Scaling a startup is a complex endeavor that entails numerous interconnected components and constantly shifting priorities. That is why you need to test before you invest. Today on The Mystical Mavericks, the original Shark, Kevin Harrington, joins us to discuss how you can scale your startup successfully. Kevin shares how he got started with his first business and some wisdom to encourage and inspire you on your startup journey. If you are a brand-new entrepreneur, if you are creating a reality and manifesting your dream, or if you are someone who’s creating a brand, tune in for some great nuggets from Kevin!
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Scaling Your Startup: Growth Strategies For Elevating Your Startup To New Heights With The Original Shark, Kevin Harrington
We have a rockstar with us. Kevin Harrington is an original shark from the hit TV show Shark Tank and a successful entrepreneur for more than 40 years. He’s the co-founding board member of the Entrepreneurs’ Organization and the Cofounder of the Electronic Retailing Association. He also invented the infomercial he helped make, “But wait, there’s more,” part of our cultural history. He’s one of the pioneers behind the As Seen on TV brand, has heard more than 50,000 pitches, and launched more than 500 products, regenerating more than $5 billion in global sales.
Twenty of his companies have generated more than $100 million in revenue each. He’s also the Founder of the Secrets of Closing the Sale masterclass, inspired by the master of sales, Zig Ziglar. He’s the author of several bestselling books, including Act Now!: How I Turn Ideas into Million-Dollar Products, Key Person of Influence, and Put a Shark in Your Tank. I’m very blessed to have Kevin Harrington himself on the show. Welcome, Kevin. Thank you so much for your precious time.
What’s going on?
One of the things that I wanted you on the show is because you are a Mystical Maverick, and you might not know why. Kevin Harrington, the iconic Mystical Maverick, is with us. I’ve seen you in an elevator, on stage, and at a conference. I’ve seen you everywhere. There’s something about you, and I was always curious about it. You have what I call an orgasmic energy or je ne sais quoi.
You’re the James Bond of business. You show up, and the whole room lights up. I wanted to find out from you in person. Is this charisma or je ne sais quoi something you’re born with? Is this something that perhaps you were taught or a skill that you developed along the way? What is this about you? You always have this energy. I’ve never seen you have a bad day.
First of all, I appreciate everything you said. I’ve done thousands of shows. I did over almost 200 for one book but I have not heard some of the things you’ve said. When you talk about orgasmic energy, that’s pretty powerful. I love it.
You’re powerful. Each time I see you, you do something to me and millions. You empower and inspire. I was wondering if you were always like this as a child, or if it’s something you picked up along the way because of a mentor. What is this about you?
I do believe that I came from very good genes. My father lived until he was 93. He was an entrepreneur, and I learned a lot. He was my first mentor. My mother was a saint and an angel who went to church 6 days a week and raised 6 kids in a Catholic family. I believe I was raised properly to respect people and also to know that my father didn’t give me anything. He was in the restaurant business. He told me when I was going to college, the year in high school, “I’m not paying for your college because you have to pay for it.” I learned that a year ahead of time, prepared, and started a business to earn that money.
The bottom line is that I didn’t always start like this energy that you talk about but I will say this. When you are in a business as I was in infomercials as seen on TV, we would put a product on television, and it would hit the Tony Little’s Ab Isolator. It would run thousands of times a week and generate millions of dollars a week, and over time, hundreds of millions of dollars. That gives you confidence. Selling hundreds of millions of dollars of not just 1 but 2, 10, and then 20. A couple of them go to 1 billion.
If you look at Mark Cuban, he has some confidence. When he started Broadcast.com, he was a hustler back then. He was driving in neighborhoods, listening to Zig Ziglar, and thinking, “I want to live in that house someday.” That was Mark Cuban but I was the same way. It wasn’t given to me. I had to make it. If I wanted to live in that house, I was going to have to be successful and have the confidence you saw in me because to get the right people that you want to surround yourself with, call it building a dream team. They like a leader who is confident and powerful and exudes that energy.
Nowadays, it’s the way to go. I have my kids in the business, a 35-year-old son, a 25-year-old son, and my wife’s uncle this 2023. There’s always room to bring. My 35-year-old son has been with me in business for many years. When he first started, he was very timid and afraid to test, spend money, and do things but he learned the formula. We have a formula. We say, “We would like to be successful in our business at least 1 out of 3 times when we’re launching a new product.”
