Lori Greiner of 'Shark Tank' Talks Entrepreneurship in the Digital Age
Free Book Preview: Brand Renegades
“When someone tells you that something can’t be done, all it really means is that it hasn’t been done before.” ~ Lori Greiner
The digital age has transformed how business is conducted in powerful ways. Thanks to new technology, more educational resources, and alternative fundraising options, it’s now easier than ever to start a business. With so many people launching new startups, savvy business investors like Shark Tank’s Lori Greiner are speaking out and advising entrepreneurs on how to be successful in this digital age.
I had the unique opportunity to interview the “Queen of QVC” about how entrepreneurship has evolved, mistakes to avoid when pitching investors, and her surprising advice for women entrepreneurs.
Lori Greiner's rise in the digital age
Greiner took advantage of the digital stage early on when she launched “Lori Greiner’s Clever and Unique Creations” on QVC in 2000. “There are so many venues that can play a role in your selling strategy, but in my opinion, there is simply no better selling medium for a new inventor than a shopping channel like QVC,” Greiner told me. “Once you know how to market something out of a certain medium, then it becomes easier to continue marketing other products out of that same medium.”
Using her flair to communicate and present well on air, Greiner leveraged her QVC success into becoming a Shark Tank investor and a mentor and role model for entrepreneurs worldwide.
Related: How to Win on 'Shark Tank'
“The emphasis on entrepreneurship has grown tremendously over the last five years,” says Greiner. “Everybody can relate to having an idea they think could be worth millions, but several years ago people probably never seriously considered that it would be possible to get it off the ground, but now we’re showing that it can happen.”
What makes a great Shark Tank pitch?
Having witnessed hundreds of pitches on Shark Tank and thousands personally, Greiner concisely revealed what constitutes a great pitch. “Be energetic, captivating, honest and informative, but brief. A great pitch is when a person can describe what their business or product is within two sentences,” Greiner advised. “Draw the investors in with enthusiasm and passion. Remember that whoever you’re pitching has spent either little or no time thinking about your product, which you may think is the greatest on the market. Be succinct and to the point, but make it exciting and informative.”
When I asked Greiner if she felt that investing in the entrepreneur was more important than investing in the product, she responded, “I look at both the product being pitched as well as the entrepreneur pitching it, as they are equally important to me. For the product or business, I look for several different things…
- Something that has broad mass appeal
- Something that solves a problem
- Something that is unique or different
- Something that can be made at an affordable price
“For the entrepreneur, I love to see someone who is energetic, passionate, honest and driven. I want to feel that they will do whatever it takes to make their business a success,” Greiner said.
3 biggest pitch mistakes
As viewers know, negotiations on Shark Tank can quickly get heated and, even though the drama makes for great entertainment, I was curious to know how those moments can affect the relationship with the entrepreneur after the deal is made with the investor.
“Heated moments can come out in a positive way for the entrepreneur,” claims Greiner. “I think so because you always learn from your experiences. There are always valuable lessons to learn from every experience, and I think that even though sometimes the questions from the Sharks or what happens can seem quite difficult, I think you will walk away learning a great deal and correcting what went wrong. You learn the most from what you consider failures or difficulties. I look at them as the greatest and most valuable lessons. There are no failures in life, just great lessons.”
When asked what she believes is the biggest mistake people make when pitching investors, Greiner shared not one, but three fundamental mistakes every entrepreneur should avoid.
1. Being unprepared
According to the QVC queen, the biggest mistake individuals make is that they don’t know everything there is to know about their own product and business. “You should know your product or business inside and out, and be prepared to answer any question about it,” says Greiner. “Whether the question involves finances, manufacturing, inventory, or processes -- you should know every single detail.” Not being prepared, Greiner says, is her biggest pet peeve. "It shows a lack of commitment and caring and is reflective of their work ethic. It also lets me know that they would probably not be successful.”
2. Lacking enthusiasm and passion
“I’ve seen the greatest ideas fall completely flat when presented by someone who lacks enthusiasm,” explains Greiner. “But, on the other hand, I’ve seen great entrepreneurs convince others to buy or invest in things that they would never have under any other circumstances, but for their passion.”
When I asked if there was a single pitch or experience that impacted her, she replied, “The craziest pitch was that squirrel zapper! Michael DeSanti, an aerospace professional turned entrepreneur, created a squirrel-proof bird feeder that deters squirrels from eating bird food by delivering a harmless static shock.”
“Ryan 'Cowboy' Ehmann was one of the funniest and most crazy,” Greiner also recalled. “I couldn’t figure out what he was selling, and Daymond John gave him a deal for his rodeo-themed Cowboy gym -- go figure!"
