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'Shark Tank' Judges Hunt for Entrepreneurs: Q&A with Robert Herjavec

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sony-pic.JPGLast night was the network television premiere of "Shark Tank," a new reality series featuring desperate entrepreneurs trying to sell their business ideas to a panel of five millionaire investors. If judges like what they see, they'll negotiate (or attack each other) for a piece of the venture. More often than not, though, contestants just get chewed up. But hey, with credit markets the way they are, what else can business owners do?

Entrepreneur.com had a chance to speak with each of the "sharks" about the show and their personal successes, so over the next five weeks, we'll be sharing these interviews on the Daily Dose. Stay tuned.

First up is Robert Herjavec. (He's the dark-haired, relatively compassionate one who sits on the very right). The former waiterlaunched a tech company during the early days of the dot-com boom andis now the head of The Herjavec Group, one of Canada's leading IT security and infrastructure firms.

In the first episode, you mention a spectrum that runs from insanity togenius. Where should an entrepreneur fall on this spectrum?
I think it depends on the life cycle of the business.

In this economy, anyone who starts a business and has a passion for ithas to be [closer to] insanity. When you look at the facts and thedata, what person in their right mind would go out and take thatchallenge and risk everything?

But I think as the company grows, you have to go on the other side.Just like any business is a living, breathing thing, an entrepreneur hasto be able to adapt over time. Of course, my wife thinks I'm insane allthe time. [laughs]

Why put your own money on the line?
I'm hoping to see real businesses with real cash flow and real ideasthat simply can't get funding somewhere else. In effect, [the show] might become a feeder for what could potentially become agreat investment. And it's a great format for entrepreneurs to learnand possibly get some funding.

You seem to have small businesses' interests at heart.
Oh, I'm all about small business. I think what we've learned from bigbusiness and big Wall Street is that unchecked greed and the creationof false value gets us all in trouble. If we look at the Americaneconomy, who's really creating value? It's the small businesses.

Then is it hard to judge whether someone's dream is good or bad?
I never try to judge people's dreams, but sometimes I find it difficult [to understand] what makes them pursue them.

If this show had been around when you started out, would you have done the casting call?
Absolutely. I would have seen it as a challenge and as a great way topartner with five successful people, or however many I could get.

And what do you think your chances would have been?

Easy! I would have gotten the money. [laughs]

What's the most important characteristic a successful entrepreneur should possess?

I'm looking for a great communicator, someone who communicates thoughtsclearly and immediately--that's different from being a greatsalesman or financial person.

If you can't get me excited about your idea or business, you're goingto have a hard time selling it to other people. That's important because I'm not goingto run their business--I'm simply an investor.

And in your own career, what was the best business move you made?

The best business decision was one that was made for me. I was firedfrom a successful job, which forced me to start a business because Icouldn't find another job. I'm not sure I would have ever taken therisk to start my own business if that hadn't happened to me.

So there's no decision you regret?

No.

I presume you ascribe to the "everything happens for a reason" philosophy.
Yeah. You know, I never look back and regret because one, I can'tchange it; and two, nobody cares. It's the same when our clients askus, "How are you doing today?" We always say "Wonderful," becausereally, they have their own issues, their own problems and they don'twant to hear about yours.

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