The “Sharks” on ABC’s hit TV show Shark Tank are known for their killer instincts when it comes to making sharp investments in ideas and the people behind them.
Shark investors Barbara Corcoran and Daymond John clearly know a few things about what makes a great business -- and a great employee. They shared the secrets to their successful, untouchable careers with Yahoo Finance.
How did you become untouchable?
Barbara: What drives me is the fact that I was such a bad student. In school I couldn’t read or write and I learned shame in the classroom. I was labeled ‘stupid’ and so that takes a long time to get over. And you know what I think, really? I think my passion, my drive and everything I do, I do it to prove again and again, probably more to myself, but I think to the world, that I am not stupid and it keeps me running hard and keeps me insecure enough to run hard. And I have to say, of all the entrepreneurs I invest in on "Shark Tank," that’s the one trait I’m looking for: insecurity. I don’t want a cocky guy with a big education. I want to get my hands on somebody who’s got something to prove.
Daymond: I always say you are the brand first and put your brand into two to five words…For Us By Us [FUBU] was about a culture. It was always me, I wanted to put quality out there, but I wanted to empower people at the same time, and I wanted it to be fashionable. Your two-to-five words will change over the course of time as you grow and my five words over the last couple years: ‘I’m on a quest.’ It’s simple and plain, you know. I walk in the room like the dumbest person and I’m ready to learn.
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What makes an employee untouchable?
- The smartest move you could ever do is hire your opposite. If you know what your given talents are, look for the guy who’s got the other stuff. You don’t need two of you. You need the other guy to work along with you because that’s how you build a business quickly. You’ve got experts on both sides.
- A great employee in my book, has pride of ownership even though they don’t own anything, they take great pride that they’re part of that business. You can’t put a value on that in an employee.
- You always want to have someone who’s loyal and when I say loyal, loyal like a brick, because if you’re going to be building a business you don’t want a shaky foundation. So loyalty is essential -- not somebody that you’re going to worry about losing next week if they get a better offer.
- I couldn’t imagine having a team of people who weren’t consistent and with great follow-through. I mean that’s essential, if you have an employee who doesn’t have that, what do you have them around for?
- You need to have people who love their teammates. The minute you have a show-off who wants to take credit, you have a weak team. You need to have people who all treasure and respect their teammates.
- It’s wonderful if you have an employee who’s willing to fail. You know what that brings? It brings confidence to the table, they’re willing to fail and then they discover new things. You can’t be the chief idea person in a large business, you need people who are constantly generating ideas and those are the people who are not afraid to fail because it takes a lot of flops to come up with one good idea.
- The employees knows they’re dispensable.
- Very good at communicating and working with others.
- A problem solver who will figure it out first and if they can’t figure it out come to you with, "Hey you know what? We have a problem I haven’t been able to figure it out, but these are 3 or 4 options that I’m thinking about."
- A visionary/team player that’s not just me, me, me.
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How did your failures make you untouchable?
Barbara: Every single great thing that ever happened to me happened on the heels of failure, without exception. I remember when I lost my voice at my first speech. I was devastated, mortified I didn’t think I’d go out. But it was by teaching a night course for a small group of students to get over my fear of public speaking that I met the best salesperson that was ever going to enter the New York City real estate market: Carrie Chiang. If I hadn’t gotten over my failure, I would not have had that.
Daymond: Well, mom always taught me, "You don’t get rich off your day job, you get rich off your homework." And what she basically said was you know, [at] your day job you’re working on somebody else’s dream and I understand you have to do that because you have to pay the bills, and you have to also learn and come up in the business. But if you think it’s scary to be an entrepreneur and work on your dream, how much scarier or how much more frightening is it to work on somebody else’s dream and they may end up making the wrong decision and getting rid of you? So do me a favor, always have a day job, and if you have to put in an hour at night, or an hour a week or a month on a new project that you like, that you love, that you really, really believe in, after a while that’s going to compound and after a year, two years, three years, five years, you’re going to have 300, 500, 900 hours in there. If you continue to have that discipline, that means you really like it. That means you’re really attracted to it and sooner or later that effort will start to pay off way more than the current effort of your day job. I tried about 6 or 7 times with little businesses but every business, I either didn’t have the passion and I left it, or I failed. But I learned so much, and then all of a sudden came FUBU.