3. Having an arrogant attitude
“Remember, if you’re trying to convince someone to invest in you, they need to not only like what you’re asking them to invest in, but they also need to like you and believe in you,” Greiner told me.
“If entrepreneurs don’t listen to questions asked during a pitch, they aren’t going to hear you down the road, and they’re not going to be a good partner.” Greiner also mentioned that it’s a big turnoff if they appear difficult to work with. “It doesn’t matter how great a business idea or product is, if the entrepreneur is going to be a problem, nothing is worth it.”
You made a deal. Now what?
Once the excitement of the Shark Tank experience subsides, many people are not aware that some of the deals that close on camera do not materialize into formal business partnerships afterward with the investors. On the surface, the deals may look great, but it’s the process after the show where the work truly begins.
“My process after a deal is to try to call the entrepreneur within a few days after it’s made in the ‘tank,’ and they get back home,” Greiner stated. “I want to make a more casual introduction and talk about their experience in the tank, then hear about the hot issues in their business and see how fast we have to move. My team and I go through due diligence with each entrepreneur to ensure that the company is, in fact, investible and that everything they said on the show is true.”
Greiner says she is very hands-on with these entrepreneurs. “I’m often talking to them at all hours of the night and on weekends. Once the deal is signed and closed, we begin working on a big-picture plan on what we need to do and what steps we need to take to get there."
Best hiring practices
“I always say ‘Hire character and train skill,’ and I truly believe this. Who a person is is equally important to me as what they know how to do. There are many important characteristics I look for when hiring, but I’d say these are at the top of the list: honesty, ethical, trustworthy and a team player. Fun to be around is a big plus too!”
I also asked Greiner what advice she had for millennials and younger entrepreneurs who find it difficult to network, especially when it comes to getting the attention of seasoned investors.
“Don’t be afraid to network. Reach out and ask questions -- you have nothing to lose and everything to gain. When selling yourself, be confident and frank about your attributes. You can be honest and humble at the same time. But, if you don’t speak up for yourself, nobody else will.”
Credit: Courtesy of Lori Greiner
Lori Greiner’s advice to women entrepreneurs
Having been influenced by strong, powerful, and influential women like Oprah, Sara Blakely, and Arianna Huffington, who have been leading the charge for women entrepreneurs for years, Lori Greiner shared her thoughts and wisdom for the next wave of women business leaders.
1. Don’t label yourself
“As a female entrepreneur, I think it’s very important for women not to think of themselves as ‘women’ in business, or as a ‘woman’ in any job position. They should think of themselves as a person in business or in their job position, equal to, if not better than, anyone else around them. Find something you love to do, and then do it better than anyone else.”
2. Educate yourself
“Do what it takes to educate yourself in the field you are interested in. Be a sponge and absorb as much knowledge and information as possible. It’s always great if you can work somewhere or for someone when you can learn and get hands-on experience in a real-life scenario. Education is great, but practical experience is invaluable.”
3. Don’t be afraid to speak up
“Most importantly, be yourself and confident in who you are, what you know, and what you can do. Don’t be afraid to speak up. You don’t have to be tough to appear strong. Just be confident and believe in your convictions and knowledge.”
4. Believe in yourself
“I think anyone can become successful. It doesn’t matter who you are, where you come from, or what stage in life you are at. All that matters is your drive, determination, and your willingness to work hard. With that, I truly believe you can make anything happen, and you can be successful. I’m a big believer that you should never take no for an answer when people say things can’t be done. That just means it hasn’t been done before.”
What motivates Greiner?
When I asked Lori Greiner why she believes she has continued to be successful over the past two decades, and what motivates her to work so hard today, the Shark Tank celebrity quipped, “I made my career on TV because I happened to invent highly demonstrable products, so that’s where I knew I would see my biggest success. I didn’t set out to be a serial inventor. After my first product was a success, the buyers wanted more and more. I was driven to keep creating by QVC and my customers.”
“I was lucky in that I could hear my customer’s voices when they called in on air,” Greiner regaled. “Hearing that they loved the product or that it made them happy or their lives better really gave me the motivation to keep creating more! Often I come up with ideas for products by thinking of things that people need or want. Usually, that means creating solutions for everyday problems.”
“Today, people say that I move at lightning speed and I humbly say that I have helped many of the most successful products in Shark Tank history, including Simply Fit Board, Scrub Daddy, Squatty Potty, Bantam Bagels and Sleep Styler to name a few,” Greiner proudly claimed. “I strive to make people’s lives easier and better, and I find that’s a primary force behind my passion for empowering entrepreneurs.”