9 Lessons in Entrepreneurship From Shark Tank

by Brett & Kate McKay on February 4, 2014 · 39 comments

in Money & Career

tank

I don’t watch much television — with two small children and a business, I just don’t have time. But there’s one show that I DVR and watch without fail every week: Shark Tank.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with the show, here’s the premise:

Aspiring entrepreneurs get a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to pitch their business to a panel of “sharks” — five self-made millionaires and billionaires including the likes of Mark Cuban and Daymond John — and ask for funding in exchange for equity in their business.

Basically, it’s the dramatization of one of the most stressful, sweat-inducing, make-or-break moments in capitalism: the business pitch.

On any given episode you’ll see amazing and innovative businesses secure hundreds of thousands (and sometimes millions) of dollars worth of capital, or you’ll get to watch what’s obviously a weird, laughably-bad business be eviscerated by the sharks.

This is of course a “reality” show, with those quotes firmly in place; while the businesses are real and the entrepreneurs really do spend an hour or two with the sharks getting feedback on their products or ideas, that footage is then spliced and edited together into 5 minutes of entertaining television. The businesses that are comically bad were clearly handpicked by producers for that very reason.

But while it’s crafted for your viewing pleasure, Shark Tank actually offers a good dose of practical, real-world business advice for would-be entrepreneurs. You won’t get an MBA equivalent education just from watching the show, but you’d be surprised by the amount of actionable business tips you can pick up just from tuning in each week.

Below I highlight nine of the recurring lessons in entrepreneurship I’ve gleaned from Shark Tank:

1. Learn how to pitch. If there’s one lesson you take from Shark Tank and this post, let it be this: master the art of the pitch.

Even if you don’t think you’ll ever find yourself standing in front of a bunch of venture capitalists, every entrepreneur needs to know how to effectively sell himself and his idea to his potential partners, employees, and clients/customers.

You’d think on a show like Shark Tank — in which people know they’ll be asking for tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars on national television – the entrepreneurs would prepare for their pitch like crazy.

But you’d be wrong.

I’d venture that 50% of the pitches on Shark Tank are absolutely horrible, 40% are so-so, and 10% are stellar. Some of the folks on Shark Tank just seem like they’re winging it, which makes for some awkward, yet entertaining moments.

“You have to learn how to communicate your vision. You have to practice in a mirror every morning. It’s the most important thing you can do because you only get a chance to make a first impression once. And when you stand up in front of sharks or any other investors you’ve got to be able to communicate why the idea works and why you’re the right person to do it.

I always tell young kids that I teach now in business school, ‘Look all this stuff you’re learning about numbers is great, but if you can’t stand up in front of your classmates and explain why you’re a winner and how you can be a leader, and how you can inform that business plan, you’re nothing… You’re just a nothing burger ’til that happens.’” –Kevin O’Leary, aka Mr. Wonderful

So how do you avoid being like the cringe-inducing pitchers on Shark Tank? Well, following the guidelines in our post on how to give an effective pitch (as well as what not to do) will put you leaps and bounds ahead of many folks. The gist of the advice in those posts is this: be poised, make your pitch sticky or memorable, know your business (and industry) inside and out so you can answer any question that comes your way, and play to the investor’s self-interest (show them the money!).

The best pitch I’ve seen on the show was from an 18-year-old girl who owns a skincare company called Simple Sugars. She was super poised (more so than many of the much older entrepreneurs who’ve been in the tank), she had a great story for her product (started the company when she was 11 to create an all-natural skincare product that was suited for someone who had eczema, like herself), she knew her business inside and out, answered the sharks’ questions and resolved doubts like a boss, and she clearly demonstrated how the sharks would make money investing with her. Her awesome pitch scored her a $100,000 deal with Mark Cuban. If you want to learn how to pitch like a pro, you’d do well to watch this young woman in action.

2. Hustle is necessary, but not sufficient. A common refrain entrepreneurs on the show resort to when they’re about to get the nix from all five sharks is:  “But I’m such a hard worker! I will toil night and day to make this business a success!” And every time, one of the sharks — usually Mark Cuban — will respond with something to the effect of: “You and everyone else on this show!”

