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David Chilton: Sitting Down With the Newest Dragon

We recently got a sneak preview of CBC's schedule of programs for the 2012/2013 season, capped off with an interview with Dragons' Den's latest addition to the panel. Here's what bestselling author David Chilton had to say about becoming a Dragon, his advice for young professionals looking to make a pitch and what he looks for in an entrepreneur

We recently had the opportunity to catch an insider sneak-peek of upcoming additions to the CBC schedule of programs for 2012/2013. In true young professional form, we were thrilled to score a few minutes (and we mean a meticulously-timed 12 minutes) with David Chilton, the latest Dragon to join the top-rated CBC program Dragons’ Den and author of bestseller The Wealthy Barber.

Amidst the bustle of an energized media room loaded with talent, we nabbed a table for two and set to work. Our goal was to quiz Chilton on his early business, writing and speaking successes, thoughts on his fellow Dragons, and the inside scoop on what he thinks it takes to reach pitch-perfection as a would-be young entrepreneur hoping to hit it big on his hit show.

Having made appearances and spoken across Canada and beyond during his career, Chilton commented that his early success as businessman-turned-author of The Wealthy Barber was “particularly pronounced on the West Coast, and on Vancouver Island specifically.” He added that it was surprising, given that he had written the book with an under-45 readership in mind and that it was an older crowd who latched onto the book’s key messages at first, only to pass it along for younger generations. We had to ask if he’s noticed a shift in his audience over the years. His answer: “Absolutely, especially in Victoria where a younger generation seems to have adopted the book’s fiscal teachings,” noting that today, the main challenge he has when speaking is that he’s “often trying to connect and engage with an increasingly broad audience with a range in age spanning between eleven and seventy-plus.” What helps him make the connection when speaking about finance? Chilton said that an ability to read your audience, be able to think on your toes, move through a lot of diverse subject-matter quickly and understand the sense of humour appreciated by the audience demographic continues to be incredibly helpful.

In terms of becoming a part of Dragons’ Den, David remarked that, though many people expect him to dish on the negative, it’s been an incredible experience so far working with great people, an amazing team of talent, a day-to-day schedule that’s surprisingly enjoyable, and a fast-paced premise of the show that’s challenged his comfort zone in a good way. We pushed him a bit further to tell us about what he’d learned from his role as the newest Dragon and what had surprised him about the process. He shared that, “when it came to voting on pitches, it surprised me how much I gravitated toward the low-tech ideas versus high-tech, digital ones (noting that a certain pitch involving a bathmat caught his eye, in particular). 

Now for the part most Notable entrepreneurs have all been waiting for. We asked David Chilton what he thought makes for a good pitch-person hoping for success on the Dragons’ Den and here’s what he had to share: 

“Much to the dismay of your readers, there really is no pitch checklist or pattern as to where the winners come from on the show. Every deal is different. What I can say is this: People need to know their numbers and demonstrate that they’ve done their monetary due diligence (without being an accounting expert). Don’t rely on too many props – fewer props means less distraction, and a better ability to really share your story and provide insight on character and conflict. A good pitcher is articulate and able to show emotional realness, attention to detail and confidence, which helps to exude a real sense of passion behind the product.  That’s what’s important, at least to me.”

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