You might think, “Are you saying you are happy to fail 2 out of 3 times?” If I’m doing dozens of projects, and I can hit a batting average of 1 out of 3 successes, that’s going to be very successful financially for me if you keep your costs low on the ones that don’t work. I say, “Test before you invest.” Don’t spend a big budget on a launch. This is one of the mistakes I’ve seen people make. They want to complete 100% of the project. It takes longer, and it’s way more expensive. I want to take it to a 90% factor and test it, and then I’m going to get some results. If it takes off, now we’re going to finish it real quick but maybe even better than we would have done it if we were doing it from the beginning.Test before you invest. Click To Tweet
Test before you invest and then understand you’re going to fail 2 out of 3 at least. Some people may fail even 5 out of 6. You have to be careful how many times you’re failing but the bottom line is this is one of the feelings that I have. I can keep a smile on my face even through failure because of Winston Churchill who’s a brilliant old man who’s no longer with us. I studied Zig Ziglar, Napoleon Hill, and Winston Churchill. Winston Churchill said, “Success is being able to go from failure to failure without the loss of enthusiasm.” Do I look unhappy? No. I’m still enthused, and I failed already but that’s okay because I got out of the way. I focus on the winners. That’s what I spend my time doing, focusing on winners.
I’m very real, and I have no filters. Your speaking gave me chills after chills. It is not your formula per se. You’re helping millions with the same formula. Something that you do is correct. The people have to start listening to those who have those clues of success, copy them, and have a sense of intuition to say, “This guy is doing the right thing. I’m going to go even if I have to travel miles to another country. I want to go in his footsteps.” You have mentoring packages and books. You’re mentoring people every day on top of continuing to drive success.
I love doing that because there are so many entrepreneurs who need help. That’s why I, Michael Dell, and Ted Leonsis formed the Entrepreneur’s Organization back in 1987. We got together, put some money in a bank account, and said, “Let’s fund entrepreneurial empowerment and education.” EO is a nonprofit that is in 155 cities and 60 countries around the world. I love that.
I have a couple of thoughts that are coming to me because people said to me, “I’m sitting in sunny Florida, and I grew up in Cincinnati, Ohio.” Cincinnati is a beautiful city. I love the Bengals, and I grew up there but I couldn’t make money there. I moved from Cincinnati to Philadelphia. Within twelve months, my income 10X-ed. It was because of the ability to get more responses from ads in newspapers. I was an entrepreneur who needed to feed off other entrepreneurs. I did it when I hit Philadelphia.
Don’t be afraid to move. People say to me, “You did this venture with Home Shopping Network.” St. Petersburg, Florida is where I’ve lived for many years. Let me tell you why I did this. This is about partnering with people and finding the right dream team because I found out that I was good at marketing and finding the products in many cases but my failures and shortcomings weren’t finance, operations, fulfillment, customer service, and all that legwork type of stuff.
I met the people at Home Shopping Network, and they said, “We would love to do something with you in a bigger way than putting your products on the air.” I came back to them, and this is what they did. They put 50,000 products on the air a year. Out of that, 500 are grand slams. What I said to them is, “You have 5,000 employees and 50,000 products. I don’t want to work on the 49,500. I want to work on the 500 grand slams. Who’s that?” “That’s Tony Little, Jack LaLanne, and Suzanne Somers.”
I moved here in a venture with HSN, “Let them find all the losers. I’m going to work on the winners.” We took Tony Little who was on Home Shopping Network. To give you an idea of what a winner is, Tony Little would get ten minutes on HSN. Let’s say he’s going on tomorrow morning, and now the results are in. The hour before him, the gentleman sold $2,000 worth of product, which was a bomb. He only did $200 a minute. The next guy came on and was doing $500 a minute.
When Tony Little would come on, he would do $10,000 a minute. He would go for ten minutes. He was so much more powerful than the others. He was saying things that were getting more sales. I focused on duplicating that sales message, “Let’s not just put it on HSN. Let’s take it to the world.” We opened up offices in London, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, and Sao Paulo, Brazil all with Home Shopping Network.