We’ve argued that the world belongs to those who hustle. And it does. If you’re lazy, you’re not going anywhere in life. But in business, hustle is a given. You have to work hard to be a success, but working hard doesn’t guarantee you’ll be successful. If your business sucks and your product is a complete lemon, it doesn’t matter how hard you work. You’re going to fail.

Hustle, but make sure you’re hustling in the right direction.

3. Don’t be blinded by passion. Here’s another recurring theme on the show: the overly-passionate entrepreneur who’s poured their heart and soul into their product and is absolutely convinced that their business is the next big thing/will change the world…even though everyone else can plainly see that their idea is an utter dud.

“I think passion is overrated. Everyone has a lot of passions. I have a passion for sports – a passion for music. That doesn’t make it a business, and that doesn’t make you qualified to run the business.” –Mark Cuban

It’s hard to knock these folks. Their passion and emotion is well-intended and is frankly admirable in our day of “overwhelming meh” aloofness. Ideally, you should love doing the thing you’re trying to make money at. But passion isn’t enough. Just like hustling can’t transform a sow’s ear into a purse, if nobody wants your product or service, passion in spades won’t magically turn your business into a success. In fact, that unchecked passion can blind you to warning signs that you’re on a sinking ship — before you know it, you’ve invested years of your life and thousands of dollars into an emotionally and financially costly failure. It’s truly sad when the entrepreneurs on the show admit they’ve taken out a second mortgage or emptied their children’s college fund to pursue a dream that all the sharks end up turning down. Had they led with their head instead of their heart, such a devastating anagnorisis could have been avoided.

4. Just because your friends and family love your idea, doesn’t mean it’s a good idea. I can’t count the number of times I’ve seen people pitch what is obviously a stinker of a business, only to be stunned when Mr. Wonderful declares, “This is insanity! I forbid you to continue!” How do these incredulous would-be entrepreneurs invariably respond? “But all my friends and family think it’s a great idea!”

Of course they do. They’re your friends and family. They think you’re awesome, so they think everything you do is awesome; it’s the halo effect! Even if your friends and family do realize your business idea is a bad one, they probably wouldn’t say so. They’re worried you’ll shoot the messenger and so they’ll simply tell you what you want to hear.

Take the husband/wife creators of  “Elephant Chat.” They invested $100,000 of their own money into developing their product – a little plush elephant stuffed inside an acrylic “communication cube” that a spouse could place out on the counter to let their partner know they wanted to talk about an issue in the relationship (“the elephant in the room”). It retailed for $60. They swore everyone they talked to thought it was an amazing idea. None of the sharks took the bait.

Besides being blinded by your passion, beware the family and friends filter. Always, always get an outside, unbiased opinion. Better yet, test out your idea on the unforgiving public to see if there’s even a demand for it.

5. Know your business. Above we mentioned that in order to pitch effectively, you gotta know your business. But what does that mean exactly?

“Know your business and industry better than anyone else in the world.” –Mark Cuban

First, you need to know your numbers — sales, cash flow, debt, margin, and so on. The sharks often hesitate to make a deal with entrepreneurs who don’t know important data points like their customer acquisition cost.

But knowing your business extends far beyond having a handle on your numbers; it requires a deep understanding and grasp of the industry you’re competing in. Lots of entrepreneurs come on the show pitching a product or service they think is truly unique, only to be informed by one of the sharks that a very similar product or service already exists. If they had done just a bit of due diligence, they could have avoided that embarrassing “surprise.”

There are also plenty of entrepreneurs who come on the show with dreams of conquering certain industries (food, clothing, apps, etc.), but have no idea how those industries actually work; for example, they have a food item they want national grocery stores to stock, yet they aren’t aware of the huge amounts of money big corporations spend to secure that shelf space and what an uphill battle breaking into the market will require. Consequently, their plans to succeed are naive at best — completely misguided at worst.

A perfect example of entrepreneurs who came on Shark Tank without really understanding their industry (or even business) was a pair of doctors pitching a social network for their fellow MDs called Rolodoc. The docs had no clue how social media worked, or even what it was, despite the fact that their business idea would supposedly revolve round it. Consequently, they stumbled over even very basic questions about how their idea would be executed and how it would actually make money. Mark Cuban called it the worst pitch in Shark Tank history.

