‘Shark Tank’ Star Kevin O’Leary Shared How Entrepreneurship Can Be a Sacrifice: ‘I Never Saw My Kids Grow Up’

Kevin O’Leary made his millions through hard work before landing a seat on the Shark Tank panel. Also known as Mr. Wonderful, O’Leary considers his brutal honesty as a service to others and doesn’t mince words when it comes to the tough side of owning your own business.

Kevin O'Leary of 'Shark Tank'
Kevin O’Leary of ‘Shark Tank’ | Christopher Willard/ABC via Getty Images

Kevin O’Leary notes the power of ‘Shark Tank’

O’Leary has been swimming in the Tank since the ABC show premiered in 2009. The Shark Tank star shared that entrepreneurs need more than just an idea in order to create a successful business.

“Great ideas are a dime-a-dozen,” O’Leary told CNBC Make It. “It’s executional skills that are rare. If you combine the two, [you’ll] start to see investors get interested.”

Shark Tank’s popularity has grown over the past 13 seasons and often gives businesses an enormous boost even if the entrepreneur doesn’t land a deal in the Tank. Thank’s the the show’s massive ratings, the Shark Tank Effect” can put a new company on the map.

“I think the platform has evolved,” Mr. Wonderful remarked, as reported by The New York Times Magazine in 2018. “It can take an idea and turn it into a real business, and it can also accelerate an existing business. You take a company, their story comes on Shark Tank and all of a sudden they become No. 1 in America, and their customer-acquisition cost is zero.

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Mr. Wonderful comments on the price of success

While many viewers may assume that entrepreneurs have smooth sailing after a Shark Tank appearance, O’Leary pointed out how business ownership requires some very difficult choices.

“Even in the updates you see how brutal people’s lives are,” Mr. Wonderful said of the segments of previous Shark Tank companies. “Entrepreneurship is a personal sacrifice for a long period of time.”

One of those personal sacrifices can include huge blocks of time away from family members.

“I never saw my kids grow up,” O’Leary shared. “They just went from zero to teenagers when I was traveling the world selling software, and yet today they enjoy certain freedoms that I could never have afforded had I not been successful.”

Kevin O’Leary explains his direct approach

O’Leary makes a habit of speaking his mind on Shark Tank. Often telling entrepreneurs to take their business “behind the barn and shoot it” if he doesn’t like their idea, the millionaire investor sees his blunt advice as saving someone time, money, and heartache.

“Business is so binary,” O’Leary explained. “Either you make money or you lose it. It’s so disingenuous to say to an entrepreneur, ‘I won’t write you a check, but you should keep going.’ I would rather say — and I do — ‘This has no merit; you’re going to lose all your money.’”

The Shark Tank panelist is unapologetic in his frank assessments and considers it more offensive when his fellow Sharks encourage an entrepreneur to continue what he considers to be a failing business.

“I’m the only Shark that tells the truth,” O’Leary said. “The others make themselves feel better by lying to these poor people who are going to lose all their money. You deserve to burn in hell for that.”

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