This is what I did when I came down here because I said that people only know Tony Little in the United States on the Home Shopping Network. We took them and put them in Walmart, Target, and every retail store in the United States. We took them to 150 countries in dozens of languages. What I was doing was focusing on the winners of Home Shopping Network. When you think about it, people say to me, “How do you decide on a daily basis what to do? You have so many things coming at you.”
That was one of my questions.
I learned this concept because I went to meet somebody very famous. I’m not going to mention names but this person was a President of the United States. I was going into a personal one-on-one meeting with this person. I went into the office, just the two of us. I’m assuming I’m going to be spending time with this president. What did he say? He said, “Do not sit down in that chair because I want to know how much of my time this is going to take. You’re here to pitch me something.” “I’m here to pitch you something.” “How much of my time is that going to take in the future if I said yes? What’s my upside?”
Right away, I said to myself, “This guy has figured it out.” I said, “Sir, it’s going to take four hours of your life, and I don’t need that all at one time. I could take that an hour a month over four months, and it’s worth at least $4 million.” He sat there for 4 to 6 seconds and said, “Please, sit down.” I spent an hour with him. We shook hands on a deal. It’s a long story but the bottom line is this, “How much of my time is this going to take? What’s my upside?”
My calendar consists of money-making opportunities and family time as part of my day, and maybe some charitable time when I’m giving back to the community. I’m not getting paid to do this. We’re doing this because I want to empower entrepreneurs. I do this every day. It’s part of me and what I do, and this is why I’m one of the founders of EO.
The bottom line is that when you’re operating a four-hour block of profit, how much of my time is this? If I have eight appointments or deals I’m looking at, what is the upside on those deals? What is the time? What is the cost of each project? If something costs way too much, takes way too long, and delivers way too little, then don’t spend time on it. You have to do the analysis.
If I do the proper analysis, spend the right amount of time on the right deals with the right upside, and get a good deal flow, then this is how I can be an entrepreneur. Get a good deal flow. Get a good analysis of that deal flow. You have to be able to finance that deal flow. That’s the next step. Some people say, “How do you finance your deals?” I can do it myself because I’ve been successful, and I’ve had plenty of exits but in the old days, I’ll give you an example of how I financed deal flow.
Somebody would bring Tony Little. We did the Ab Isolator. It did $350 million. Some guy brings me another product that I want to do, and it’s a no-name guy. What do I do? I go to Tony, “Do you have any more deals we can do? We did a $350 million project.” He said, “I want to do another deal. Here’s the product.” I get the rights to it. I signed a worldwide exclusive rights to Tony Little’s next product. I got the no-name guy that is going to be solid but I needed the money for it. I go and find one more deal.
You put a little basket together of three projects. You go out to investors, and there are investor lists. There are ways to do this. It’s friends and relatives but it’s also investment bankers. There are equity crowdfunding sites. There are lots of ways to raise capital. That’s a whole subject and a whole episode unto itself but for now, why did I get it funded?
I had Tony Little in there, and everyone said, “That’s the next Tony Little hit.” “It might be but it may not be. I’m not guaranteeing anything,” but I was able to raise the capital, and we did basket after basket. I’m talking about years ago when we were doing this. It got us to the point where we’re making enough money off of these successes that we could fund it ourselves.
It was a different world. The world of investment may be the same techniques but it’s different as far as products. You have the data, all this technology, and the systems. Do you look at the technology? Do you invest in this technology? We have cryptocurrency. We have this and that. What’s your take on it?
I had a meeting with an unbelievable tech group out of Ukraine, and it’s a company called Zelh. These guys have invented logistics in this tech world but they’re doing it all over the world. When there are people like that who are sophisticated, if they brought me something to invest in, yes but if it’s a technology off the street that isn’t in use, I would be concerned. I would want to show it to my technology guys and logistics guys. Zelh is a company with thousands of people under their umbrella and billions of dollars in value that they provide to the marketplace. They are dealing with the latest and greatest technologies, including lots of analysis, artificial intelligence, and logistics.
On that note, the last investment I made was in a company called Vocodia, which is an AI technology for outbound telemarketing. What they have done is very humanized. You think you’re talking to a human, and they have reduced the latency and the wait time. It’s so sophisticated. It’s having a conversation. That’s how you know you’re talking to a machine. You say something with a three-second delay, it’s like, “I’m talking to a computer,” but this is humanized with no latency. This is a technology being used by airlines. I would not have invested if I had not known that it was already being successfully implemented.
