Monday, March 5, 2012

What “Shark Tank” Can Teach You About Answering Questions

 Shark Tank” is a TV show follows aspiring entrepreneurs as they present various business ideas to money moguls (known as "the sharks") in hopes of landing an investment in their ideas. Each week, ambitious entrepreneurs present their business concepts to a small group of ruthless investors in an effort to convince them to invest in the business idea or product they are pitching.

In this episode:
Raven Thomas, a stay-at-home mother, asked for $100k to help her grow her gourmet pretzel business.  Raven started business in her kitchen and has been in business for 3 years.  She currently has orders that she cannot fill and needs capital to buy the raw materials she needs to make the product. 

The conversation between Raven and the Sharks can be summed up as follows:

Shark #1: “Who else can make pretzels that look like this?

Raven: “Lots of people can make pretzels, but no one makes them like I do.

Shark #1: “So your answer is that anyone can.

Shark #2:  “Why should we invest in your business?”

Raven:  “The main reason is because I have two little kids and I am showing them that if you just follow your dream you can do whatever you want and become successful…”

Shark #3: “It’s a good story, but it’s not a good reason to invest.”

All but one of the sharks lose interest.  The lone shark then provides Raven with the following mini coaching session.

Shark #4:  “Try again.  This time, remember that you are in the real world of business.  What is the benefit of investing in your business?”

Raven’s revised answer:  “I need the capital to buy the ingredients to make the product.  I had to walk away from a $2million order because I knew I couldn’t deliver on the amount of product they ordered.  The door is still open to make that deal.”

Raven got the cash she needed and a strategic partner to help her grow the business.

When you rework the job titles in the scenario above, and view the ‘sharks’ as hiring managers and Raven as a job candidate, and the hiring managers make the, “Tell me about yourself” inquiry, they are not interested in your family background regardless of how interesting it might be.  Hiring managers, like the “sharks” want to know what makes you different from all of the other candidates out there.  They want to know about the interesting details in your career history that may not show up in your résumé that can show evidence that you can be a valuable asset to their organization.

Moral of the story:
When answering questions, always be cognizant of who is asking the question and tailor your answers accordingly.

Copyright © 2012, Career Matters. All Rights Reserved. Permission to Reprint: This article may be reprinted, provided it appears in its entirety with the following attribution: Copyright © 2012, Career Matters. Reprinted by permission of the author, Mary Salvino. “Career Matters” is a blog authored by Mary Salvino, Senior Consultant for SMART Career that is dedicated to those who are seeking advice on managing their career and future job opportunities. We welcome readers to share their experiences, post their comments or ask questions about career related matters. This blog is also dedicated to those who stand a little taller each time they picked themselves up after failing and those who gained the wisdom and humility from those experiences to help others do the same. For any questions or comments that are better addressed privately, please feel free to e-mail Mary directly at