to do is to attract investors” Croxton said,”it gets a lot easier if you’re able to give an investor a sniff of some success and getting that sniff of success is often a road paved with with a lot of long hours, sweat equity  , some money from the piggy bank, friends and families – if they’re not going to believe in you why should I?”

“The harsh reality is most start-ups don’t work, but it is a shame to lose those ones that have the potential to work because the money wasn’t there – the sooner that you can get to a point where you can convince a guy like me that the investment will be effectively spent and some of the risk has been removed, that’s the point that we should talk”

Croxton said that his time on the Dragon’s Den  exceeded his expectations for fun and business and the people he met, but the Dragon’s never meet with the business hopefuls prior to the show. “We see them for the first time when they enter and make their pitches”  Each pitch is basically given 40 minutes in front of the dragons , edited down to about 7 minutes for the show.

“A large percentage of the deals end up not getting done” Croxton said,”it’s just like real life, the show in mind really does mirror real life, a lot of things happen between the first time you hear of an idea and when a cheque leaves your hands”

Dragon’s Den became more entertainment type programming in his second year and he said he noticed more crazy ideas being pitched.  “The vast majority of them were legitimate , in my third year the pendulum swung a little more towards the entertainment side – but the ideas got better every year I was on the show”

“I think what I take out of that experience is that we’ve done a pretty good job at training the next generation entrepreneurs on how to make a presentation, how to dissect an idea and what to expect”

“It’s really hard sometimes to say no” Croxton said, to the businesses that have put in all their life savings, mortgage their homes and put all their energy in to make the next million dollar idea. “It never made any of us feel good to say no, but there’s a difference between being “all-in” and having a viable business idea.

“The Business Case Competition is the best way for students to finish off their career at Algoma University,” says Algoma University’s Business and Economics Professor Catherine Denomme. “It allows them the opportunity to showcase their talents to future employers and to compete with their peers.  Students also get the opportunity to network in different cities, which is a unique occasion for those in Northern Ontario.”

The event wraps up tomorrow with another guest speaker and judge, Terry O’Reilly a familiar voice behind the hit CBC radio shows O’Reilly on Advertising, The Age of Persuasion, and his current program, Under the Influence.

The winners of the competition will be announced Friday evening.