It’s rare for a reality TV show to transcend its role as solely an entertainment-provider. What’s even rarer is for a reality TV show to provide business acumen, an understanding of corporate valuation, lessons in intellectual property law, and tips about making potentially life-changing presentations for financial investors. Shark Tank has mastered all of these, which is why the hit ABC TV show garners millions of viewers every Friday night, consistently pulling in high ratings. So on Friday night when work is out, school is in session with your professors, the Sharks.
Since we started live-tweeting Shark Tank episodes, we’ve talked to hundreds of fans who use the show for educational value. Whether it’s by watching the show with kids to teach them about business, professors using it as a teaching tool, or company owners learning valuable business lessons, there are a variety of ways Shark Tank fans are taking the knowledge gleaned from the show, and actually using it in their lives.
We’ve asked fans how they use the show for educational value, and have learned a lot about how fans are learning a lot of business lessons. @EvaBaez, for example, says that by watching the show she learns how investors think. @MargaretGPryor echoes that idea when she points out the importance of recognizing your investor’s interests. Both women make great points, because seeing how investors think is definitely not a business lesson that can be learned in any classroom. Shark Tank gives the audience a front-row seat for actual business negotiations, and the Sharks are never shy about sharing their thoughts on the deals placed before them. Even more, once deals are made (or not made) the Sharks are often quick to comment on what they thought about the deal, the valuation, the presentation, and how that led them into making a decision to invest or pass. This type of insight is extremely valuable for entrepreneurs, inventors, and small business owners who may have to go before their own sharks to gain funding for their business. By understanding what sharks are looking for, viewers now know how to tailor their presentations to make even the meanest sharks hungry for a deal.
After a recent episode, @Britt_I_Am picked up on another valuable business lesson: the importance of being prepared. Undoubtedly business classes everywhere teach students about the importance of being prepared, but nothing makes that business lesson clearer than actually watching contestants in the tank who failed to heed this advice. This episode featured two groups of contestants who simply did not have all their facts together to present for the Sharks. While both business ideas seemed innovative and realistic, there’s no substitute for the solid preparation it takes to know your business, your numbers, and your plan.
A large part of being prepared is knowing how to play the numbers game. Likely one of the first business lessons new Shark Tank viewers learn is that the Sharks don’t mess around when it comes to the valuation of a business. As much as inventors, entrepreneurs, and small business owners sometimes want to factor their blood, sweat, and tears into their business valuation, the Sharks simply don’t see it the same way. Knowing your business valuation is about being realistic, looking at your results, and looking to your future. It’s about factoring in all of your costs (start-up, labor, production, manufacturing, distribution), and comparing those to your sales record and realistic projected sales. Unfortunately this doesn’t mean that every business is a million dollar idea, but it does mean that a Shark is more likely to invest if you prove that you have the business (and numbers) know-how to take it to the next level. And securing a Shark’s investment is the crucial next step to taking a couple thousand dollar business to a $100,000/month business (just ask Daisy Cakes).
We know our fans are learning tons about business just by tuning into Shark Tank every Friday night! What have you learned from the Sharks? How are you taking Shark Tank business lessons into the real world? Let us know fans!