As he sits surrounded by some of the world’s sharpest entrepreneurs on “Shark Tank,” it’s difficult to imagine a time that Kevin O’Leary wasn’t the go-to television personality for financial advice. But Mr. Wonderful has been connected to TV for decades. In fact, before O’Leary was the on-air millionaire with a knack for ruthless honesty, he was working behind the camera.
“I was a television producer back in the 80’s. I was a cameraman. I shot the Olympics and did all the soccer films.”
From there, O’Leary began working as a professional photographer, a career move that ultimately led him to his calling.
“I made a living as a professional photographer for a few years, not a good one. And so my dad said, ‘Maybe you’re just mediocre at this, maybe you should go get a business degree.’ Which is what I did, he was right.”
As it turns out, O’Leary is definitely not a mediocre entrepreneur. After launching a business from his basement, O’Leary sold the company in one of the biggest deals ever conducted in the consumer software industry. Now, making more and more money is the millionaire’s sole objective.
“Everyday my motto is to go to bed richer than you woke up. There’s never enough money.”
For O’Leary, making money and making TV could not be more different. While business is an organized, scientific process, television is anything but.
“Business, it’s very binary. You make money, you lose it. It’s about numbers, it’s very disciplined. Television is just chaos.”
But according to O’Leary, the two go hand-in-hand, and “Shark Tank” is where he melds the worlds together.
“I’m always promoting some entrepreneur or their business. So what’s wrong with that? It’s a great model. It’s a form of free advertising for them.”
And while O’Leary works to make money for his existing companies, he’s also busy picking up new deals on Season 6 of “Shark Tank,” where the Sharks are expected to surpass the amount of money offered each season.
“This year the deal sizes are huge. We’ve got a five million dollar deal. It’s a giant infomercial, that’s what it is.”
So what will it take to get a multi-million dollar deal out of the Sharks? O’Leary says there are three important attributes: Describe your product in 90 seconds or less, prove why you’re the right person for the job, and know your numbers.
“I’ve often seen great pitches go down in flames when it’s obvious that that person has no idea about the numbers. Then I realize at that point that I’ve wasted my time and I’d like to take them behind the barn and shoot them.”