Well, here we are – another year gone (and some would say to 2016, “Good riddance!”) and another year laid out before us like a huge blank slate.
Social media and the blogosphere are saturated with advice about “finding your passion,” “digging deep within,” and other endless generic content that lacks substance and probably won’t help you map out a winning strategy for the months ahead.
In truth, a lot a business advice these days tends to resemble life coaching rather than professional consulting. Call it a bit “New Age” if you will – but the gist of it is that many entrepreneurs are failing not because of some internal flaw, but a complete lack of objectivity.
So what’s the answer to this modern entrepreneurial conundrum?
Think like a shark.
Well, not a real shark. But unless you’ve been dwelling in a cave these last few years, more than likely you’ve caught more than one episode of ABC’s runaway hit, “Shark Tank.” Every week, innovative entrepreneurs from all across the country strut their stuff in the hopes of being taken under the wing of one of The Sharks – the show’s shrewd investors – to grow their businesses with an influx of cash and priceless expertise.
Whether it’s debonair Daymond John, sports-nut Mark Cuban, “Queen of QVC” Lori Greiner, “Mr. Wonderful” Kevin O’Leary, real estate mogul Barbara Corcoran, or tech guru Robert Herjavec, each investor on the show has seen their fair share of fortunes and flops. Their brutal honesty can be a bitter pill for the contestants to swallow, but might be just the advice they need to change course and take their business to the next level.
Aptly named, The Sharks are some pretty tough customers and intimidating as hell for any fledgling entrepreneur to go up against. Small business owners have to muster all their strength and confidence in their product to have even a sliver of hope of convincing one of The Sharks to take them on. Few succeed; most do not.
To apply the “shark philosophy” to your own business for pivotal change, think on these principles:
Get over yourself. You’re not as special as you may think. No one is advocating you should think you or your business are not worthwhile, but you have to realize that you’re probably not the only one doing what you do. The trick is to do it better and with more flair than the competition.
Get to the point. What’s your “elevator pitch?” It may sound crazy, but you might want to picture yourself pitching your business to The Sharks. Act it out. Have your facts, stats, and projections ready. How has the market responded to your business so far? What kind of growth are you looking for, and how do you plan to achieve it? Be specific.
Forget excuses. Everyone fails sometime. It’s more than okay – it’s evidence you’re trying. If you’ve messed up, come clean, learn from your foibles, and begin anew. Like the old Japanese saying goes, “Fall down seven times; stand up eight.”
What’s in it for them? This should be the question on every entrepreneur’s mind 24/7. No one cares what YOU want out of it – focus on your customers, partners, and investors more than anyone else. Don’t let your ego get in the way.
Sometimes we have to step outside ourselves and take a long, hard look to fully ascertain where we’re at, how we got here, and how to get where we need to go. Although The Sharks can eat some contestants alive, their hard-won experience and honest reactions come from their hearts being in the right place. Practice being a Shark with your own business, and you’ll waste less time on fluff and get down to the brass tacks of achieving greatness.
Allen Baler is a leading entrepreneur and Harvard grad. Allen Baler is a Partner in 4Patriots LLC, based in Nashville.
Disclaimer: This blog post is not a substitute for the sound advice of a business professional with expertise in the subject matter discussed. Please seek appropriate counsel on what strategies make sense for your business.
Photo credit: By Source (WP:NFCC#4), Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=45050614