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Business lessons from ABC's Shark Tank

abc_television_by_athor1994-d5midinThe idea of gleaning business tips from reality TV might seem as absurd as taking trading advice from Gordon Gekko. Just in case the memory isn’t what it used to be, Gordon Gekko is the corporate raider Michael Douglas played in the film “Wall Street” who was fond of insider trading. The only business advice, like “The Real World” or “Big Brother,” might impart is to avoid the real estate market at all cost, because there’s no chance the landlord of those homes is getting a security deposit back. What about those cooking competitions with Gordon Ramsay? Here’s the nugget of wisdom learned from those reality shows: skip opening a restaurant. ABC's “Shark Tank,” on the other hand, is a different type of reality show. Aspiring entrepreneurs are led into the shark tank, where they have a few minutes to pitch their products to investors, hoping to secure the capital needed to fulfill their dreams. In traditional reality TV, the entrepreneurs are often mocked, insulted and humiliated, the 5 investors doing their best imitation of the aforementioned Gordon Ramsey. There are occasions, however, when the investors impart tips, pointers and advice on ways to be successful. Who would have thought reality TV could be one day dispensing business tips. “Shark Tank” is a microcosm of the American dream, so marketers and entrepreneurs should tune in.

20 questions

The U.S. Small Business Administration has developed 20 questions that a marketer or entrepreneur should ask before embarking on a business venture. However, knowing the answers to these questions isn't enough. On “Shark Tank,” investors are notorious for tossing out the strangest questions. When pitching a brand or idea to others, it pays to be prepared for a curve ball.

Be clear, precise, succinct and confident

When it comes to communication, be clear, precise, succinct and confident, but don't come across cocky. It's a fine line, so don't cross it. Once it's crossed it's difficult to go back and earn respect.

Critical feedback

Listen to give critical feedback. Everyone thinks the idea or brand they create is the best. Obviously, this isn't the case. Egos have a tendency to block out critical feedback. However, listening to criticism will help when it comes to retooling a business approach.

I have a dream

Sometimes the dream is more important than the numbers. A business can rise and fall faster than a roller coaster, and sometimes investors are less concerned with sales than they are the longevity of a product or idea. Does it have potential, promise, and durability for the long haul? Is the boss going to be more impressed with a person giving a demo of mediocre numbers or with the inspired marketer who can command a room by talking up the possibilities of a business venture? Life is all about having one eye on the future.

Timing is everything

When it comes to pitching to the sharks, timing is everything. The same holds true when deciding to hit the boss up for a raise or promotion. Don't waste time angling for a promotion if it hasn't been earned. Bosses want to see people prove their worth in the trenches. A network like CNBC might give you the finer details of finance, but paying for satellite costs at least $30 a month, according to www.direct.tv. Don't overlook wisdom on a reality show just because it airs on a free channel. This post was contributed by Scott Parson, a freelance writer who lives in Baltimore.