What I Learned From Entrepreneur Kevin O’Leary
I recently had the opportunity to spend time with Kevin O’Leary, the venture capitalist who is one of the ‘sharks’ on the hugely popular show “Shark Tank”. O’Leary helped develop the television series “Dragon’s Den,” a Canadian reality show where entrepreneurs get to pitch their ideas to millionaires in the hope of finding someone to invest in their concept. (“Shark Tank” is the US version of the show.) On the show, O’Leary is brutally honest with the entrepreneurs, especially those who are not prepared. He is also a host on “The Lang and O’Leary Exchange,” a television show that summarizes the day’s major business stories, which airs on weekdays on CBS. All this, plus he writes books and runs multi-million dollar companies. Busy guy.
We met at a recent technology conference in San Francisco that Kevin was the keynote speaker. We spoke about his successful TV shows and video production in general. Even though he is exceptionally busy, he was happy to sit down with me to chat. He was very down to earth, did not seemed rushed or hurried, and we had a great talk. While we were on the subject of video production, we discussed the use of drones in aerial production. This was great, because I’m interested in getting a drone for MindBOX Productions. He passed my name along to a buddy of his who is currently using a drone in his productions. I was amazed at how quickly he made the introduction: Within just a short time of leaving, he’d already send me an email introducing us to each other.
Below are some of the notes that I took from Kevin O’Leary keynote. Enjoy!
O’Leary’s Tips For A Successful Business
Service Trumps Price
Customers will pay more to a trustworthy person who provides impeccable service or an exceptional product. O’Leary admitted that in his own business, if he locates an IT provider who is trustworthy and can provide great service, he will even pay more for that service if it is reliable. This principal can be applied to any area of business.
The Boss Doesn’t Always Make the Most Money
The sale people for a business should be paid more than the boss. Why? It’s simple: Because they are more important. If a business doesn’t have sales, it cannot be successful. The salespeople are the first to notice problems within the company. O’Leary said that if he’s interested in investing in something, he talks to the people in sales first, because they know what’s working and what’s not working. Key employees, such as sales people, should be paid more salary than anyone else in the company. They’re worth it.
Employees Are The Primary Assets
The primary assets in a company are the employees. Successful business owners surround themselves with people who can do the job they are asked to do. To be successful, one should hire people who can do the things the business owner does not excel at doing.
Everyone Is Replaceable
Although this seems to be in opposition to the belief that employees are the strongest asset of a successful company, it really isn’t. Why does a business hire someone? The underlying reason is to make money. As a business owner, each employee is supposed to do their job which should enhance the business so the owner and the shareholders make money. And if any employees do not do their job, or do not do it well enough, they may have to be sent them on their way to make room for someone else who can do the work.
To have a successful business, an owner must accept that things happen. Times change. Have a backup plan in place in case someone needs to be replaced. Train people to take on another role if needed, because everyone is replaceable.
Business Is War
O’Leary frequently refers to business as war. He wants to eliminate the competition in order to get their share of the market, whatever the market is. He wants to cultivate fear in his competitors. This attitude, although it comes across as a bit ruthless, helps everyone on his team focus on success, because they believe they are going to win.
The Customer Comes First
In any successful business, putting the customer’s satisfaction first is an important way to remain successful. If you can provide a top notch service or product that satisfies your customer, they will be willing to pay top dollar for that service or product, and you will retain them as a repeat customer.
All in all, I am thrilled to have had the opportunity to speak first hand with O’Leary. Despite his reputation in the media as being a rather ruthless strategist, I found him very willing to share some of his business tactics that have made him a great success.
One thing was abundantly clear: Mr. O’Leary is focused upon making money. He does not allow himself to become emotionally attached to his businesses, but he still remains passionate about making his shareholders financially successful. His strategies remain true to the ultimate purpose that he maintains as a businessman, which is to make money. And lots of it.
I was very impressed with Kevin’s willingness to sit down with a veritable stranger and spend some quality time discussing aspects of his successful TV Shows and successful business strategies. I am anxious to begin incorporating some of his tips into my own business ventures.