tV: How have you adjusted to your new role?
VV: They have nine seasons under their belts so when I first started, during the first two or three days, I felt like I was skating with Wayne Gretzky, Jarome Iginla, and Gordie Howe all at the same time but didn't even have my skates on (laughs). I was going to be as ferocious a player as everybody else and get my ice time, shoot the puck, and get in there and battle it out.
After about two pitches I was in my element. I blocked out the fact that others were sitting there and just jumped in there. I didn't want to spend any time trying to learn the ropes, I was like, “I'm here. I'm going to fight like everybody else.”
tV: What's the most important thing that you have learned from this experience?
VV: Normally when people make a deal they come and pitch to you as an individual, so you are already in that powerful position. When somebody has says, “I want this and this from you,” then I know that I am in that powerful position to say yes or no to them. On Dragons' Den this is totally different because the pitches are not only coming to me but they are being divided among five of us who have five different angles. Not only did I have to argue and fight with the rest of the dragons to get the pitch, but I also had to make the right pitch in return and outsmart the rest of the dragons in order to get the deal. It was a tough learning experience for me... to have to argue with somebody like Arlene, Mike, David, or Jim.
tV: Is there one dragon in particular you enjoyed battling with?
VV: What I actually enjoyed was showing them my perspective of where I was coming from, because I felt that they were coming from their own distinct perspectives. Where David would talk about numbers, I would talk about the soul. Where Arlene would talk about marketing, I would talk about substance. When Jim would talk about taking something to a much higher level from a franchisee's point of view, I would talk about the fact that I'm still building my business and my brand.
I think at the end of the day we all got along pretty well. There were times that they looked at me and said that I was crazy, and I looked at them and said, “You're absolutely wrong” but there was no animosity, though there was definitely a fierce battle.
tV: What do you look for when you go into the dragon's den?
VV: Whether or not the deal is worth it for my overall plan of Vij's: whether there is something that will compliment my business. If I'm going to put my hard earned money into something I should be able to talk about it with as much passion as I talk about food.
If I felt that I was passionate about something and could talk intelligently about it, then I would make a deal. There were some pitches that I felt I could talk about passionately because of either my background, or what I had done, or what I have learned over the years. I invested in some of those.
tV: Is passion the deal maker or breaker for you?
VV: Passion is the starting point. If there is a passion there then I will say, “okay, let's explore this.” Is this passion substantiated by common sense and knowledge? Malcolm Gladwell said, “For anybody to be successful you have to put in ten thousand of hard work.” Even The Beatles weren't successful right off the bat. They had spent more than ten thousand hours playing. They were passionate about music but they still needed to perform in order to get to that point.
I need to know whether they have performed, whether they have tenacity, have worked hard, have endurance, and whether they have burned any bridges in the past.
tV: Are there any inventions or ideas that have come through the Dragons' Den that you wish you had come up with yourself?
VV: Lots! (laughs). There were lots of creative ideas where I thought, “Why didn't I think of this?” One thing we have to really feel good about, is the entrepreneurship in Canada. They're bringing the stories of their moms and grandparents. Some of the things that people are pitching have developed from direct experience and this comes from practicality. There are some things that you see and I think, “I would never think of this.”
tV: Have any of these experiences with the inventors inspired change within your own personal life?
VV: They've inspired more focus on what I do. They've inspired me to tell myself that I need to sharpen my pencils because when I take my brand to the next level, I need to be on top of it: I cannot afford to be stumped like some of them were when we asked difficult questions. I need to do my homework. I cannot sit on my laurels.
I still need to perform at the same level as I did 20 years ago, and I can't just sit back and say, “It's going to be easy,” because these people are looking to build something with you. It's like a bride looking at five suitors and saying, “I want to go with you.” It hurts when the bride doesn't go for you (laughs).
tV: Will you be making any strategic changes in your approach this year?
VV: Not particularly, but I will go in with that experience of one season under the belt and lots more to go, and I would want to come out with people feeling that I am rational, hard, practical, and not just going to throw my hard earned money away. I don't want people to think that if they just come with passion that I will support them: I'm not a jelly bean (laughs). On the other hand, if somebody really has a great story and it's heart-felt, I would support them any minute, because that means a lot to me personally. So no real strategic changes: I just want to make this happen.
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