For most successful entrepreneurs, failure is often a rite of passage. Describe one of the biggest business failures you’ve experienced and what you learned from it. How did it influence your decision-making going forward? I once read that losing is the biggest learning opportunity you will get in life. It is hard to feel that way in the moment when you are dejected, but if you embed that philosophy in your mind, you will have a context for failure and won’t be flat-footed in how to handle it (and succeed) once you do. One “failure” was starting a record company which, depending on how you look at it, cost me about $6 million; the other was starting a women’s line called Heatherette, which also cost me millions. Both taught me a lot but, generally speaking, they reinforced the idea that people are the most important aspect of any deal and, again, you shouldn’t do things just for money. With the record company, I lost money but ended up making it all back in other businesses with one of the guys I had hired to work in the record company. With the clothing line, I wasn’t the right person for that type of clothing line — I wasn’t knowledgeable enough about it or passionate enough about it to learn it.
You are one of America’s most successful branding gurus, having been recognized with more than 35 awards, including the Brandweek Marketer of the Year and Ernst & Young’s Master Entrepreneur of the Year. You also serve as CEO of the brand consultancy, The Shark Group, which manages more than 60 “Shark Tank” companies. In your opinion, what is the recipe for marketing and branding success and how can our members, small to midsize manufacturers and businesses, maximize their efforts to make a real impact in the markets they serve? Stick to your core values in whatever you do. Make sure they come across consistently, regardless of platform.
In 2009, you were tapped by producer Mark Burnett to join the cast of “Shark Tank,” which has since become one of the most successful business reality series of all time. How would you describe your experience on the show and what it means to be called “The People’s Shark”? Overall, it has been an inspiration and a learning experience. I’m always inspired to see what smart, passionate and dedicated people can accomplish. It also keeps my ear to the streets so-to-speak when it comes to entrepreneurship. I just made T-shirts and baggy jeans; many of the folks I meet from “Shark Tank” are truly brilliant. We learn from and inspire each other.
mbabizmag.com • OCTOBER 2018