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Aug 03

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Running with the sharks

Several friends and associates have recommended Shark Tank, so I overcame my aversion to reality programming and watched an episode. Like most of the other reality series I’ve sampled, this one was occasionally painful to watch. But there were some takeaways that I will share with my entrepreneur clients. Here are three:

  1. Set your ego aside. The best entrepreneur contestants were the ones who filtered out the investors’ bombast and impatience, listened to what the investors had to say, and responded respectfully to some very sharp questions. One would-be entrepreneur refused to consider pricing her product for a higher-end market, telling the investors that they didn’t know her market like she did. Well, as the saying goes, don’t let being right be the only thing you’ve got.
  2. Give up something to get something. The investors often presented competing offers for some percentage of the entrepreneur contestants’ companies. In one case, the investor offered to buy the company outright, employ the entrepreneur for 3 years at a guaranteed salary, and pay the entrepreneur royalties on product sales. Given the entrepreneur’s circumstances, this was a good deal—and he took it.
  3. Take someone who has your back. Some contestants seemed much more fixed on walking away with the exact amount they came in looking for, and they seemed unwilling or unable to evaluate the competing offers in front of them. OK, this part of the show is designed to heighten the drama and in real life we generally don’t have to choose from among 3 different offers in 60 seconds. But if you find that you have trouble responding flexibly and coolly during negotiations (especially where numbers are concerned), take someone with you who is good at looking at options from multiple angles.

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