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Shark Tank Lesson: Don’t Be A Know-It-All

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Most people are familiar with the TV show Shark Tank. It features five self-made multi-millionaires that listen to young entrepreneurs pitch their products in quest of receiving funding for their business for a portion of ownership. If a shark makes an offer, and the entrepreneur accepts it, the individual also receives personal guidance from the shark.  However, between the individual’s presentation, and the possible acceptance of funds, the process can be brutal. Questions from all the sharks are coming in rapid fire procession. They question everything from how/why they developed the product, to challenging them on their business plans and how they would utilize the requested funds. If you are a business owner, the show can be both entertaining and informative. 

One specific episode I want to focus on featured two Harvard grads who believed they had created the world’s best underwear. Their presentation was excellent. Their product was well accepted, and already had amazing sales. When they described their marketing program, it was both unique and effective. What did the bottom-line net profit look like?  Again, it was outstanding. They earned an A+ for presentation, products, marketing and profits. It was seemingly the perfect company for one of the sharks to invest in. 

Now it was time for the young entrepreneurs to be questioned by the sharks. It was ugly. Every time one of the sharks asked a question our two “prideful” Harvard grads snapped back with responses of how great “they were.” They had the classic, “we are the best” attitude. It came through loud and clear, no matter the question. 

After the frustrated sharks listened for a while, each one verbally told the two entrepreneurs that they were not willing to invest in their company. Each shark gave a variety of surface reasons for why they were not investing. Finally, the two Harvard grads left the stage without an offer. The sharks then explained, in private, their real reason for not investing. The unanimous bottom line was clear. The two young entrepreneurs were arrogant and unwilling to listen to anyone’s advice, even when it was coming from men and women who had “been there and done that. Everyone on the panel of sharks were multi-millionaires. They explained that by being open to suggestions throughout their careers played a big part in why they were so successful.   

So, what’s the point of all this? The point is that few contractors within the trades industry know it all, especially from the “business” side of their business. Let’s face it.  Most company owners used to be a technician, not a businessperson. There is no shame in that statement, it’s simply who we are as an industry. However, armed with that knowledge, I want to strongly encourage you to join an ACCA Management Information Exchange (MIX) Group®. A MIX Group® is composed of 5-10 contractors that do similar types of work but are in non-competing geographic territories. Contractors in the Group share ideas, advice, and strategies with each other to support the collective success of the industry. Like being on Shark Tank, the process can sometimes be a bit brutal but if you have thick skin, it’s well worth the temporary pain.   

Each of my three daughters played tennis in high school. I always encouraged them to practice, and play, against more skilled players. They normally got beaten but an amazing thing was happening in the midst of the stiffer competition. My daughters were not only getting better at tennis each week, but they also learned to be a bit humbler! Joining an ACCA MIX Group® will help you to accomplish the same objectives and continue to improve your business. 

Tom Grandy

Posted In: ACCA Now

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