‘Shark Tank:’ The First Thing Kevin O’Leary Considers When Investing In An Entrepreneur May Surprise You

Kevin O’Leary of ABC’s Shark Tank considers himself an extremely wise and shrewd investor. Often chastising his fellow sharks for being swayed by emotion rather than numbers, O’Leary – ironically known as ‘Mr. Wonderful’ – ponders the cash component before anything else with contestants on the hit reality show.

Though the business icon can be the shark with the harshest bite, Mr. Wonderful’s initial consideration in an aspiring entrepreneur could actually be thought of as altruistic.

“Shark Tank’s” Kevin O’Leary | Jessica Brooks via Getty Images

A shark that doesn’t spare feelings

Despite his now-famous nickname, O’Leary’s reputation tends to paint a more insensitive picture. “Everybody calls me the mean shark on Shark Tank. That’s not true,” he told NBC News Better last year. “I’m the only shark that tells the truth. In money, it’s just black and white. Either you make it, or you lose it. So you might as well deal with the truth right from the get-go.”

Though he will often turn down ideas of new business owners with comments like, “Take that idea behind the barn and shoot it,” O’Leary sees himself as truthful rather than harsh.

“If you’re doing something that’s going to go bankrupt, why not deal with it now, and start something else that maybe will be successful?” O’Leary said. “When I see an idea I really hate and I know it’s going to fail, I often say, ‘Take that idea behind the barn and shoot it…’ I want to be graphic about it. It’s like Old Yeller. You got rabies, your idea’s going to die, you might as well kill it and be merciful, and go do something else.”

Never one to worry about hurting someone’s feelings, O’Leary feels that his fellow sharks should follow his example of brutal truth-telling. “I don’t care if they cry about it. I’m still giving them really good information,” he said. “All the other sharks are trying to keep their feelings inside. I don’t care about your feelings, I care about your money. The truth is what matters in business. Yes, you have to take it behind the barn and shoot it.”

How can Mr. Wonderful help?

Mr. Wonderful is not shy about the value he can bring to entrepreneurs. “I don’t consider myself an ordinary investor anymore,” he told ThoughtEconomics in December 2017. “I don’t care what the last round was valued at.  This may sound arrogant, and perhaps it is, but I’m Mr. Wonderful.”  

The Shark Tank star realizes that his partnership can make or break a growing business, and wants that premium reflected when negotiating a deal. “What I can do for businesses is remarkable, I have a huge team that supports social media, I can open doors for entrepreneurs that have been shut to them for years,” O’Leary explained. “I bring a lot of value to the businesses I work on and I want that reflected in what I put in.”

With his vast experience in investments over the years, O’Leary’s top priority is to assess whether or not he can truly benefit a growing business before he makes an offer.

“The first thing for me is, how can I help that person? I have 44 companies in my portfolio, and with every single one, I’m constantly thinking – how can I help them?” the Shark Tank investor revealed. “How can I make a difference? If I can’t add any value, there’s no point putting any money to work, but when I get behind it and put my name to it, I want it to be successful.”

Know thy numbers

O’Leary and his fellow sharks are well aware of the impact the reality series has had on growing businesses. “In the week of the main broadcast and all the syndications that come with it, 10 million people see you on Shark Tank,” he said. “It’s a massive launch platform, reduces customer acquisition cost dramatically and it helps companies immediately get their product in front of consumers.”

When it comes to the all-important pitch on the infamous Shark Tank carpet, O’Leary advises contestants entering the tank to have a firm grasp of their finances… or else.

“If you don’t know your numbers, I will make sure you burn in hell and perpetuity. You have to know your numbers,” O’Leary stressed. “If you’re going to get in front of me and talk about a business, you’d better know the breakeven analysis, the gross margin, size of the market, number of competitors. All of that stuff. I expect you to know that, that’s just a given.  If you don’t, you’re going to fail.”

Watch ABC’s Shark Tank on Sunday nights!