Starting & Growing Your Business: 5 Valuable Lessons Learned from Reality TV Pros

In the past
few years “business turnaround” and “entrepreneurial” reality TV shows have
become compelling viewing – opening our eyes to the successes and challenges inherent
in being an entrepreneur or small business owner.

From UK
imports, such as Shark Tank, Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares and BBC
America’s excellent business transformation shows – Hotel Inspector and Mary
Queen of Shops
– to homegrown productions such as NBC’s “The Restaurant” –
reality-business TV offers a fascinating, albeit voyeuristic, insight into the
highs and lows of starting a business, reinventing a business, and even making
the decision to exit a business.

Whether you
are a start-up seeking investment (think Shark
Tank
) or an established business in need of a re-launch to abate failure – these
shows deliver what could be considered a 50 minute master class in how to
succeed in business.

Here are some
common and consistent learning moments gleaned from these shows that small
business owners everywhere might consider.

When Seeking Funding – Don’t Over-Value Your Business’s
Current or Projected Worth

One of the more common mistakes
start-ups make – as seen on Shark Tank
– is misrepresenting or overvaluing the worth of their business to potential
investors.

At the end of the day, deliberately or
unwittingly over-valuing (or under-valuing) your business can quickly play
against you as a potential investor picks apart your sales and profit
projections.

So the takeaway from Shark Tank is that proper financial
planning and research can go a long way towards delivering a polished and
realistic sales pitch to banks or lenders.  

This Business Loan
Checklist

from Business.gov is a useful
resource for guiding you through the process of planning and preparing a successful
loan application. These online Business
Planning Videos
, from expert Tim Berry, can also help you build a realistic
sales forecast to out in front of investors.

Perfect Your Elevator Pitch and Presentation Skills

One of the most excruciating parts
about Shark Tank is those few moments
when budding entrepreneurs get to present their business elevator pitch to the
line-up of potential investors – and, whether it’s through nerves or poor
preparation, their presentation falls apart.

If you are looking to secure funds or
presenting your product or services at a trade show, developing and practicing your
elevator pitch is key.  For a three step
approach to developing your company’s elevator pitch, read my earlier post: Why Your Business Needs an Elevator Pitch (and Tips on How to Target it to your Audience).

Learn
from the Competition

Another common scenario found on
business turnaround shows like Ramsay’s
Kitchen Nightmares
, is that business owners faced with stiff competition
often retreat from it rather than embrace it.

Business is just as much as knowing
about the competition as it is about knowing your customers.

Take a hard look at what it is that you think
your business is doing wrong, in the light of what your competition across town
is doing right. Next find a way to re-connect with your target market using those
lessons learned – whether it’s re-branding your business; correcting your price
points; or firing staff who don’t cut the mustard.

Take a look at this online workshop from SCORE
which show you how to gather competitive intelligence and help you be
ready for the competition. The Small Business Administration also offers
useful tips for understanding
the competition and finding a niche for your
business.

Diversify
to Grow

Diversification strategies are often at
the heart of reality TV business transformation shows. For example, would
adding a kids menu or brunch dining experience help drive your business in new
more profitable directions?

So whether it’s new offerings, new markets,
new verticals, new distribution channels – whatever it is you need to do to
diversify – explore all possible avenues, plan your approach and desired
outcome, and test and review your findings.

Check
Your Ego at the Door

Ego is a significant obstacle to
business success, as encountered by countless reality TV business turnaround
experts. Sometimes it’s a stubbornness to embrace a new business tactic simply
because “we’ve always done it that way”, or it’s a case of an over-inflated
business ego driven to succeed regardless of the cost and risk, and is failing
fast.

So in addition to being willing to
diversify, time and again reality TV shows teach us that, a little bit of
ego-less objective business analysis and management can only improve your
bottom line.