As a small business owner with a brazen personality and recognized success (Top 10 Small Biz in America, 2015 by FedEx), I’m an excellent fit for Shark Tank, the TV show where a group of successful business owners and investors allow you a chance to pitch your idea to them.
The promise of going on Shark Tank is two fold: First, you get a chance to pitch to and partner with very successful business owners. Second, even if you aren’t successful with your pitch you still get massive publicity and sales pour in.
Both of those appear to be true. I’ve met with other business owners who have gone on Shark Tank, and if they don’t make their pitch work they still see massive sales every time their show airs on TV.
So why won’t I go on there? I have four reasons, none of them rational, all of them enough for me to say “No.”
First, I flat out don’t like anything that stinks of “reality show”. Reality shows are disgusting to me. They bring out and accentuate the worst parts of “reality” in humans, and they are detrimental to everyone except the people who make money off of them.
At the end of watching a reality show you’ve ridden a roller coaster of derision and dopamine, impatience and ignorance, intolerance and the worst sort of cattiness.
Second, I don’t like the idea of doing anything solely for money. Yes, I know that sounds romantic and impractical, but what I can tell you after starting 7 businesses and failing at 5 of them is that when I do things solely for financial gain I run out of steam within 2 months, usually less. As much as I love money and the agency it gives me, the numbers don’t keep me alive.
You see, I’m not running my business with the single goal of maximizing profit. Our goals at Paleo Treats are (and have been since the beginning), three-fold. First, to add beauty, quality, and joy to the world. Second, to have fun. Third, to make money.
Those aren’t in any particular order, but I like to think we need at least 2 out of 3 to consider an idea. Going on Shark Tank certainly would meet the “make money” goal. I don’t see how it would add beauty, quality, or joy to the world in a meaningful way, and it wouldn’t be fun.
Third, I long ago bought in to the idea that if you work hard enough, smart enough, for long enough, you’ll get what you want. I like that idea. It seems clean to me, and fair.
Sure, you can get lucky early in a business and strike it hugely rich without having put in a ton of work or smarts or time, but that’s just luck, and luck is, in the most rational sense of the word, fair. We have no control over it, so it doesn’t matter.
That long, hard, and smart idea is what I most enjoy about Paleo Treats. It hasn’t been an overnight success. We’re still working on it, 8 years after starting. In our first year of business we did less than $14,000 in sales. Since then we’ve done over a million. It has never happened all at once, and every single thing we’ve done has taken long, hard, and smart work. I like that.
I like that at the end of the day I can look back and say that we (owners and employees) have built a company based on the best of American values. While it hasn’t been easy, it’s been beautiful, joyful, lots of fun, and has added quality to the world. I’m proud of that. I’m proud that we’ve stuck by our guns and stayed with the belief that the output is irrelevant, it’s the effort that matters.
I’m not opposed to money. After all, it’s one of the three reasons we’re in business. It’s just that I’m not willing to compromise my other beliefs in order to get it.
Fourth, I don’t want to trade part of our decision making ability for money. I don’t care how fast we could grow, or how big we could get.
I’m more concerned with the small devil that would quickly rear its head about dropping the price (and quality) of the ingredients, or leave off some of the beauty we put into our shipping boxes just because it costs a few extra pennies, or the “pivot” away from our core group of customers just to chase the dollar.
I understand profits and efficiencies as well as anyone (they’re not that complicated.) I’ve drawn my line where I wanted it drawn and I’m not interested in changing the position.
I’ve always been an adventurer, and that’s the only part of Shark Tank that appeals to me; a new experience, an adventure.
I’ve also been a sailor, and perhaps sailing holds a better analogy to explain not only why I won’t go on Shark Tank, but why I couldn’t.
You see, a sailing vessel is watertight only if every part of her hull holds together. If there is even one crack in that hull, the water will come in. It may seep or it may flood, but if you sail with a crack in your hull, sooner or later you’ll sink.
To me, going on Shark Tank opens up a crack in the hull. It’s a breach of my personal integrity, a collapsing of character values for profit, and ultimately an attempt to shortcut an honorable, enjoyable, difficult, and in the long run, a profitable process.
I enjoy sailing the adventurous oceans of business, but I’ve sailed with a crack in the hull enough (once is enough) to know that sailing a flawed ship is no way for me to get where I’m going.
See you out there on the high seas, just not in the Shark Tank!
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Too much reading...
How about dessert?