Just What the Shark Tank Ordered: Market Yourself

ENT 630: Wk 5-Reactions to It’s a Jungle in There

Every time I’ve ever watched the show, Shark Tank, I’ve actually watched no less than four episodes in a row. Curse you CNBC Prime! Stop luring me in with your savvy investors, entrepreneurial sob stories, and brilliant business ideas. In spite of the manufactured drama, I have learned a lot of helpful tips for entrepreneurs and investors by watching this campy show.

One of the questions the “Sharks” ask entrepreneurs quite frequently is, “are you doing THIS (insert business venture) full time?”. Typically, they ask this question to measure the entrepreneur’s commitment to the company, level of comfort with risk, and generally to see if the person is “all in.” I’ve even seen Kevin O’Leary turn down adorable kids with thriving businesses because school takes up too much of their time and he would rather invest in an entrepreneur, founder, or CEO who can devote all of their waking hours to the business.

This concept of investors only investing in the company if they believe in the entrepreneur behind the company is not unique. We all might roll our eyes at Kevin O’Leary, but Schussler in his book, It’s a Jungle in There, echoes this same exact sentiment in chapter 15: Marketing Yourself to Market Your Product. He says, investors often ask him, “How invested are you in your idea?” (p. 110) Schussler says it’s easy to say “I’m invested 100%”, but when you show them, you are invested by your actions they can’t help but be convinced. Not everyone has to turn their home into a rainforest café prototype or spend millions of dollars mocking up restaurant concepts in a Minneapolis warehouse. There are easy, no-brainer things you can do to show how serious and dedicated you are to your ideas when meeting with investors. Schussler has strong ideas about sending the right message to investors through:

  1. Physical appearance- wear a suit
  2. Hand Shakes– know the right balance
  3. Body Language- act interested; nod your head up and down, etc.
  4. & Business Cards- convey your concept through the item you leave behind

Don’t forget, not all meetings are scheduled. You might meet an investor at a party, on an airplane, or in the elevator. Always be ready to impress. Make an impression by making the person laugh or tell a story. Stories stick with people and leave an impression. And finally, if you are at a point in your entrepreneurial journey that you can quit your day job, you are approximately 50%* more likely to make a deal on Shark Tank if you are “all-in.”

*success odds calculated purely from my “expertise” in binge-watching Shark Tank. Not statistically valid.

Big Picture Thinkers and the Details

ENT 630: Wk 3- Entrepreneurs run the risk of micro-managing if they focus too much on the details.

Like most entrepreneurs I consider myself a big picture thinker. In fact, I used to say things like, “don’t bother me with details”. In Steven Shussler’s book, It’s a Jungle in There, he says, “the truly successful entrepreneur has to have what has been called the ‘helicopter view’: the ability to gain enough mental altitude to see the big picture while retaining the ability to descend, hover, and see the details, too” (p.61). This is a very descriptive analogy for the flexibility needed to both dream up a concept and execute the vision. I agree with this balance between the big picture and detailed execution. And also, I have seen leaders who “crash their helicopter” when hovering too low. While this section of the book is talking about “Product”, for many of us the product of our labor is knowledge or service through consulting. While Shussler is speaking of product, my mind jumps ahead to the section on people.

Well intentioned business owners and leaders can run the risk of stifling their teams by micromanaging day-to-day work. Should we set high expectations? Yes. Should we all pick up trash if we see it in our work environment? Yes. Should we write detailed work instructions and plan-o-grams for every project? No!

I strongly believe that as a leader, it’s my job to both liberate the means and define the ends of a project and let my team fill in the details. Their path to success is dependent on their ability to use their unique blend of strengths in accomplishing the goal. As I mature as a leader, I have grown to see that my desire to be delightfully oblivious to details (once trusted to someone else) is not because I don’t care. Rather, I care deeply and I do have an ability to “hover low” and see every single step. My team members neither grow nor develop if I “hover”.

While I agree that an entrepreneur needs to be aware and attentive to the details of their business, that awareness should be controlled as to not impede or micro-manage the work of others. There is a strong business case for a strengths based approach.

To the entrepreneur who is still managing their business alone: it is your job to worry about the micro and the macro. For the small business owners and entrepreneurs with teammates or direct reports: it’s your job to learn the strengths of your team and give up a little control of the details if you want your team to be engaged and successful.


“As we look into the next century, leaders will be those who empower others.”– Bill Gates