North-East recruitment experts think businesses could benefit from Dragons’ Den style approach

Left to RIght: Amanda McCulloch, TMM Recruitment CEO, and Jock Gardiner, founding director of investment syndicate Alba Equity and Board Chair at Fierce Beer and TMM Recruitment

FOR THOSE brave enough to step into the Dragons’ Den and pitch their business ideas to a panel of famous investors, the resulting financial support and mentoring has helped to launch many successful businesses – and created several millionaires.

Since the popular BBC show first aired in January 2005, success stories have included Levi Roots and his expanding portfolio of Reggae Reggae food products, which are now stocked nationwide in major supermarkets.

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Another alumni from the show is the Magic Whiteboard, thought to be the second most successful business ever to come out of the Den.

And who would have thought that a pitch for a self-tan brand would take Skinny Tan from being a start-up to a global success story?

Dragons over the years have included Deborah Meaden, Sara Davies and Peter Jones, while Steven Bartlett joined the cast in 2021 as the Den’s youngest ever dragon.

The entrepreneur will be in Aberdeen at the end of October as part of the Aberdeen and Grampian Chamber of Commerce’s Ultimate Masterclass Festival.

Amanda McCulloch, head of executive search and selection at TMM Executive, hopes that Steven’s visit inspires entrepreneurs to engage with talented local senior executives, drawing on their expertise, professional network and niche skills to develop and grow their own businesses. 

“For anyone looking to move their business to the next stage, investment can be key, but perhaps more crucial is trusted advice,” she said. “Timely guidance from business leaders can prove to be transformational for start-ups and SMEs.

“There is no doubt that sound business advice is critical at all stages of a business’s development. But when you are managing a fledgling business just how do you get the support you need?

“Typically, entrepreneurs will be entrenched in their business, but it is hard, especially as the business grows, to be across everything.

“If you want your business to grow – either expanding your portfolio or diversifying into new sectors, there is a strong likelihood that you will need to bring in outside help and support. However, the business itself may well not support, or need, full-time, high-level input.

“I see this regularly in my professional capacity as a recruiter, but we also adopted this approach at TMM Recruitment, strengthening our board a couple of years ago when Jock Gardiner was appointed Chairman.”

Jock Gardiner is a founding director of investment syndicate Alba Equity and Board Chair at Fierce Beer and TMM Recruitment.

“As Chairman my primary purpose is to focus on strategy and governance, and while I offer practical help, I’ve discovered that what business owners often need is a personal sounding board, someone who knows the business, but isn’t emotionally tied to the business, to help them make well-judged decisions.

“I spent over three decades of my career working in investment finance and, alongside my board commitments, my business partner and I are leveraging our experience, time and networks to manage investments into north-east businesses with high growth potential.  

Amanda says that the idea of a Dragon coming into a business to provide commercial acumen is not fanciful.

“At TMM Executive we work with senior businesspeople from across the north-east who act as independent associates, consultants and non-executive directors, working alongside budding entrepreneurs to help them develop their business to its fullest potential. 

She added, “It could be that a business needs support in scaling for growth. Bringing in a seasoned business leader to provide commercial acumen in terms of securing finance, developing people and exploring new markets makes perfect sense, but does not necessarily translate to a full-time role.

“There is an opportunity to employ business critical leaders, essentially as a consultant, to benefit from their experience and expertise, without incurring the overhead of taking someone senior on full-time.”

Business owners who are interested in speaking to Amanda to find their own Dragon should contact [email protected]

  • TMM Recruitment’s team of experts specialise in a personalised approach to finding the best people for vacancies in sectors including accountancy and finance, engineering, HR, IT legal, office support, QHSE, supply chain and commercial, technical and industrial and executive search. If we can help you with your job search or recruitment challenges, visit us

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