Valuable Lessons from 'Shark Tank' for Entrepreneurs
If you’re an entrepreneur, there’s a very good chance that you’ve seen the ABC TV show Shark Tank. If you haven’t, I highly recommend it. Although it’s easy to write off reality shows for being overly dramatic and often staged, Shark Tank provides some valuable lessons to entrepreneurs who pitch to investors for capital. Many of the worthiest takeaways from the show are thanks to the genius of Mark Cuban, a business mastermind and personal mentor of mine.
The first important lesson that Shark Tank imparts—and one that's not the easiest for entrepreneurs to stomach — is the incredible importance of networks. The most successful pitches in Shark Tank were aligned with huge brands such as QVC and Best Buy. Although some people might be opposed to these megastores, there is so much success to be had by aligning yourself with a major distributor. If that means receiving a bit less cash upfront in order to get connected to one of these networks, it will most likely benefit your business in the long run. Whatever you do, don’t tip your nose up to Walmart. You’d be making a big mistake.
If you’re an entrepreneur looking for an investor and you have a very specific request for what you need, be sure that that’s your final offer. No one likes to give what someone asks for and then have that business or individual ask for more. Once you get what you asked for, take it. There’s no changing the terms from that point on. Getting someone on board for your product or service is hard enough, so once you receive that coveted yes, don’t change your request. Not only does such a move lack professionalism, it shows that you didn’t sit down and think hard enough in the beginning about exactly what you need.
Have you considered forming an advisory board for your business? It’s an excellent idea. You’ll notice on Shark Tank that in addition to years of experience, all of the Sharks have a vast network behind them. There’s a reason retired business professionals are seated on advisory boards — they know a lot of people and have been in the game longer than many of us have. Bringing these wise individuals into your corner will not only open doors to other people, but also give you insight and clarity that only comes from hardened experience. These professionals can also offer suggestions on investment ideas, branding, and key financial insights.
Do the research
If there’s anything that you are skilled at as an entrepreneur, it’s probably doing research. You research how to build your business, you research your product or service, and you research the market that you’re selling in. Why not do a bit of research before you find yourself sitting across from an investor, asking for capital? What you’ll notice on Shark Tank is that all of the Sharks are a little different. The most successful pitches reflect that, because entrepreneurs have done their research and they know who they’re talking to. If you have a meeting with a potential investor on the horizon, learn some things about them. What have they invested in before? What are their tastes and inclinations? This will save you a lot of time and guesswork, and it’ll give your product or service a better chance.
How low can you go?
As with anything, getting your business off the ground requires a lot of pushing and pulling. You throw out a pitch, they lower their offer, you reconfigure things in your brain, and they lower the offer again. In very few instances are you going to walk into that office, give your pitch, and have everything go to plan. That’s why it’s so important to know exactly how low you’re willing to go. If you’re unsure of what you’re willing to accept, it appears not only unprofessional but also looks like you don’t know the ins and outs of your business. Hesitancy comes across as ignorance and may lead to the offer going down even further. Worse yet, you could accept an offer that is too low and regret it down the line.
You, your brand and your product
One of the most important takeaways from Shark Tank for me is the fact that you are your brand, just as much as your product is. There’s a reason why the show makes for such good television, and it’s because there’s something exciting about watching a person pitch their brand. We like to examine how they present themselves just as much as how they present their product. This is incredibly important for me as an Instagram influencer as well as an entrepreneur. I’m always conscious of my appearance and how I’m presenting myself. Remember, investors are buying into you as much as they’re buying into what you’re selling. How is your brand reflected in your appearance?
Always remember that you’re selling your product or service because it solves some sort of problem in society. If it solves a big enough problem, you’re going to gain many investors because they will understand that there’s a sizable market for what you have on offer. If your product doesn’t reach a large market, there will be less interest. So ask yourself: What problem is my product solving? What hole does it fill in the market? If you have an amazing idea and it’s unique, there’s going to be a lot of buzz. Take a moment to consider what problem you’re solving and how your business is going to make people’s lives easier and better.
The most important lesson from Shark Tank? Listen. Communication is one of the most important skills for entrepreneurs. If you’re turned down by an investor, don’t become defensive. Listen to what they have to say, because there are valuable lessons to be learned. Listen to your advisors and listen to your gut. There’s so much to learn from those who know the game. If you ever had a chance to sit down with Marc Cuban to discuss being an entrepreneur, my biggest piece of advice would be to take notes.