The fact that 356 people responded to this poll indicates the popularity of Dragons’ Den among GrowthBusiness readers. But what else can be learned from the results?
Well for a start, it’s not financial success that has determined the Dragons’ ranking. At £320 million, Bannatyne’s personal wealth is more than that of Jones and Paphitis put together, according to the Sunday Times Rich List, and Caan commands barely a quarter of that sum – still no mean amount, I’d hasten to add.
It could be the case that Jones, with interests in a diverse range of industries, is perceived as being better connected and more likely to offer useful advice. He’s also ubiquitous as the face of BT and even fronted his own (misguided) TV series, Tycoon.
But a more likely explanation is that people just feel they would get on better with Jones or Caan than with the testy Bannatyne or smirking, self-satisfied Paphitis.
It’s natural for company directors to pick non-execs they like and feel comfortable with, and clearly appointing someone with whom you have a big personality clash is a recipe for failure. But sticking to people from a similar background, with similar experiences and views about how a business should be run could be an equally grave error.
In his report on the banking crisis, Sir David Walker suggested that truly independent and properly committed non-executive directors have a vital role to play in challenging the decisions of the main board. Decisions like investing in the US subprime mortgage market without properly assessing the risks, for example.
Sometimes it’s good to receive a bit of robust criticism from someone who isn’t afraid to express it robustly. Whether it’s from a non-executive, mentor or investor, let’s hope we’re as happy to listen to home truths about ourselves as we are to watch them being dished out on Dragons’ Den.
Update February 2011: Hilary Devey is to replace James Caan in the Den following his announcement that he was quitting the show. Devey will join Peter Jones, Duncan Bannatyne, Deborah Meaden and Theo Paphitis in the new series.