Swimming with Sharks

By Sue Voyles / August 30, 2017 / ,

There’s something about sharks. I think it might have started with the 1970s movie Jaws, but today we have a whole week dedicated to them on Animal Planet. Every time I hear about them on TV, I wonder — what is it about sharks that makes them so intriguing?

I’ll admit that my favorite sharks aren’t the sharp-toothed kind, though — they’re the sharp-tongued kind found on ABC’s Shark Tank. My favorite is probably Kevin O’Leary, known by many as Mr. Wonderful. Mr. Wonderful is tough, but if he offered me a deal, I know I’d take it. Would you? That’s a question for Shark Tank fans to ponder.

Regardless of your answer, I think we can all learn some good lessons from Shark Tank. Here are just a few that ring true to my own experience as a business owner:

  1. Know Your Numbers. This is one of the first lessons I learned, and it’s one that many hopefuls on Shark Tank learn, too. Whether it’s cost of goods sold, your sales, net profit or customer acquisition cost, Mr. Wonderful wants to know your numbers. I started my business with a love of words, but over the years I’ve grown to love numbers, too.
  2. Don’t Let Them Bully You. This is another lesson I had to learn early in my career. I have definitely felt like clients bullied me in the past. Will I ever let it happen again? Absolutely not. That’s why I respect the contestants on Shark Tank who stand up for themselves and their business (even though I would argue that the sharks aren’t really being bullies — just being tough).
  3. Show Me the Money. This is a lesson that I learned the hard way several years ago, when a client said that I had to go to their VP’s home to pick up documents from them because they didn’t have the budget to overnight or priority mail it. And when it came to getting paid, I found out (too late) that they didn’t have the budget to pay me, either.

The contestants on Shark Tank have to adapt and learn fast to make it to the top. And I think the same can be said of any business owner.

So the next time you think you’re about to tangle with a shark, think about how to stay in the water, swim and come out stronger.

–Sue Voyles