I like to say technology is not wired to know the truth. You are. Technology is not going to replace your consciousness. Hopefully, it will never get there, and we all become robots. It’s important to combine this evolution into our success and keep our open minds to what is going on in the world and not be stuck in the past.
Technology can save time and money and be more efficient. One of the challenges with telemarketing centers is having to have tens of thousands of live bodies taking all these calls. It’s the physical space that’s required for that. If you can create technology that doesn’t require all of that space, overhead, and training, this reduces costs and overheads. There are going to be some advancements in artificial intelligence in positive ways. Everyone also hears about some of the negative stuff that can happen with it too but I like to focus on the positive ways that it’s going to impact the ability to make money in the marketplace.Technology can save time and money and be more efficient. If you can create technology that doesn't require all of that space, overhead, and training, this reduces costs and overhead. Click To Tweet
We are talking about empowering the planet, changing systems around the world, and more flexibility and less separation. All of this is happening at the same time. This is the evolution that’s happening. Here’s one of the things about you that inspired me, and you don’t know this because I’ve never said that unless I’m saying it. I left my country with $50 in my pocket. I didn’t speak English. I was an illegal immigrant and homeless. I was on the street. I slipped into the airport. I left because I needed to break the curse of poverty. I left everything and everyone behind, which is a completely crazy thing to do.
France. I was very young, and now here I am. I had a guitar and $50 in my pocket. I couldn’t eat. The only thing I could eat was baby food because, at the time, it was $0.25. I’m like, “If it’s good enough for the baby, it’s good enough for me.” I survived on this baby food. One of your quotes that turn me on, and this is one of the reasons I love you, is that you say, “Being born into poverty does not mean that you are condemned to spend the rest of your life in poverty.”
Napoleon Hill was the first guy who said, “What your mind can conceive, and you believe you must be able to achieve.” That was the first time I heard that. That was very inspiring for me. I was fifteen years old, and that’s when I started my first business within months of reading Think and Grow Rich because I said, “I want to own a business but do I believe it? I do believe I can do it. It must happen,” but there was a missing step. This is when people asked me if I have any famous people that I listened to over the years.
I’ve mentioned Ziglar and some of the guys. There was a guy, Paul J. Meyer, out of Waco, Texas. Paul J. Meyer said, “You can get anything you want if you follow these steps. Whatever you vividly imagine, ardently desire, sincerely believe, and enthusiastically act upon must inevitably come to pass.” This is the step that most people miss. If you believe it, see it, and imagine it, it’s acting upon it. You left France. You went through all those phases but you enthusiastically acted upon your desire to change your life and to be sitting where you are, hosting a show, and having a big success that I know you and your husband have had. It’s awesome to see that.
Thank you so much. I’m trying to get less emotional because you touched my heart deeply. Would you say that you achieved your highest purpose? Is there something else to explore? I know the answer.
I still have a few tricks up my sleeve. I’m 67 years old this 2023. I started my first business when I was fifteen but full-time working up until 80-hour weeks. When I was traveling to 100 countries and opening up distribution for our infomercials all around the world, those were 80 and 100-hour weeks. I did that for years. I’m semi-retired but I’ve spent too much time focused on building businesses.
There’s nothing wrong with making money but also, I always give back. I’m starting my foundation. My biggest future is going to be about giving back. I believe the Young Entrepreneurs’ Organization from 1987, many years ago, is all happening. It has its own board. It’s solid. What an awesome organization that is. I have some advisors who have been structuring a foundation because I want to be able to empower people who have the potential but don’t know it.
How amazing, beautiful, and solid. It’s incredible.
We’re going to be working with the military right here in the St. Pete Tampa area, MacDill Air Force Base. I was over there. There is a tremendous need to help some of the most brilliant minds in the world that come out of the military. What do they want to do? They want to own businesses. They want to be entrepreneurs. Some of them are physically challenged with injuries, PTSD, and problems like this but there is a group of people that needs help. I believe my foundation is going to be geared in that fashion to be announced in the future though.
Thank you so much for sharing this with the show.
You are mystical. Thank you for having me. It has been awesome.
To close up, where can we find your latest book? Where can you guide us toward you and your last creation?
