As a kid Robert Herjavec fled war-torn Croatia and ended up in Canada with his parents. He struggled with being an outcast and learned to not only survive, but thrive. He sold his first tech company, BRAK, for $100 million just 12 years ago and now serves as one of the experts on the ABC show Shark Tank. He is the nice guy on the panel who is always sympathetic to the entrepreneurs. He's even been known to shed an occasional tear. During a set visit, Herjavec talked about mistakes people make, advice for potential pitchers and competing with fellow-Shark Mark Cuban.
Robert Herjavec gives advice to pitchers
The premise of Shark Tank is simple. Entrepreneurs with new businesses or products enter the tank and pitch their ideas to a panel of experts. These sharks hear what they have to say, ask a lot of questions, and then determine if they believe enough in the product to put up their own money to fund it.
Herjavec had some advice for potential pitchers. He revealed that after 12-hour days shooting the program, the sharks get cranky. He warned the entrepreneurs that they have to grab them right away, "You've got about have five seconds to make an impression."
He added, "I don't think it's my responsibility to listen to you. I think it's the pitcher's responsibility to come across in such a way that I'm engaged. You've got to snap me out of it."
The business people need to do the heavy lifting
Once the sharks do invest in a company, Herjavec said the hard work is up to the business owner. He recalled one woman he invested in who wanted to take the investment, buy inventory, and sit back and wait for the phone to magically start ringing. He stated, "Some people that you really believe in don't understand that we're simply catalysts on the road to success. But you still gotta do the heavy lifting. I can't tell you how disappointing it is… You get on the phone, you're excited, you believe in the business, and people are like, 'Do I just do media now and cash your check?' And we're like, 'No, you've got to go back to work.'"
He explained to the women that they would take 20 percent of the investment and create product, and then she would need to get in her car and sell it. He considers this investment his only Shark Tank failure.
As for success stories, his best partnership so far as been with Chord Buddy. Herjavec is a closet rock star, so anytime a music-related product enters the tank, he perks up. One such item was Chord Buddy: A gadget that attaches to a guitar to aide in learning chords. He explained that prior to Shark Tank, Chord Buddy was a husband and wife team selling minimal units per day. He said, "The show airs, three months later, there's a million and a half in revenue, and we're employing 20 people. It's remarkable."
Herjavec on competing with Mark Cuban
Herjavec loves these rags to riches stories, partly because he lived one himself. But his difficult upbringing also made him extremely competitive. He often gets in fights with fellow shark Mark Cuban and discussed the changes to the show when the Dallas Maverick's owner came on board. He commented, "That's been the interesting dynamic with Cuban on the show. He's really brought the show to another level. And I hate to admit it, but I hate it when he succeeds… I want to do better. I want to compete."
Shark Tank returns on Friday, September 25 at 9 PM EST on ABC.