30 Aug 2012
- Written by Carlee McCullough
A few months ago, I had a discussion with a few associates over coffee. The topic of the conversation was a television show called "Shark Tank." I had watched it a few times and thought that it was intriguing. My associates found it captivating.
The premise of the show is a business owner bringing a product or service to a panel of professionals in the hopes of receiving an investment of money and expertise. It's called "Shark Tank" because the investors are just that, sharks.
They are conservative, sharp, experienced, successful, shrewd and savvy. More likely than not, the investors are looking for the business owner to be the same. They want the business owner to know the value of the company based on sales history and debt ratio. If you approach them for money and your valuation is off, prepare to be thrown under the bus.
The art of the deal is based on creativity, innovation, patent status and sales projections. Frequently they are interested in products that can be licensed to folks that are already in the business. Rather than recreate processes, synergies and alliances are at the forefront of moving a product forward.
Examples of recent presentations included a husband and wife team that produced handbags. Although the couple had a patent pending and the bags were appealing, the panel didn't feel there was anything unique about the bags. All the sharks passed on the deal.
Another example was a gentleman that created a single serving of wine in a cup to be sold. This was a new packaging concept for an ancient product, wine. The sharks were interested in the concept. The owner was knowledgeable and confident. His advisor was the owner and creator of Samuel Adams beer.
This was the business owner's second trip to see the sharks. The first time around he didn't have any sales numbers. This time he was armed with the history. The sharks made an offer, which was too low for the business owner. In sum, the business owner stood his ground and walked away empty handed. It's too soon to tell if he made the right decision.
The last example was a couple that had been together since they were 14 years old. Now married for seven years and with two little girls, they created an innovative "sippy cup" with a weighted straw that always went to the liquid. This was an item that most households anywhere could use. The packaging was professional and appealing. They had patents in order, sales increasing and interest from big box retailers.
After some negotiation, the business owners made a deal by giving up 40 percent of their company, but what they got in return was invaluable. They received much needed capital and the expertise of a proven winner on their team to help take them to the next level.
The commonality between all three presentations was the fact that they all realized they needed help in order to get to the next level. This required them to admit that as business owners they had taken the business as far as they could take it without outside assistance funding and experience. They realized that although they birthed the baby, sometimes it takes a village to raise it properly.
Many of us can learn from these business owners. Admitting that your business needs help is no indication of you as a business owner. Because we frequently work in a silo as an entrepreneur, we fail to understand that business is a "team sport." Marketing, sales, finance, operations and legal are all parts of the team. But sometimes our future team member may not be a current part of the team.
Do not hesitate to step outside of your comfort zone to ask for help. It could save your company or business. Remember 100 percent of nothing is nothing. If you give up a portion of your company to move forward, just make sure that the person or team that you are bringing in is proven, worthy and bringing as much to the table as you are willing to give up.
Most investors do not invest simply because your company is in need. They invest because they believe in the CEO and that they can make a solid return on their investment.