My husband and I have recently found the TV show Shark Tank. This has been on the air for about three years yet we had never heard of it. The idea of the show is, a business owner or someone with an idea they think should be the next great product, comes to the Shark Tank asking for money from one or more of five investors, in hopes of moving their business up to the next level.

These investors, known as the Sharks, are experienced, successful entrepreneurs who are using their own money, time and reputation; to not only invest in a new product, but also to mentor the business owners who they feel have the potential to have a large business. The Sharks are not only good business people but they understand the money involved.

We have the advantage that we’re watching these on Hulu so we can see several episodes at one time. Because of that, I can see trends emerging. A few things I have observed is, that you have to be prepared to answer tough questions about your business, but more than that, you have to answer without giving a run around answer. However, those answers cannot just be from the hip. If you make it up or try to gloss over facts such as no sales or lousy profits, the Sharks are not going fund your business.

Having a passion for your business is a necessity, but you also have to know the numbers that back up your business. It surprises me at how many people go into the Shark Tank asking for money in exchange for a percentage of the business equity and don’t know what that means. They are valuing the business much higher than it is worth. Often they are valuing a business at 175% or more of what the net profits where and sometimes even the gross profit.

The business owners who understand the numbers are better able to explain why the Sharks should invest in their business. There are several businesses that the Sharks invest in that have not even sold one unit of their product yet, but they have a concept or product that interests the Sharks. The owners that often succeed are not afraid to say they don’t understand the business side and are looking for a mentor who does. As long as they admit to not having all the answers and don’t argue with the Sharks about the possibilities or the numbers behind their business, the Sharks are likely to make them an offer. The business owners who argue over the value of the company or who don’t recognize that they need a mentor are not likely to get the funding even if they have a great idea.

You can apply that thinking to your own business by recognizing when you need help. It is often hard to let people know when we are having a bad week or if sales or down or anything else about our business that we perceive as negative. The first step is to seek one or more experts that are willing to work with you; these experts are often paid but can also be people we ask for their help that come along side us with no cost. Retired business people are great resources that are often overlooked.

In the coming weeks we are going to explore some areas that you can use to improve your business using ideas gleaned from Shark Tank. In the mean time I would like you to tell us who your business mentors have been(you don’t have to use their name) and why they were or are good for your business and your personal growth as a business owner, along with the traits that made them a good mentor as opposed to a good friend. Please put in the comments the info and we will tabulate the results to come up with the traits to look for in a good mentor.