Before you start your business, research the heck out of the industry you’ll be competing in by reading industry journals and blogs and talking to folks who are already doing business in that market. Heck, even pick up a Dummies guide – there’s one for just about any industry you can think of. This research phase could take months, but it will save you major headaches down the road.

6. Concentrate on your core competency. Sometimes an already successful business will enter the tank seeking more capital to expand and grow. Nothing wrong with that. The problem arises when one of these companies wants to use that money to expand into a somewhat related product line or service that detracts from their original core competency. Most of the sharks are leery of these businesses and will often tell the entrepreneur that they’ll only invest if they drop their plans for the expanded product line. Why would they want their money funneled into an untested product or service instead of being used to boost a proven winner?

It’s good to experiment and try different things in business, but never lose sight of your core competency. Getting sidetracked has been the downfall of many a business. This is especially true with the volume and ease with which you can get feedback on social media these days; you might hear from a bunch of folks who say, “I wish you guys would make this too!” leading you to believe there’s a popular demand for a new expansion in your business. Then it turns out that those commenters actually represented a very small but disproportionately vocal minority.

Know what you’re good at and stick close to it.

7. The best businesses solve real problems. The entrepreneurs that succeed in landing a deal usually have one thing in common: their business solves a real problem. Typically the problem the entrepreneur sets out to solve was one they experienced themselves.

The businesses that typically fail at securing funding don’t solve an actual problem. They’re either novelty products or products that solve a problem that doesn’t actually exist. Every now and then you’ll see a shark invest in a novelty item because they see the opportunity to make a lot of money really fast by riding a trend or fad, but for every one of those, you have something like Man Medals – novelty items that are as a dumb as a rock, not the next Pet Rock.

8. If you’re not making money, it’s just a hobby. Kevin O’Leary has a saying, “Any business that after three years isn’t profitable isn’t a business, it’s a hobby.” There’s nothing wrong with hobbies. They’re fun and provide a creative outlet. But don’t fool yourself into thinking that your little manly-scented artisanal soapmaking experiment is a promising biz just because you’ve sold 8 bars on Etsy. If you’re plowing lots of money into your project, but seeing little return on your investment, embrace your endeavor for what it is – a pleasant pastime.

9. Not every business needs investors. Some entrepreneurs come on Shark Tank looking for an investment to expand an already successful business, only to be told by the sharks that they don’t need an investor and should actually continue to bootstrap the business. I think this is an important, but often overlooked point. In a business culture that glorifies million dollar venture capital deals, lots of aspiring entrepreneurs have the mistaken belief that if you want to succeed in business, you have to have investors.

Not so.

Plenty of successful businesses bootstrap their way to success without the assistance of investors; with a good idea, hard work, and proper money and resource management, they’re able to fund continued growth with the cash flow they have coming in. Bringing in an investor wouldn’t do much for these businesses except add another cook in the kitchen – and another hand in the pie.

“Banks are not forgiving, and the last thing you want to do is build your business with a priority placed on having to pay back the bank before you invest further in your business. Equity is far better and sweat equity is the best.” -Mark Cuban

Besides, some businesses just aren’t well suited for investment. Investors typically want businesses that they can scale and aggressively expand. You can’t scale a business that specializes in handcrafted wooden chests made by you, unless of course you’re willing to license your design to a factory in China. But managing the mass-production of wooden chests may not be what you envision as your vocation and you’d rather keep things small – making less money, but staying hands-on with the work.

Taking venture capital ultimately means giving up control. We ourselves have been approached a few times with VC offers but have never seriously considered them. Once you bring in people who are only concerned about the bottom line, they’re going to start pushing you to do things that may not jive with your values and vision. “We need to blow the Art of Manliness up and increase traffic faster! Why don’t you publish more often and do like, oh, I don’t know, some posts on the ‘hot girl of the month?’” Um, no thanks.

Before seeking investment, ask yourself: Do we really need outside funding? Have we reached a point where we can’t continue to grow without it? Are we the type of business an investor would even want to invest in?  If so, what would we do with the extra capital? Do I really want to give up control of my business?

