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

An Original Article from Small Business Administration (

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 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.

*Note: Hyperlink directs reader to non-government web site.

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