Shark Tank Wisdom

As an MBA candidate in the funding stages of my new business, shows such as Shark Tank are incredibly fascinating. Who are these people? Where did these ideas come from?

I enjoy learning about the people process behind the startups – during my MBA program, I became fascinated by people structures (officially, “Organizational Learning and Behavior”). A company is, after all, a collection of individual thought processes that must align with the given structure and desired outcome.

What happens when these individual thought processes clash? In my experience, you end up with a mediocre company making mediocre products or giving lackluster service, and you lose money.

But the real gem of Shark Tank is the investor commentary. This is free business advice, people! And even some of the Sharks themselves make my head spin (like, really, how does someone my parents age own a basketball team, a theater chain, a distribution company, or someone roughly our age sell their lil’ ol’ business to the largest real estate company in the US?!). MSN Money highlighted a few tidbits that stand out:

It’s not about money or connections — it’s the willingness to outwork and outlearn everyone when it comes to your business. And if it fails, you learn from what happened and do a better job next time. – Mark Cuban

I disagree that it isn’t about who you know – employment data over the last decade shows that it is very much about who you know. “A 2012 Federal Reserve Bank of New York study found that referred candidates were twice as likely to get interviews and 40 percent more likely to be hired than other candidates” (Next Avenue, 2013).

And the going rate for C-Corp filing, with EIN and State-specific Seller’s Permit, is about $600 – and that’s with a basic document filing service and fill-in-the-blanks Articles of Incorporation. Meaning, you won’t be getting legal consult on anything you file, certain other state filings may be extra, and you’re still without an operating agreement and certain other resolutions. That’s fine if you’re a single-owner corp or have some handy documents already drawn up, but just getting past that hurdle, for someone  starting with limited or no funds, can stop a startup in its tracks.

But there is something to be said for those who are willing to outlearn – my Graduate work time and time again has shown the importance of learning as much as possible, adapting, and changing. Particularly, changing what you know isn’t working. It’s what the entire concepts of innovation and personal development hinge upon.

In the same vein, Daymond John mentions the importance of transparency in how and why your business has failed:

If you can’t come clean and tell investors how and why you failed, that raises a red flag. They need to see that you learned from it and came back stronger. – Daymond John

FUBU had its day so I agree with John here. An ultimate red flag – someone who cannot confront weaknesses in the operational plan, financial or management models. You have to identify and address these areas. It forces me to rethink and rethink again as I am presenting my business plan and financial model to investors. What if it does go wrong? Luckily one benefit of my ethical inflexibility and years in accounting, I don’t feel any other option but to point out what is broken, how it was broken, and make a plan of action to keep it from breaking again.

Tough times never last; tough people always do. – Robert Herjavec

Who is this guy kidding? This is televangelist Robert Schuller’s quote from his 1980’s self help/Christian motivational inspo book. It’s been misappropriated ever since.

Taking a page from Warren Buffet‘s action plan, Shark Kevin O’Leary demands his kids work for their success:

I’m not planning on giving my kids any of my wealth. They know when their education is over, I’m pushing them out of the nest. The bird you see dead under the nest is the one who didn’t think about the future. – Kevin O’Leary

After watching a weekend full of Rich Kids of Beverly Hills, I cannot agree with O’Leary more. This sounds harsh but as Lori Greiner points out, you have to do the work to get the experience. LinkedIn also offers this great article on the generation of entitlement.

What are your favorite Shark Tank Moments?

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