Each season “Shark Tank” gives aspiring entrepreneurs an opportunity to not only win money to fund their business dreams but to also glean pearls of wisdom from five wildly successful industry titans. For those who haven’t kept up with the famed reality show now in its tenth season, here are some of the top tips for small businesses dished out over the years, both during the show and in interviews given to various publications, by its famous panel of sharks.
DON’T IGNORE YOUR INSTINCT
The first woman on “Shark Tank,” Barbara Corcoran is legendary for turning a $1,000 real estate loan into a $66 million empire. Corcoran has famously said that instinct can be a key part of self-preservation as a budding entrepreneur or small business person. “Don’t you dare underestimate the power of your own instinct,” Corcoran insists.
BE ABLE TO RECOGNIZE FLAWS
Shark Kevin O’Leary, a billionaire entrepreneur and investor, is also known to be a great source of tips for small businesses. O’Leary has said that in order to succeed, entrepreneurs must have passion, a good work ethic, and an ability to recognize flaws. “If you can't even acknowledge your failures, how can you cut the rope and move on?"
MAKE YOUR PRODUCTS EASY TO BUY
Mark Cuban, easily one of the most famous sharks on the show, has said that it’s key to make your products easy to purchase. "Make your product easier to buy than your competition's, or you will find your customers buying from them, not you." Not exactly rocket science, but a very important part of being a successful small business.
DON’T BE IN A RUSH TO GROW
While many small businesses are in a hurry to make it to the next level, shark Daymond John says there are important lessons to be learned before getting too big. “Learn as many mistakes and what not to do while your business or product is small. Don't be in such a hurry to grow your brand. Make sure that you and the market can sustain any bumps that may occur down the road."
BE CAREFUL WHO YOU HIRE
When you’re running a small business, it’s critical to employ the right people, according to Corcoran. “A complainer is like a Death Eater because there’s a suction of negative energy,” she said. Take the time to weed through applicants and hire enthusiastic, positive people who share your vision. This simple step can be harder than it sounds.
TARGET YOUR CUSTOMERS ON THE RIGHT PLATFORM
Successful marketing is another key part of helping a small business thrive. Shark Robert Herjavec says it’s important to identify where your customers hang out online and connect with them there. “With Facebook and other social platforms, you can have highly targeted marketing campaigns to attract customers who are interested in the product or service that you have,” Herjavec has said. “Find the user groups they meet up in on social and win them over there.”
GOOD MARKETING IMAGES ATTRACT CUSTOMERS
It may seem superficial, but using outstanding images is important in this day and age. Herjavec says pictures, not words, are what people notice. “The first thing that hits them in any marketing communication is a really pretty picture, not words,” he says. “And I know that sounds really trivial but that engages people and gets them to look at more of your outreach.”
MEDIOCRITY IS NOT GOOD ENOUGH
“If you’re going to start a small business, you need to be great at something,” Herjavectold a small business publication. In other words, mediocrity is not going to cut it, particularly in the dog-eat-dog world of making a new business succeed.
YOU HAVE TO BE THE BIGGEST SALESPERSON IN YOUR COMPANY
It doesn’t matter what kind of business you are running, you have to be prepared to be a salesperson. "Number one: Sales cures all,” says Cuban. “There has never been a company in the history of companies that has ever succeeded without sales. Anybody who has ever told you, 'Don't worry about sales, you can grow it and worry about sales later,' they are lying to you.” If you can’t sell, you and your business will fail.
BE HONEST WITH YOURSELF
You may think your business or product is the greatest thing since sliced bread, but that doesn’t mean customers are simply going to rush to start buying what you have to offer. It’s important to be honest with yourself about your strengths and weaknesses, says Cuban. "All entrepreneurs lie to themselves. We all go through the same process. We tell ourselves, 'This is the best, everybody loves us, no one is going to not like product.' Of course, that is not true. What I like to tell people is, 'when you have a company, when you are an entrepreneur, you have to figure out how to kick your own a-- before someone else does it for you.”
DON’T GIVE UP
When starting a small business, there will inevitably be challenges and setbacks. But shark Lori Greiner tells budding entrepreneurs not to give up when faced with such hurdles. “As an entrepreneur, you can always find a solution if you try hard enough,” she says.