“Shark Tank” star Robert Herjavec has heard countless elevator pitches from startups looking to strike it rich selling everything from alarm clocks that cook bacon to decorative paint for pets to oversized slippers featuring famous cartoon characters.
Of course, one of the things that makes Robert a savvy investor is that he’s a successful serial entrepreneur himself. Having immigrated to North America with his family when he was only 8 years old, he’s led a true rags-to-riches story, building numerous successful companies and today leading cybersecurity powerhouse Herjavec Group.
I spent a portion of this summer with Robert in Wabash, Indiana, filming the “Small Business Revolution” series, which chronicles rural communities’ inspiring small business owners and the critical importance of these businesses. I spoke with him on what makes rural small businesses special, and how entrepreneurs can take a few seemingly simple steps to get an all-important leg up in an increasingly competitive marketplace.
Amanda Brinkman: What do you know now that you wish someone would’ve told you before you started your first business?
Robert Herjavec: “I wish someone would’ve told me to dream bigger, and that I didn’t need to put limitations on what I could accomplish. It may be due to my upbringing – my father working in a factory, my mother as a receptionist – but it seemed crazy to imagine building a $1 million company, let alone a $100 million company.
In other words, don’t kid yourself that success comes easy, but don’t put any arbitrary or unnecessary parameters on what you believe you can accomplish through hard work and smart business decisions, either.”
What are the key attributes that make a successful entrepreneur?
“I find that people who start businesses – and this is often out of necessity – do so because they have a drive to create something bigger than themselves. But what creates a successful one? Well, it really comes back to the basics: hard work, knowing your industry, knowing your numbers, quality customer service, finding ways to differentiate yourself in the marketplace. Those things may sound obvious, but excelling at all of them is challenging and helps set some small businesses apart from the competition. Sometimes it’s a matter of identifying what you do best and having the foresight to partner with other people who can support you in the areas where you aren’t quite as strong.”
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