Shark Tank’s viewership continues to increase, up to 7.5 million and 9% higher than this time last year. Why? Is it because the show is produced well? Have they further honed their ability to keep their audience in suspense? Over time, have they contracted more interesting investors or has their popularity drawn more intriguing entrepreneurs? Yes, yes and yes. However, that is not the biggest reason for their success. It is because we love to see the little guy hit it big. We adore the expression on the face of the hungry entrepreneur when an investor says “Yes, you and your product are unique and I want to be a part of that!” We, in the US, live in a culture of nearly boundless opportunity. If you make the right moves, meet the right people, have the right ethic and a strong mind, you can build an empire. But, Shark Tank viewership does not see all that. They see their neighbor who had a great idea and is going to get a chance to be a millionaire because of it. Unfortunately, things are not quite that simple. Let me give you an example. 4 years ago, I launched a new hose nozzle in a national retail TV network’s lawn/garden shows. This nozzle had some great features, but it was relatively obscure in the marketplace. Within 3 months, it was that network’s number one outdoor product of all time. The following year, they decided to make it a featured product airing 10 times within a single day at an unprecedented price. During the final airings, we were projected to sell about 18,000 units. We sold 26,000. In the following years, that hose nozzle set the precedent for other models on the market. Other manufacturers attempted to knock-off the same features. No one did it as well for the price. That nozzle was a superstar. We sold hundreds of thousands of units just on that one network, not including the other retailers that jumped on top of that item’s success and bought significant inventories for their stores. Now, with that in mind, you would think that the manufacturer was laughing all the way to the bank and swimming in cash, right? Negative. All I heard from that vendor was moans and groans about cash shortages. I was the presenter and had a contract with that vendor stipulating that I would be payed for my airings within 30 days of invoicing. Payment never arrived faster than 60 days. At one point, it took that vendor 6 months to cut me a check for just a couple of airings. You see, it takes more than success in sales and moving inventory to get rich. You must have the right ethic, mind and business sense. This example is one of dozens I could provide just from my own product sales. I watch the contestants stand before the panel of investors on Shark Tank and almost laugh at times. You can tell by their responses to pointed questions whether they are floundering dreamers or genuine inventor-entrepreneurs with a chance at real success. My hat is off to 2013 winners Alexander Mendeluk and Marley Marotta with the “Stylish Spirit Hoods,” Jan Goetgeluk with “Virtuix Omni” virtual gaming and others like them who took an opportunity on Shark Tank and used it as a crucial, but small piece in their much bigger formula for success!
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