The dragons are back in their den and handing out their business advice and scathing comments to would-be entrepreneurs.
Until this new series, I hadn’t noticed before how tall Peter Jones is. In the new title sequence he positively towers over Duncan Bannatyne. And anyone who saw him on Top Gear the previous night will know that he is even taller than Jeremy Clarkson who I had previously been led to believe is the tallest man on TV.
So no wonder it is extremely nerve wracking to present your idea to the Dragons. Not only are they extremely successful business people who have built massive fortunes, which is probably enough to intimidate even the most confident pitcher, but for those faced by Peter Jones’s harsh comments it must feel at times like David facing up to Goliath.
Let’s be honest, Dragon’s Den is primarily an entertainment show and a business programme second. The producers must know that some of the ideas that are being pitched are just plain daft, but they let them into the fray simply to allow them to take an entertaining verbal battering from the millionaires.
Bannatyne may own a chain of health clubs in which people attempt to sweat their way to fitness - but nowhere do people sweat more than in front of his withering gaze, as they present their ideas.
In the first programme was the silly idea of a bed sheet with a line sewn down the centre to prevent couples from hogging more than their share of the bed. The Dragon’s declared that couples should in fact be crossing the line rather than staying on their own side of the bed – nudge-nudge, wink-wink - and just laughed the inventors out of the den.
I do wonder though what the Dragons would make of an idea I saw printed as a letter in a local newspaper.
The writer had come up with the idea of a life assurance policy that paid out twice. Once as a lump sum in order to pay off the mortgage and to support the family, and then secondly as another lump sum should the dead person be reincarnated.
After all, if you do come back as someone else you would need some cash to help set yourself back up because in all likelihood you wouldn’t look the same as you did before. It would be easy, the letter writer declared, we would just give you a unique reference number whilst you are alive and you just quote that number in your newly reincarnated form. Genius!
But you can just imagine Peter Jones stroking his chin whilst pondering such an idea. “Hello. I’m Peter. Great idea but I think I’ve spotted a flaw. What happens if you get reincarnated as a cat, a dog or a budgie? How would you communicate your unique reference number then? Sorry it won’t work and, for that reason, I’m out!”
Personally I like ideas that push the limits of the imagination. They have a satisfying tendency to ferment and mature into very good ideas. But in the protection industry we seem to have a bizarre in-built resistance to new ideas, even ones that have been fully worked through and launched into the market.
Recently a brand new provider launched a product, which aims to bring life cover and income protection to the masses.
Their clever idea was to express the income protection benefit as a lump sum which claimants can drawn down at 1% a month if they can’t work because of sickness or disability. Some people have been complimentary about this, others very critical.
Some have said it is a terrible idea because a 1% a month draw down from a lump sum only provides about eight years of cover, so why would anyone buy it instead of “proper” income protection which would pay for much longer.
Well of course the fact is that hardly anyone buys “proper” income protection. So they are probably going to end up with nothing or a PPI product, which will only pay for one year. So, for the mass market this new idea has to be a good one.
The protection market is potentially big enough for a whole host of different propositions, targeted at different customers and different distributors.
Our problem is that we are suspicious and critical of anything that deviates from the norm in our quite small market sector - when we should be embracing new ideas that will make the market bigger.
Roger Edwards is product director at Bright Grey
The views expressed in this article are those of its author and do not necessarily represent those of the company he represents, IFAonline or any other Incisive Media affiliated organisation.IFAonline
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