Dragons’ Den star Touker Suleyman’s 6 top investment tips

The Dragons’ Den investor's top tips ‘learned’ from surviving the ‘Wild Wild West’ of the stock market to growing several successful businesses…

Fashion tycoon and global manufacturer, Touker Suleyman, was formerly best-known for his success in turning Hawes & Curtis from an ailing businesses into a globally-recognised shirt brand. That was until Dragons’ Den, the show which has made the investor a household name entrepreneur.

Startups.co.uk got the chance to watch the inspiring entrepreneur speak at a recent ‘Road to Success: Solving Challenges’ Evening Standard Business Connections event where the business leader recalled his successes and mishaps, offering snippets of advice to the attentive start-up crowd.

And although Dragons do not always get it right (just take a look at how some of the bright business ideas turned away on the show have gone on to achieve great success), with over 40 years of business experience combined with his current position as a Dragon, it’s safe to say Suleyman’s investment tips are worth noting…

Tip 1: “Don’t get manipulated in business”

Touker was a victim of poor judgement when it came to trusting people and speaking openly and honestly admits that in business “you really have to be careful who you trust”. Back in the 1980s when the young founder was finding his feet and growing his fashion empire (he had just invested in clothing business Mellins), he was “manipulated” by the big shots on the “Wild, Wild West” of the stock market – into backing Bamber Stores. The fashion business turned out to be a failing company – and later caused Suleyman his first major business setback.

Tip 2: “Pick the right investor”

Money is everywhere according to the business mogul and if you have “a great idea, passion and belief” you can probably get a substantial sum, but he stresses that start-ups need to be careful in choosing what type they go for.

Suleyman advises companies to go for an investor that adds value, recommending that start-ups especially should look to strategic investors for finance first as they will help advise you on how to develop your business without the pressure associated with more goal driven financiers such as venture capitalists.

Tip 3: “Get your timing right”

Suleyman explains that if you’re a very young company seeking finance, you’ll end up giving  up too much equity if you move too soon, advising ambitious start-ups to seek investment from their network of family and friends first.

Suleyman advises ambitious entrepreneurs to “grow your business so it’s stronger, and you can give less of a percentage away… and therefore retain control”.

Tip 4: “Find a business mentor”

The fashion tycoon believes having mentors and someone with experience was vital for his success – adding that it was one of his mentors that made Suleyman aware that he was in trouble with Bamber, notifying Suleyman that it was in the red to the tune of £20m after checking the company’s financials.

Suleyman has invested in many start-ups since growing another profitable business, and said he places as much importance on the mentorship he can offer as he does the money.

Tip 5: “Don’t put all your eggs in one investor”

According to the tycoon, start-ups should never place all their faith in one investor as this could – and did for him – spell the end for your business. Just as Bamber Stores had gone into liquation, Mellins needed a cash injection and so Suleyman sought investment from Polly Peck founder Asil Nadir, who promised the then struggling entrepreneur a £2m deal.

Suleyman didn’t keep his options open and paid the price when the deal failed to materialise. He was forced to resign and sell his house to pay off his debts.

Tip 6: “Respect your investment”

Throughout the talk, Touker emphasised the importance of putting all the money you are given back into the firms’ growth, saying “treat your business like a public one” making all money accountable and give yourself a wage – something he and his business partner (and brother) did when they took on Hawes & Curtis. The business expert reaffirms that it’s essential entrepreneurs “don’t abuse the money” they are given and that they stick to the plans laid out when they went to seek investment.

Touker Suleyman was speaking at an Evening Standard Business Connections event. For additional information on investment, have a look at our raising finance section or for more on the Touker Suleyman, read our feature on the new Dragons here.

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