Portfolio talks to Daymond John about Shark Tank and his relationship with the rest of the sharks.
On the Hunt for Real Deals
by Romy Ribitzky of Portfolio
The alpha deal predators of ABC’s Shark Tank are once again circling entrepreneurs. But the show’s second season is different in two major ways, says Daymond John, the show’s resident apparel and retail impresario: First, the candidates’ pitches are more polished (although for many, their valuations are still way off), and second, new sharks Mark Cuban and Jeff Foxworthy are making the show more competitive.
“Having Cuban and Foxworthy come on the show gives us fresh meat that we can stab in the back when we’re making deals,” says John on the eve of the show’s premiere. Not that the guests are taking any heat off returning panelists Barbara Corcoran, Kevin O’Leary, and Robert Herjavec. “I’d just as quickly stab one of them in the back if it means getting in on a good deal,” John adds.
But when it comes to his working relationship with Corcoran, he has a soft spot for the real estate mogul who turned a $1,000 loan into a billion-dollar business. “What’s great about going in with another shark is that they help me keep perspective. Sometimes I just want to invest because I like the person, but Barb is the voice of reason and tells me when I need to walk away,” he says. “But on the flip side, on those days when I’m ready to give up, she can give a nice pep talk and keep us going.”
Corcoran is equally fond of working with John, saying, “He’s one cool cat.”
But as much as viewers tune in to the biting antics between the panelists, the show is really all about the wacky, out-there, and occasionally smart and innovative ideas showcased by entrepreneurs who need funding.
The show’s sneak preview last week highlighted Jonathan Boos, who invented a magnetic way for men’s shirt collars to always look crisp. He offended John with his unwillingness to listen—in what would have been a critical mistake had Corcoran not stepped in to intervene. In what emerged as the week’s lesson, Boos had to learn that even though he nailed the idea, when it comes to accepting an investor’s money, he also had to listen. John was ready to walk away from a great idea because he couldn’t see himself on the phone at strategic times during the company’s development with someone who constantly interrupts and thinks that he not only knows better—he knows it all. “What would he need me for?” John asked his fellow sharks. “What a lot of these entrepreneurs don’t realize is that one round of funding isn’t enough. Especially if they’re successful. So we have to be able to see ourselves working with them on round 2, round 3, round 4, and so forth,” he adds.
As for the panelists, Corcoran and John have already found ways to capitalize on the show that is likely to resonate with a wider audience now that America’s tuned into the value of entrepreneurs. They’ve both written books since the show’s first season and are routinely asked to appear as motivational and keynote speakers.
Corcoran’s tips for enterprising businesspeople are the following:
- Trust your gut and recognize the value of an untapped market.
- You gotta have a gimmick: Good salesmanship is about playing up the positives and minimizing the negatives.
- Expand before you’re ready: Don’t pass up on good talent. They can help make all the difference when it comes to beating the competition to the punch.
And John has this advice for those who still to appear before the sharks: “Showcase your desire to succeed, your passion, your blood, sweat, and tears. Talk to us about how you learned from the lumps you’ve taken because a good lesson is very valuable and avoiding the same mistake twice is essential. Develop patents for your ideas, they can be worth even more than just the immediate product they help to create. And most of all, be yourself. We invest in ideas, but, first and foremost, we invest in people,” he says.