Most of us have get-rich-quick schemes cooked up in our heads. Just last night, I came up with an ingenious notion for a new product after watching my Bassett Hound puppy Charlie once again dip his long ears into his water bowl and then drag them around in the yard gathering mud. A lightbulb went off. Why not create an elastic-type band, perhaps adorned with a fashionable bow that could gently and safely keep poor Charlie’s ears from dragging on the ground? I’d call them “Bassett Bows” – a functional, yet cute, item to satisfy the poor Bassett’s biggest problem. I told my idea to Counselor Editor Andy Cohen, who immediately pooh-pooed it, pointing out that there are limited sell-through opportunities, given that Bassett Hounds don’t crack the top 10 in terms of most popular dog breeds. Whatever. I still like it.
This morning, I got even more inspiration for my idea after having a conversation with Daymond John, one of the stars of ABC’s Shark Tank – the reality show where gutsy entrepreneurs pitch their product ideas in front of a team of potential investors. We interviewed John, who’s delivering the keynote this month at ASI New York, about traits of a good entrepreneur. On Shark Tank, John and his fellow cast members have listened to all kinds of crazy product ideas, ranging from a Bluetooth device that’s implanted surgically into people’s necks (the Sharks didn’t go for it) to reusable paper towels made out of bamboo (one of the Sharks bit).
It turns out that John is less interested in the products the contestants are pitching then the contestants themselves. “What’s compelling is not the product, but its owner,” said John. “I want someone who’s passionate and resilient. Someone I can look at and say, ‘This person’s never, ever gonna stop until they succeed.’ That’s the key to a successful entrepreneur.”
John speaks from personal experience. When first looking to build his FUBU apparel line, he worked full time at Red Lobster while tirelessly trying to launch his company in between shifts. One of his big breaks came when he literally stalked rapper LL Cool J outside of his house for several hours until he agreed to wear one of John’s shirts in a promotional campaign. Today, John’s company has amassed more than $6 billion in global sales.
The lesson? What sets us apart from our colleagues is not so much what we’re selling, but how we’re doing it. Are you the type of salesperson who phones it in each day, using the same tired pitch from customer to customer? Or, are you of the variety who’s excitedly sending e-mails to prospects at midnight each night with great ideas that are perfectly suited for their next promotion?
In John’s book, it’s the latter type that’s going to win the deal, every single time.