Also, if you’re looking for a great bootstrapping success story, look no farther than our friends at Huckberry. I’m so impressed with their success – they keep growing and growing – and they’ve done it without VC. For an inside look at the benefits and challenges of taking this path, check out this great article on them at 37Signals.

If you’re an aspiring entrepreneur, I hope you’ll take all this advice under consideration, or in the words of Mr. Wonderful, “You’re dead to me!”

What business lessons have you learned from Shark Tank? Share them with us in the comments!

 

{ 39 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Ben Greenfield February 4, 2014 at 4:58 pm

Good article. I use Sharktank to teach my 5 year old twin boys about business. I love it when they say “Daddy, that’s a bad idea and I wouldn’t buy it.”

BTW, does Chad Howse know “Naturally” is spelled wrong in his ad?

2 Alejandro February 4, 2014 at 5:49 pm

I’m from Ecuador, this article has been very useful for me. I’m a co-founder and CEO of a local IT company and we’ve been hustling our way up for 5 years.

The 9 lessons should be considered features that every entrepreneur must make their own before they can succeed. We chose a hard career for a south american country that still thin oil and agriculture are the best ways to develop prosperity.

Anyway, I haven’t seen Shark Tank but I can confirm that you need a lot of abilities before you can consider yourself succesful, specially on the pitch. Pitching is very difficult unless you know your business better than anyone and know how to communicate it. If you can’t prove your idea solves a problem and you get profit in less than a minute, you’re screwed.

This article gave me a lot of things to think about, thanks for that!

3 Peter February 4, 2014 at 7:06 pm

Not the outright greatest message I received from this post, but I am just joyous on not having to trawl through ‘Hot Girl of the Month’ posts on AoM. Excellent business decision. Regards Mr Hopes he’s not a disproportionately vocal minority

4 Zach U. February 4, 2014 at 9:16 pm

Good crystallization of some things you might learn by “feel” while watching Shark Tank. This leads back to the post on journaling in which the task is to review a certain form of entertainment recently enjoyed. I think something I aspire to do well is to be able to lay down on paper that which I’ve learned subjectively and intuitively.

@Brett: I wouldn’t have visited a second time if your site had had any section devoted to lusting after and devaluing (read “ogling”) women. Keep doing what you’re doing, and you’ll always have at least one reader (yours truly).

5 Matt February 4, 2014 at 9:20 pm

Over the past month or so I’ve hit a major stumbling block in my business as a personal trainer and strength coach. THIS is exactly what I needed to hear [read]. Thank you AoM for being so goddamn manly and awesome ;)

6 Evan February 4, 2014 at 11:57 pm

Contrary to #8, sometimes not being profitable is a good thing and provides an environment for your business to grow.

Case in point: Twitter.

7 Kyle Ingham February 5, 2014 at 12:01 am

Love this post. Very close to my heart. Was just watching Shark Tank moments ago. I agree with what you said about not being blinded by passion. But interestingly I’ve also been noticing that when the Sharks themselves make decisions on whether to invest, their own passion in the category is often a deciding factor. So maybe for the entrepreneur, it’s: have just enough passion that the hustle doesn’t feel like work. But don’t get so wrapped up in the passion that you’re blinded to the reality of how things are going…

8 Nikki B February 5, 2014 at 12:12 am

The biggest lesson learned is know your business on a granular scale and understand the concept of the investment and the relevance of the ask….

9 Shawn February 5, 2014 at 3:24 am

Canada has something similar called Dragon’s Den if you’re interested. I’ll have to check this one out too though. Very promising.

10 Daniel February 5, 2014 at 7:00 am

“Hot girl of the month” would be the first thing they’ll ask for. Then monthly, weeky, then daily sports reports. Then, if they’re particularly cruel, “manly monthly news (mews?), then weekly, then daily.

The only good thing a benevolent business might ask for are “manly travel” posts, but thats the honeymoon, that is how they’ll trap you in – then, wham. Some guy up says “This needs more girls, sports, news…” HGOTM, MMN(M?), MMS…

11 Andres February 5, 2014 at 8:19 am

Great tips!!! Keep it up!!!

12 Peter Pen February 5, 2014 at 10:13 am

I think businessmen are born – not made. If a business could be learned by watching a TV shows and answering questions – the dog would be the best butcher.

