Posted by: brandextenders | January 8, 2014

Business Lessons Learned from a Shark Tank

I love Shark Tank and have binge-watched past seasons three or four at a time. I’m fascinated watching the people who pitch; how shark-tankthey dress, their obviously scripted presentation which they’ve carefully memorized, the display they set up to showcase their venture and how they interact with the sharks.

The program has its origins in a Japanese show that first aired in 2001 called “Tigers of Money.” It then went to Canada in 2006 as “Dragons Den” before hitting the airwaves in the U.S. in August of 2009. Here are some fun facts you may not know:

  • Each pitch is actually one hour and edited down into the dramatic 10 minutes we see.
  • Approximately 40,000 people applied to be on the show in season 4 for 130 slots (26 episodes x 5 pitches per show).
  • It takes 20 days of back-to-back shooting to tape the season’s episodes.
  • The sharks know nothing about the pitch before they come out other than the names of each person presenting.
  • In terms of net worth (according to Mark Cuban is the wealthiest with a $2.5 billion net worth, Kevin O’Leary (Mr. Wonderful) is next with $300 million, Dayman John weighs in with $250 million,  Robert Herjavec at $100 million & Barbara Cochran  with a measly $40 million
The Sharks at work

The Sharks at work

I like all of the sharks for different reasons and I’ve observed a few things by watching that I work to incorporate into the way I do business each day:

  1. Be passionate: I understand the pitches for the most part are canned and rehearsed. However if you aren’t passionate about your work you can have the most well-written pitch and not get a dime. It’s easy to see passion in someone and for those of us in sales; our customers are the “sharks” who want to see our passion shine through as we present our ideas and solutions.
  2. Listen: Way too often I see someone rambling on and on, saying the same thing over and over again and not listening to what the sharks are telling them. The sharks often give great advice and that advice might be that they don’t need a shark. Remember the old 80/20 rule; spend 20% of your time (at most) talking and 80% of the time listening. True in business, friendships, relationships and in the Shark Tank.
  3. Know your numbers:  How often have you seen one of the sharks ask about sales, profit margins or other data and the person pitching looks like a deer in headlights? Don’t ever go into a meeting without thoroughly anticipating the questions that might be asked and the answers you’ll give. Like the adage about a great lawyer in the courtroom; they never ask a witness a question they don’t already know the answer to.  It’s said 1 out of 3 deals don’t close after the show and the reason is usually because the numbers in some form or fashion weren’t factual.
  4. Don’t B.S.: As an addendum to #4, don’t B.S. The likes of Kevin O’Leary or Mark Cuban will chew you to bits if you try to B.S. your lack of knowledge. Same is true in all business dealings, don’t lie, steal or cheat because in the end (usually) you’ll be caught and be much worse off for it. Think Bernie Maddoff.
  5. It’s not all about the money: Some of the people who leave with no funding make out the best. They don’t have Mr. Wonderful taking half their company plus a royalty on each sale and the publicity they garner is priceless. My goal is to take each win and each setback and learn from it. Sometimes losing a deal equates to a better outcome than if it was won.

I think of Shark Tank as a modern-day version of gladiators and lions. Obviously the results of this modern-day arena aren’t nearly as life threatening as they once were unless of course you raise the ire of Mr. Wonderful. In that case, as you walk out of the tank, with or without a deal, he’ll ruefully intone, “You’re dead to me.” Which might not always be a bad thing?


  1. I love Shark Tank!! On the other end of the Spectrum, American Greed is good lesson on what not to do (especially for investors!)

    Sent from my iPhone

  2. I recently “discovered” Shark Tank, and really enjoyed the episodes. I, too, found myself studying the mannerisms, the pitches, etc.

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