Stepping Into the Shark Tank


Dec. 5, 2023

Winding down towards the final days of this calendar year, between holiday parties, gift buying, preparation and mailing of Christmas greetings, and closing the book on 2023, we’re invited to reflect on the previous 11 months. How good of a year have I had professionally? Did I get that promotion I had expected? Have I landed a new employment opportunity? Do I still find my work engaging? What achievements are there of which I am especially proud? Did my territories enlarge through making new connections or strengthening current ones?


There will be others for whom the accomplishments are more of the “tread water” or pedestrian variety. I escaped the reduction in force. We finally completed that five-year project! The City Commission approved our development plan following months of negotiation. I am pleasantly surprised to have received any kind of bonus.


Those of us operating our own small businesses and enterprises may wrestle with more “hand to mouth” considerations. Did I meet my debts and obligations? Are my receivables manageable? Am I still in alignment with my fundamental values, vision, and mission? If not, do I need to recalibrate, or shift focus because of changing conditions? Am I working my business or is my business working me?


For all of us who work “outside the home” what is my level of contentment and satisfaction on a one to 10 scale?


My wife and I each having small businesses ourselves, can relate to the entrepreneurs who make their pitches on “The Shark Tank.” Facing successful businesspeople such as Mark Cuban, Kevin O’Leary, Daymond John, and Lori Greiner, enterprisers often boldly introduce their pursuits in the hope of securing a capital investor among the panelists. More importantly they seek the legitimacy to be derived from partnering with a “known” shark.


Following what is typically a clever and creative presentation the business owner or owners are asked fairly high-level fundamental questions. How long have you been in business? What was your motivation for embarking upon this pursuit? What has been your revenue since inception? How much have you brought in year to date? Who or what is your target market?


From there the questioning becomes more pointed. What are your operating margins? What is your cost of labor? Who supplies your materials? How are you impacted by supply chain? What do you see as your greatest risk?


The sharks begin evaluating the efficacy of partnering with the business and the sensibility of not only personal portfolio alignment, but if based on what’s been learned if the enterprise merits investment and under the requested terms or something counteroffered.


In viewing episodes, I find myself curious as to how I might fare as an entrepreneur under the so-called “spotlight?” I readily conclude that I’m not at all interested in participating in an appearance on the shark tank, however, find that exercise of curiosity and imagination helpful.


1. What might I be doing to better scale?

2. Is my time utilization as productive as it could be: are there areas that might or should be contracted out, or discontinued altogether?

3. What is the return on marketing and advertising?

4. Are there opportunities for taking advantage of AI? Might this very blog be just as well crafted through ChatGPT (probably better), or formatted differently?

5. Is there a succession plan in place for when it’s time to “hang it up?”

6. Do I need to do a better job of outreach (yes) and seeking different resources for connecting?


And finally, for those who don’t operate their own businesses, how might these same considerations apply to what it is that you do professionally?


Aside from swimming in the shark tank, might these be a pretty good list of questions to begin with right now, in preparation for 2024 and the usual resolutions that will come about then?


As we make ready to draw the curtain on 2023 my hope for all is that you’ve had successes. That you’ve had the opportunity to make someone else’s life better. That you’ve been an agent of bringing about peace and spreading goodwill and greater understanding among all, but especially those who look or think differently than you. I pray that in the closing days of this year you will realize a goal that exceeds your wildest expectation.


And most of all, Merry Christmas, and Best of Holidays!


The Seed Sower


A Different Path