13 JB February 5, 2014 at 10:48 am

I recently had to accept that my business had failed and it is a tough, bitter pill to swallow. My company had been putting on a series of zombie runs around the country, we were one of the first to do this, and we’d had some success right out of the gate. The problem is it was one of those things that people heard about, thought it was a great idea, and immediately began copying. Suddenly zombie runs were everywhere. Most of them were poorly done and damaged the reputation of zombie runs as a whole – the rest simply served to dilute the market. Fortunately my day job is that of an analyst, it is my job to coldly review data and predict trends and I saw the writing on the wall before many others and got out before it became fiscally unsustainable. My largest competitor did not see the writing on the wall and ended up in a horrifically messy bankruptcy that destroyed their reputation and basically made them a curse word in the run industry. By keeping my passion in check and approaching it logically I was able to get out with my good reputation firmly intact and still have the opportunity to do other events under my company flag.

14 Nathan February 5, 2014 at 11:28 am

I love this show. Right now my wife and I are starting our own business. Shark Tank has actually give us a lot to think about as we develop our business plan.

This article was great! It put together a lot of things I had seen in the show. Thanks!

15 Chrissy E February 5, 2014 at 11:29 am

Shark Tank also narrows down, helpfully, the 3 major ways to profit from an idea:
1. Patent and License
2. Develop company then sell to competitor
3. Sell thru big distributors (TV sales, big stores, web)

At least these are the most common I’ve seen on ST. Any others?

16 Justin M. February 5, 2014 at 11:53 am

As a corporate strategist at a venture-backed company, we just went through a Series C investment where we partnered with new investors. That’s one of the biggest components right there, align your interests with investors.

If your company wants to go to the public market (IPO), don’t align yourself with venture capitalists who want to make an investment and sell through acquisition (M&A).

It’s one thing to pitch and succeed at getting in the door, but it’s another to to try to align your ideas with a board of directors who many not share the same goals.

17 Kevin February 5, 2014 at 12:05 pm

For those who need help learning how to pitch/speak in public, I’d highly suggest finding a local Toastmasters club. There are 14,000+ clubs worldwide where people practice their public speaking skills. An analogy – you learn to play the guitar better by practicing – ditto goes for public speaking and practicing at Toastmasters.

18 Brooks February 5, 2014 at 1:30 pm

Did you know ABC takes 5 percent of their business or a 2 percent royalty just for being on the show?! Even if they don’t get a deal!

19 Brett McKay February 5, 2014 at 2:17 pm

@Brooks-

That used to be the case, but a few months ago Mark Cuban gave ABC an ultimatum — that he wouldn’t return to the show unless they got rid of that equity requirement. He argued that the quality of the businesses coming on the show would decline if they kept it, and ABC agreed to take it out, even retroactively removing it from the businesses that have already been on the show.

20 Michael February 5, 2014 at 4:30 pm

Great article! I like what you said about mastering the art of the pitch. The pitch is such an important aspect of the business. For example, take a look at the pistachio Super Bowl commercial. I believe that commercial was a perfect example of product branding and pitching. Anyhow, great article…don’t sell out to the VC’s!

21 Kyle Boureston February 5, 2014 at 9:12 pm

Number 7, Number 7, Number 7

22 Shoal Creek February 6, 2014 at 12:09 am

One additional lesson from number 4: Elephant Chat might be a cute idea that would sell with some people, but not at $60. The additional lesson is that you need to know all of your competition and actually compete with them on price and/or quality. Somebody that wanted to put an elephant in a room as a discrete message that they needed to talk to their partner could easily go get a $7 plush toy elephant at the local toy store and employ the exact same idea sans the plastic cube while saving $53 in the process.

23 P.M.Lawrence February 6, 2014 at 4:09 am

A successful business typically needs three functional areas:-

- operations (which are specific to the business area, and sometimes even to the firm);

- finance (which includes accounting); and

- marketing (which includes sales, and may vary more or less with the business area, e.g. government contracts may need lobbying).