The best place to go to is my website. It’s KevinHarrington.TV. We’ve got some free downloads. My last book is called Mentor to Millions. It’s a Wall Street Journal bestseller. It’s number two on the Wall Street Journal list. You helped market the book. Thank you. I have about ten books. We have some free downloads and other ones you might have to buy on Amazon.
One of them is Act Now!: How I Turn Ideas and a Million-Dollar Products but there’s also a good one, and it is Key Person of Influence. That is a five-step system to becoming well-known. It’s how to build your brand a little bit and empower yourself as an entrepreneur. If anybody out there wants to check that book out, that is a good place to start. It’s called Key Person of Influence. There are some great folks in the book and some Shark Tank stories in there too.
It’s not like you’ve not been the first shark ever with us.
I’m having some fun. I’m going to tune in to this when it’s done now because I did all the talking. I want to do some reading.
You also support my good friend Dr. Porter who’s my sponsor for the show BrainTap.
I have a program with them. Thank you for reminding me. It’s good to see you. Two thumbs up to the two of you.
Thank you. We love you so much. Many blessings.
Are you inspired? This was so powerful, charismatic, energetic, and orgasmic to have Kevin being so real and humble about his success. What transpired throughout the entire show and the entire wisdom that he shared with us so beautifully is that you can’t give up. Don’t be afraid to fail. You don’t want to fail and continue to fail. That would be ridiculous on your way to your entrepreneurship success. However, there are failures that are instrumental to your success. Don’t be afraid of failure. Don’t be afraid of opening up to opportunities that are outside of your backyard. Don’t be afraid of being uncomfortable.
He shared about how he had to move from where he was comfortable. He had to move from one state to another. I had to move from one country to another. Those who have success understand that you have to sometimes cut off the physical place or the environment that you are in to be able to create a new environment that serves your highest purpose. It’s not an easy thing to do but if you truly want to succeed in your life and your business and to have fulfillment in your life, you can’t be afraid of changes.
In this entire episode, there are so many nuggets, so much sacredness to those words that Kevin Harrington shared with us. I encourage you to take time to read his words, the energy behind the words, and what it’s transmitting to you. If you are a brand-new entrepreneur, if you are creating a reality and manifesting your dream, or if you are someone who’s creating a brand, the person to listen to is Kevin Harrington. He has done it over and over again.
I’m very blessed. We are blessed to have in this show beautiful beings who share this gold of wisdom. It’s amazing. Please, be humble. Take time for yourself. Remember who you are, your purpose, and why you’re here. Remember the power of belief, the belief in yourself, the belief in what you’re doing, and having no doubt about it, no matter how it sounds so crazy. When I left my country, everybody thought I was completely crazy, “She’s insane. She’s going to fail.”
Everybody talked but I didn’t care because I had so much belief in myself and even myself as the self itself. The cosmic or universal being that you are was created for this purpose to be fulfilled by happiness, freedom, and success. You cannot just empower yourself but empower others along the way and feel this fulfillment or contentment. It’s such a beautiful place to be in the world. Thank you for joining us. Take it all in. I will continue to share with you my journey and the journey of others with love, light, peace, and freedom. Thank you so much.
- Kevin Harrington
- Act Now!: How I Turn Ideas into Million-Dollar Products
- Key Person of Influence
- Put a Shark in Your Tank
- Think and Grow Rich
- Mentor to Millions
About Kevin Harrington
Kevin Harrington is an original shark from the hit TV show Shark Tank and a successful entrepreneur for more than forty years. He’s the co-founding board member of the Entrepreneurs’ Organization and co-founder of the Electronic Retailing Association. He also invented the infomercial. He helped make “But wait… There’s more!” part of our cultural history.
He’s one of the pioneers behind the As Seen on TV brand, has heard more than 50,000 pitches, and launched more than 500 products generating more than $5 Billion in global sales. Twenty of his companies have generated more than $100 million in revenue each. He’s also the founder of the Secrets of Closing the Sale Master Class inspired by the Master of sales—Zig Ziglar. He’s the author of several bestselling books including Wall Street Journal’s top-ranking Mentor to Millions, Act Now: How I Turn Ideas into Million Dollar Products, Key Person of Influence, and Put a Shark in Your Tank.