Saturday, 11 September 2010

Learning from the Dragons: Deborah Meaden

I recently enjoyed reading a book about the Dragons in Dragons' Den. It struck me that the advice they give has significance in the education world as well as the business world. This week I'll consider the ideas from Deborah Meaden.

Deborah Meaden
  • As a deputy head teacher I come into contact with most the school's pupils almost every day. Deborah Meaden gives some good advice about how she deals with meeting such a large amount of people. 'In a day I'd probably see a thousand people. I tried to recognise and remember most of them and if I couldn't, I learned to look as if I did. Recognise people, make them feel important, and they'll remember you - that's what I learned.' This is very much true in school. The best piece of advice I have ever been given is that you should try to have a proper conversation with every child as often as you can - make them feel special. I think that can make the difference between a good teacher and a great teacher.
  • She also describes the importance of providing nice facilities. 'Provide a great social environment, make people feel welcome, make them feel a part of what's going on... The emphasis was on environment and good service; there might be seven arcades on the sea front, so how did we get people to choose ours?... Why would the customer choose you?' First impressions count. When showing visitors around your school the appearance of the school makes more of an impact than any other factor.
  • She describes the way that 'an over-fluent sales pitch' puts her off a person. 'Nothing makes me more suspicious... I've got to be able to get under the skin of the person I'm talking to. I've got to be able to trust and believe in that person. People in full-on slick automatic sales mode scare the living daylights out of me.' This to me seems like good advice for when interviewing - it's all very well to talk the talk, but it's important to show character. Will the person you are interviewing fit in with your staff? Have they got the character to be an asset to the staff? Are they able to back up their words with action?
  • Her tips for success are:
    • Create a business plan - Today, to have a school improvement plan goes without saying. But Meaden mentions that a plan should 'be built by you, on your visions, with your knowledge and clearly reflect your goals and milestones.' It's important that the plan is inclusive of stakeholders' opinions and ideas and that it is a plan for your school - not for Ofsted!
    • Don't fool yourself - 'It's easy to get carried away with a good idea: be honest with yourself. There is a difference between being passionate about your product and taking a coo, critical look at what you are planning to do.' Good advice I thought. It's easy to think your way is the only way - be reflective and evaluate your ideas.
    • Stay cool under pressure - This speaks for itself!
    • Research - 'Know your market, know your competition and know your basic figures'. Data has never been more important in education. It should back up everything that happens in school.
The book Dragons' Den: Success from Pitch to Profit can be purchased here: Dragons' Den: Success, From Pitch to Profit

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