Not all worth while activities are businesses in this sense, e.g. subsistence farming isn’t as it doesn’t supply customers, and not all businesses need full blown, formal systems for these three functional areas. Also, in some businesses there is a lot of overlap between operations and one of the other two areas, e.g. banking operations have to do with finance and advertising agency operations have to do with marketing.

The important thing to realise, early on, is that few people are talented enough in even two of these areas, let alone all three, and in any case few people have enough time and energy to cover even two (unless they are also lucky enough to be in a business with that kind of overlap between operations and another area). That means that you need to work within a team that brings together all the areas – and works as a team. It’s a lot harder to buy in outside expertise or to train people up for it with an M.B.A. or similar, if you want to fill a post that is very specific to the business area; for those, mostly, you have to allow for a lot of learning on the job and for short term lower productivity, which means a self starter is good and you have to have the resources to bring him or her on for a year or two (and not get fed up and look for a replacement just because of that delay before ripeness).

But that leads to some other problems. You cannot assess someone’s skills in another area unless you either are a good judge of people too (yet another skill), or have enough background in the area to do that directly (which only helps when you do have the skill but have to hand the work over for time and energy reasons). And it’s all too common for well meaning people not to realise when they are stepping out of their area of expertise, and then they can break an important rule of thumb like “never make an engineering [operations] decision for accounting reasons” (or one of the other combinations); for instance, breaking that rule can lead to switching production to use components from a cheaper supplier, components that look OK when the decisions are made but lead to early product failures – and the recalls first show up as a problem in marketing, the third area, so a lot of damage can be done before the root cause is spotted and stopped.

Those are all rather negative, I’m afraid, but they may help readers all the same.

24 Will February 6, 2014 at 10:40 am

Brett – excellent article. It’s fascinating to see on the show how an excellent idea by itself is not enough to be a successful business. You have to learn to be good at the other aspects – management, finance, marketing, sales – or the business will fail. We see that when great ideas come in, but the people don’t have the right strategy, and their sales are lower than expected, and they’re foundering, so they think, “We need an investment!”

25 Omar Carreto February 6, 2014 at 11:03 am

Brett,

Thanks much for standing up against the lust of this world you did the right thing as I have learned from my wife, these actions show lots of respect for our wifes and a big lesson to your kids.

In my perspective great bussineses come out from an idea, yes one that solves ploblems. The way I see things here the show sounds like a waste of time for this dreamers, entrepenuers or pilgrims of success because we are all unique, talented human beigns and capable of anything we are willing to accomplish so why go to another humans for approval of your success…I read a story once about this kid who was going to college, had little money started his business(selling snacks in Campus) with $5.00 USD or we can take for example those Sicilians or Jewish who came to America with $300.00 USD to their names yet created profitable bussiness(heck they even bought politicians). Do not get me wrong yes the show might have something interesting to share but I rather read a book or do research on my own, anyway I’ll check it out for the cruelty fun for me. I’ll resume in this from my experience still in process. Do dream big, prepare yourself, be ready do-it!

We are all passing by on this earth so why not do-it!?
Do not spend your kids college on your bussines idea.

26 Justin Cook February 6, 2014 at 11:38 am

I’m trying to start my own blog and the goings been tough after a long hiatus we changed up our post format and are back it. I hope we can apply some of these lessons to our work. PS I also really like shark tank.

27 Val February 6, 2014 at 12:53 pm

The Elephant Chat was right on with the price. Research shows most people who purchase cheap do not respect the value and therefore would not take seriously the importance of what the item stood for. I say it is a flash in the pan item with a short life span. Therefore is a crowd funding type of deal.

28 Dave February 6, 2014 at 8:52 pm

Brett and Kate – wonderful breakdown of Shark Tank Lessons. It’s all great and I would simply give special emphasis to; a.) knowing your business
b.) knowing your product, and
c.) knowing your market

Your advice about market research is appropriate – so you’re not reinventing the wheel. On the other hand, it’s often true that if a product hasn’t yet been invented there’s a good chance there’s no market for it.

Research your competition and determine how you’re product or service can improve upon what’s already available. Just because someone else is marketing the same product or service does’t mean there’s no room for your product – if it’s superior.

And know your market. So many new entrepreneurs make the assumption “everyone” is a potential customer. Nothing could be further from the truth – no matter how amazing the product.

