What can we learn from Shark Tank?

Shark Tank is in its 7th season and is still growing in popularity. Part of the popularity may be the reality basis, a part may be the sharks themselves, but part may be that it gives everyone watching a chance to dream of starting their own company and swimming with the sharks.

The question then becomes, what can we learn from watching Shark Tank if we do want to get to our dream of being our own boss?

Sharks invest in people who have ideas, companies and products that are unique in some way. The key is that it is the person that gets the investment or loses it. The surest way to not get an offer is to show a lack of commitment to yourself, or waffle on your idea. Those who are ‘dabbling’ in an idea will not get a shark to commit. Napoleon Hill says that one of the keys to success is Definiteness of Purpose. You need to eat, sleep and live your idea. As Pastor Eric Thomas puts it, what do you want more than breathing? With a definite purpose comes passion.

The idea itself has to ‘have legs’. When Sharks start asking about sales, profit margin and marketing they are testing if the idea or product can stand up in the market. The entrepreneur needs to understand core business concepts (also known as business acumen) even if they are not an expert in any one area. Learning core business skills will help you in most everything, so check out Udacity’s MOOC on How to Build a Startup , or one of my favorite ways to get MBA training for free, Business Radio on SiriusXM, which is taught by the Wharton School of Business.

It is rare (but not unheard of) for the Sharks to invest in an idea that doesn’t seem to have the core business ‘legs’ but when they do, it may be because they are trying to ‘aqui-hire’ the person. In this case, the person has shown something amazing in who they are, albeit their passion, intelligence, fire, creativity, or something else which the shark wants to invest in. There is no one course or action that is going to make someone stick out as an individual, but the key learning here is to develop your personal brand, passion and skill set. If you are having trouble finding your ‘area,’ it never hurts to view a TED talk each day. Try something new until you locate the fire you want to ignite and share with everyone.

Beyond passion and a good idea, successful ideas and entrepreneurs have a good network. Often those pitching ideas are more interested in the Shark’s network than their money. Many years before Shark Tank existed, Harvey Mackay was talking about networking and salesmanship in his book “Swim With the Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive” . Networking is the buzz word now, but it essentially means building and nurturing relationships. There are modern tools like LinkedIn that help (and you can connect with me on LinkedIn), but it is about more than a connection. It is about having relationships that are deep and being there to help others, as they are there to help you. Part of the reason MBA programs at Harvard, Yale, and the like are so valuable are their alumni networks, which may be more valuable than the learning itself. Networking should be something you work on every day.

Each episode of Shark Tank gives you something to reflect on and learn from. Maybe it is time to create a MOOC (Massive, Online, Open Course) or the like based on the show (and maybe that is my million dollar idea). I share the idea because the learning is more important than the money, but then again I live my life based upon Zig Ziglar’s mantra: You can have everything in life you want if you just help enough other people get what they want. I am here if you need a coach to help you achieve your dreams at http://www.jasonzigmont.com.

This article was written by Jason Zigmont. Jason Zigmont is a coach, consultant and author and can be found at http://www.jasonzigmont.net, on Twitter and Facebook. Jason holds a PhD in Adult Learning and provides coaching services at http://www.jasonzigmont.com.

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