The heat is on for a TV Dragon

Fri, 14 Sep 2012 10:57:00 BST

Tables are turned as students tell Theo Paphitis how he could boost his business empire 

He is one of the UK’s wealthiest and most successful businessmen.  But now Theo Paphitis will ask a group of University of Huddersfield students to tell him where he might have gone wrong...

Mr Paphitis – who runs three top retail chains – is famous as one of the business gurus who make would-be entrepreneurs quiver when they enter TV’s Dragons’ Den.

Now he will be placed on the spot himself when the University’s BA (Hons) Enterprise Development students breathe fire on him.  They have been researching the Paphitis empire and will quiz him about his businesses, homing in on improvements they think he might make.

It could be a tense encounter.  But it is all the idea of Theo Paphitis himself!  And John Thompson, who is Professor of Entrepreneurship at the University of Huddersfield, is convinced that the Dragons’ Den star will respond extremely well to any criticisms that might come his way.

“He is not the sort of guy who won’t listen.  He is always on the lookout for fresh ideas.  He suggested the session as a way to start a dialogue on what constitutes a successful business,” said Professor Thompson, who worked closely with Theo Paphitis on the development of a unique Enterprise Development degree at the University of Huddersfield.

As part of his collaboration with the University, Mr Paphitis (pictured below giving advice to textile students upon receiving his honorary award) has held annual sessions for North of England sixth-formers who are interested in business careers.  Taking place at the Royal Armouries in Leeds, the events have regularly drawn more than 1,000 participants.

Theo Paphitis with textile student This year it was decided to relocate the Audience With Theo event to the University of Huddersfield, so that more of its own students could participate.  It takes place on Wednesday 19 September and when Theo Paphitis talks to sixth-formers in the University’s Diamond Jubilee Lecture Theatre, his session will be streamed live to selected undergraduates nearby.

Then Theo Paphitis will hold a special session with the Business School students in the live feed room before concluding his day with a masterclass attended by around 40 Enterprise Development undergraduates.

Professor Thompson revealed that they had been given the task of researching the Paphitis portfolio of businesses – the Rymans stationery store chain, the Boux Avenue lingerie retailer and the most recent addition, the Robert Dyas household goods shops.

“The students are being asked to critique these three retail chains and offer Theo their thoughts on what he should do with his businesses.  They will have had just about a week to conduct their research,” said Professor Thompson.

It is a new and intriguing dimension to annual Theo Paphitis sessions that have proved a big success, he added.

“The events really get people energised and they are highly thought-provoking.  Theo is such an inspirational man.”

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