Creating an accurate concise definition of your “ideal customer” gives you the ability to view your product or service through your their eyes and improve your product to satisfy that ideal buyer.

Thanks for the great post.

29 Chris Westfall February 6, 2014 at 9:40 pm

It’s always surprising when someone on Shark Tank gets pinned down by the Sharks – because they aren’t a true expert on their business. Sure, they know their product and their history, but they don’t know why someone would buy it, or how. This article provides great insight – and I take #1 to heart: You’ve got to know how to pitch! Every entrepreneur has to become an expert at persuasion, in my opinion!

30 Phil February 7, 2014 at 2:37 am

Do your legwork. I have seen so many people come on the show with a great idea or product that would really sell if the entrepreneurs would just put in the necessary legwork. Pound the pavement, go to the appropriate trade/craft shows, join the appropriate associations, send samples to manufacturers/retailers and try to drum up orders. To be honest, most (if not all) of the investment-seekers that go on Shark Tank don’t need investors, they just need to grab ahold of their bootstraps and pull.

31 Petros Pavlidis February 8, 2014 at 12:59 am

I guess it might be due to a difference in business culture but I enjoy the british dragons den much more.
That being said, I hope that I have learned valueable lessons from these shows that will help me in my newly started firm. But, the most important advice, I believe, I learned from IKEAs founder. To never spend any money unnecessarily.

32 Ben Alexander February 8, 2014 at 7:44 am

I pitched my business on Shark Tank episode #514, Balloon Distractions, we’re doing 500K in sales, and growing, and the sharks did not invest.

Since the show we’ve continued to grow. I’m grateful for the publicity, but I think the sharks should have invested in our business… right now we are starting teams in 40 new markets.

33 Ryan February 9, 2014 at 8:28 am

I never knew about “Shark Tank” show before reading this article. As a guy whose dreamed about going back to his home town and opening a business (after completing school of course) I will definitely be watching from time to time.

34 D.L. White February 12, 2014 at 4:12 pm

Very good information. I help a ton of aspiring entrepreneurs and especially like the part about “solving a problem.” A business must solve a problem when seeking funding and can not just be incrementally better…need to be light years better and disruptive. The business pitch MUST be succinct to the point where the audience is asking for more information — and there is an art to this that many never grasp.

35 Jasbir February 14, 2014 at 1:08 pm

One thing you don’t hear much of is a message from Rabbi Lapin. According to him, he has identified 10 commandments for prosperity in “Thou Shall Prosper – 10 Commandments for Making Money”. The interesting thing is that the 10th commandment is to never retire. He says plainly, “…never retire…who told you that you could retire?”

36 Tim February 17, 2014 at 9:22 am

This is kind of getting a business loan from a bank. Most people have a distinct way of thinking and can’t step out side of the box. Just because the sharks might not invest big deal you just received huge press, you increase your sales and now you still own your whole company!

37 Brian Siravo February 18, 2014 at 10:01 pm

I’ve never watched the show as I am too busy working to build my new company (there’s a touch of irony there somewhere) but I do agree with the points of the article, especially #s 1, 5, 7, & 9. I think if I were to add two other points they would be: 1) be willing to admit what you don’t know and willing to learn constantly and 2) have VERY thick skin. If you can’t take someone being honest to say that idea stinks, you certainly don’t deserve it when they say in equal honestly that’s a great idea. Tenacity – more so than hustle, fueled by a passion will help get you through a lot of challenging moments.

38 Common Sense February 23, 2014 at 1:36 pm

The best part about “Shark Tank”, is that it’s a licensed offshoot of a Canadian show called “Dragon’s Den”- including O’Leary who is a Canadian. “Dragon’s Den” is actually a copy of a Japanese show called “Tiger of Money”. They are all licensed through Sony. In all there are approx 25 different versions worldwide.

As far as entrepreneurship goes, the tv series is really not entrepreneurial, it’s a licensed copy. The best way to make money is to take someone else’s idea and expand. (or rip them off if you are that type of character)

39 J March 6, 2014 at 5:41 pm

I would add 2 more:

- Don’t do it if you don’t know how to make it

- Don’t do it if you don’t know how to sell it

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