Many professionals watch Shark Tank (a television show during which entrepreneurs/small business owners pitch to a group of venture capitalists, “sharks,” in the hopes of obtaining funding and expertise to quickly grow their businesses) and analyze the small business owners’ actions to find the most applicable lessons. In this article, I’ll share a different perspective… My lessons come from analyzing the Shark Tank sharks.
Lesson 1: Be Smart about Negotiation.
The sharks know who is in control when each participant comes into the Shark Tank and they use that knowledge to their advantage. Because they are already successful, the sharks don’t need to bend beyond their comfort levels. Even when vying for opportunities they are genuinely interested in, the sharks negotiate with confidence and without desperation. In these cases, the sharks shift their focus to selling themselves as they would like to be sold to (with statements that begin like “my expertise can help you because…” or “my deal makes the most sense in your situation because…”).
TIP: Be confident and willing to walk away from the wrong deal. Also, when you do find the right opportunity, consider which specific benefits would be most convincing to you if the roles were reversed and state those in a clear and concise manner.
Lesson 2: Make Some Friends.
Although their relationships are competitive to say the least, the sharks also respect and support one another – they bring potential issues to light before a deal is done, offer to partner with one another on mutually beneficial opportunities (each bringing their own unique set of strengths to the table), and campaign to the entrepreneur as to why a particular fellow shark or deal is best. At the same time, the sharks maintain an impressive strength within themselves (making their toughest choices independently after considering all relevant information). Clearly, the special dynamic within this group of sharks is part of the reason their success continues to grow.
TIP: Create a support system of other professionals who are the best at what they do but, after collaborating and conferring where appropriate, make the final decisions yourself.
Lesson 3: Own your Niche.
Even after hearing the highest quality pitches, in most circumstances, when the sharks can’t draw a direct correlation between their expertise (or personal interests) and the opportunity presented, they pass. The Shark Tank sharks don’t waste anyone’s time… including their own. They understand that if the subject matter in question doesn’t fit within their wheelhouse, it will take too much of their time (in addition to their money and other resources) to obtain what is necessary (education, contacts, etc.) to earn a suitable return on their investment.
TIP: Focus your efforts on the areas of your business that have proven to be most profitable to you (seek out new opportunities that utilize your strengths, delegate any tasks that you aren’t as good at, and sell to your target audience exclusively).
Lesson 4: Bend the Rules.
There are some circumstances in which a shark will choose to go with his gut. Whether it’s telling him to invest or not to invest, for personal reasons, a shark may bend the rules and surprise everyone. However, he won’t take it too far (even the sharks who have taken unexpected risks seem to be doing well enough, at least from appearances, to continue their involvement in the show without compromising their integrity, etc.).
TIP: Keeping your limitations in mind, trust yourself enough to go with your gut and decide what feels right for yourself and your business.