Millionaire investor Robert Herjavec has been on ABC’s reality show Shark Tank since its launch in 2009. Now in its 11th season, the hit series has heard countless pitches from wannabe entrepreneurs seeking an investment for their businesses.
Now that Herjavec is a seasoned Shark, he has come to identify what he considers to be major blunders by contestants and warns potential applicants to avoid these mistakes.
Still swimming after 11 seasons
Shark Tank has become must-see TV over the years, drawing in audiences of all ages. Thanks to the constant variety of contestants and products, as well as the chemistry between the Sharks, the show regularly brings in solid ratings.
“You never know what’s going to walk through the door. Some of the best pitches and deals are the last of the day,” fellow Shark Kevin O’Leary (aka Mr. Wonderful) told USA Today in September. “That’s why the show remains interesting. You just don’t know what’s going to happen next.”
Entrepreneurs know the value of getting a shot in the Tank, giving them unprecedented exposure for their brand and potential partnership with icons in business. “Investors, venture capitalists and entrepreneurs understand the power of Shark Tank to accelerate growth,” O’Leary said. “When a deal gets done, the retailers want it.”
According to USA Today, only about 150 pitches out of 30,000 sent in end up getting into the Tank, with a mere 88 pitches making it on the air. Thankfully, Herjavec is giving some highly valuable – and FREE – advice on what to avoid if you’re lucky enough to get in front of the Sharks.
Know thy numbers and put on your listening ears
“I hate people who don’t know their numbers,” Herjavec listed as his first pet peeve, according to Inc. “I don’t know how you can start a business and not know your numbers. How much money you need, the size of the revenue, like, that just amazes me.”
Though Herjavec’s second directive may seem like common sense, apparently some contestants talk more than listen to what the Sharks have to say. “My other pet peeve is when people don’t listen. They want to talk,” the Shark Tank star said. “You know it’s not my responsibility to listen to you. I’m a Shark! It’s your responsibility to be heard.”
Herjavec wants contestants to be sure to address questions from the panel rather than focusing on their prepared scripts. “It amazes me,” he said. “People come out and they start talking and I go to ask a question and they just keep on talking. Listen to us.”
Bring samples and a sense of reality
The millionaire investor also reminds potential pitchers to bring a visual representation of their product or idea. “Does it make a difference if people bring food or beverages? Absolutely! But it’s not because it’s food and beverage,” he explained. “Any time you’re trying to sell us on something, the more tangible you can make an idea, the better it is. So if you have a food product, bring the food. The same applies to every other business.”
Herjavec recalled an entrepreneur who made the mistake of not bringing a sample and ended up missing out on a deal. “A few years ago we had somebody pitch a clothing design product. They didn’t have a sample!” he revealed. “They literally pitched and we were like, ‘That sounds very interesting. Can we see one?’ And they were like ‘Oh I didn’t bring one. I didn’t make one.’ Really?!? Big pet peeve.”
When it comes to sales, Herjavec wants to hear the numbers but also cautions entrepreneurs to be realistic when forecasting future profits. “It’s really important to know what step three is but it’s more important to know what step one and two is,” he advised. “One of the biggest mistakes from people who come on the show is they come in and they say ‘I’ve got $200,000 in sales and next year we’re gonna be at $50 million.'”
If a business owner makes too big a projection, Herjavec will often test their knowledge on other big-name companies. “I’ll always ask them, ‘Do you know how long it took Microsoft to get to 50 million in sales? And people say ‘Oh a year, two years?'” he shared. “Twelve years! Do you know how long it took Oracle to get to 50 million in sales? Fourteen years!”
The cybersecurity guru recommends taking a business plan step by step before over-inflating future growth. “It takes time to build something great,” Herjavec said. “So yeah, I want to hear about your big plans. I want to hear how you’re going to get to $50 million, or $100 million, but I want to know more how you’re gonna go from $200,000 to $2 million.”
Sage advice from a successful Shark!