Swimming with the Sharks

Shark TankI’m a big fan of the television show Shark Tank (ABC, Friday at 9 p.m.) So much so that I schedule it on my calendar with an alert in case I forget. It’s one of only two television shows I regularly watch. If you’ve never seen the show, it’s a group of very financially successful entrepreneurs who are looking to invest in more businesses. An entrepreneur interested in finding an investor steps up and delivers a pitch to attract The Sharks to invest in his or her business. Why am I a fan? Quite simply, it’s the best business education you can get and it’s free! Free means no cash outlay … that in itself is enough to make The Cash Flow Wizard’s eyes well up with deep seated emotion.

When I teach college classes in accounting and entrepreneurship, I use Shark Tank as a teaching tool. My students enjoy it and beg for more. “Ms. Grimm, are we going to watch Shark Tank today?” Now, I’m no fool. I know they’d rather watch Shark Tank than listen to me lecture. When I let them watch Shark Tank, they think they’re getting away with something. What they don’t know is they’re learning amazing business lessons. (Don’t tell them there’s method to my madness!)

The biggest lesson that is driven into them over and over again is “Know Your Numbers.” Entrepreneur after entrepreneur jumps into the tank only to be torn to shreds by The Sharks who ask the hard questions. You see, The Sharks aren’t emotionally invested in your business like you are. They look at your business searching for strengths and weaknesses, opportunities and threats. They don’t care that you’re making jam from your Grandma Sally’s secret recipe that she taught you when you were four and she stood you up on a chair with an apron around your neck. What they want to know is can your business make money.
I watch my students grow in business wisdom each time they watch Shark Tank. We discuss which businesses we would invest in and why and which businesses are surprise successes. (A favorite is www.IWantToDrawACatForYou.com. We were all amazed by that one.) By the end of a semester my students are openly scornful of entrepreneurs who walk into the Shark Tank unprepared. “Can you believe that guy didn’t even know his numbers?”

Unfortunately, “not knowing your numbers” is a common business problem. In fact, all those businesses I’ve been called in to help have had owners who didn’t know there numbers. It’s estimated that 80% of businesses that fail have owners who don’t understand the importance of cash flow and the financial side of running a business. The good news is those skills are completely learnable. And you don’t need to take out a college loan. Just watch a few episodes of Shark Tank.

If you want a fast and fun financial education, you can also read my books: Stop the Cash Flow Roller Coaster and Strength in Numbers. You get an entire real world financial education without having to listen to me lecture!

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