1. What makes a good business idea great?
If your business idea clearly answers a need in the marketplace, it's probably a good idea. If the need is already being met by well-entrenched competitors, it can still be a good idea if it's a new, cheaper or more clever way of doing it.
2. What do you think are the traits of a great entrepreneur?
Every great entrepreneur is passionate about being successful. They are not just passionate about their business idea, but have enough passion to weather all the obstacles and see things through to the finish line. When Erin Whalen of Grease Monkey Wipes (Season 1) confidently said to fellow Shark Robert Herjavec and me, "I promise if you partner with me I will not let you down! I will make this work, I promise!" she had enough passion in her plea to send legions of soldiers right off a cliff. Robert and I believed her and handed her our cash! Every great entrepreneur is extremely pushy. Cactus Jack, the wild inventor of the Body Jac exercise machine (Season 1), was a natural born salesman. He was unbelievably annoying but proved a superstar dealmaker. I've learned that all great entrepreneurs are pushy people and they always deliver.
3. How do I know if there's a real need for my product or service?
Make a list of every product out there already answering the need and be super critical as to whether yours is a better mousetrap. Also ask your family, friends and enemies if they would buy it and what they would readily pay.
4. What are the most important first steps a new entrepreneur should take?
Be clear about what's most important. Figure out what it will cost to produce your product or service, what you can sell it for and to whom.
5. How do you create a business plan that works?
For most people a lengthy business plan is virtually useless because you need to change it constantly in response to things outside your control. The simplest form of a business plan is just a list of what's most important to attend to and what's not. I do much better imagining exactly what I want my business to look like once I'm successful. It's a daydream in living color. Then I make a simple "to do" list of what's most important to make my dream a reality.
6. Where can I get help creating a business plan?
Sit down and write out a clear picture of what your product or service is, what it will cost, what it will sell for and who will buy it. Then put down on paper the concrete steps you'll need to take to bring it to fruition. After that you can ask your friends and enemies to honestly critique the plan and share with you what's unclear, what makes no sense and what's missing.
7. How do you compete against the big guys?
The big guys usually have the corner on money, but remember the little guy always has the corner on creativity. If you can position yourself as an expert in your marketplace early on, you'll get the leg up on all of your competitors right away. I created market surveys on apartment sales in Manhattan to grab the attention of the press and make the Corcoran Group appear much bigger than it was. The media is always hungry for statistics, so creating your own market reports and distributing them will soon have the press calling you instead of you running after them for PR. And if you can steal the limelight, you'll steal the market share.
8. How do you build a great team?
Always choose attitude over experience! When I hire people I make a habit of never looking at their resume because most people spend most of their life in the wrong job. I never hire complainers or excuse makers because they'll find a way within my company to do more of the same. People with a can-do attitude are a pleasure to work with. Positive people are willing to learn, eager to try and somehow find the solution to anything they don't already know. They're always great team players, and teams build big businesses, not individuals.
9. What makes an investor put their money into a deal?
My most important criteria when making the decision to invest are: 1) Do I trust the individual? and 2) Do they have the fire in their belly to bring the business to the finish line?
10. How do I find investors and business partners and what's most important in my presentation?
Come on Shark Tank and give us your pitch! Make sure you can sell your product, because if you as the head of the company can't sell it, who will? Also be sure you're ready to answer the two key questions too many of the entrepreneurs who come on the show can't: 1) What will you do with my money? and 2) How will I get my investment back?