Kevin Harrington, the original Shark Tank and inventor of Infomercial

Kevin Harrington

I’m so fortunate to have a job that allows me to meet the most interesting and accomplished people in the world. Even in my wildest dreams I never imagined I would rub shoulders with most sought after taste makers and decisions makers!

I really hope this never ends!

Who is Kevin Harrington?

A few months ago, while attending a business workshop, I got to listen to Kevin Harrington, of THE original sharks of the Shark Tank TV show give a keynote presentation during an Industry Rockstar event. He had such a positive, great energy! Unbelievable! But what struck me the most, aside from his apparent and incredible accomplishments, was the kindness and humility he exuded. He taught from a place of passion and love, not from a place of ego. He truly seemed to care about the message he was delivering and his audience.

I mean, the man has all the rights to be conceited and righteous given his long list of successes! For one, he invented the Infomercial format. He generated billions in sales worldwide with iconic brands and celebrities, launched over 20 businesses, 500 products and filmed over 175 segments on Shark Tank. How many of us can say the same or even close to it?

When I saw him again a few months later, I went up to him and asked for an interview. He agreed to it and a month later we were meeting on Skype! I couldn’t wait to learn a few tips from the Master himself. What is his daily routine? What is his thinking process?

What time do you wake up in the morning? Do you have a daily routine that you religiously follow?

Very good question. If I’m not on a plane, which happens very often, I wake up at 6am and go for a run. I’m fortunate to live in Florida, which is warm and sunny most of the year! Then I come home, I make myself my little shot of energy, which is my home-made double Cappuccino! I do need it and enjoy it in the morning 🙂

Then I start going through my stash of newspapers as well as the online sites which I am a subscriber of. I am a total news junkie who loves to know about everything! Since I am in different industries and enterprises (products, sports, beauty, trends, politics..) I need to keep myself informed at all time. 

That’s my ritual and I love it. Then I can move on with my day.

Looks like you have a very busy life. How do stay organised and productive?

I have to have everything scheduled in my calendar, including date nights with my wife and family time! It may sound strange to have to schedule my personal life but if I don’t, that time will immediately be filled with something else.

So I always know what my day will be like and I can be better prepared for everything. And once I commit, there is very little chance that I will not make it happen. Unless, there is a conflict in the scheduling or I simply cannot make it for a good reason. But this rarely happens as I always give myself lead time for emergencies. 

How do you deal with stress?

I am prepared and I delegate! I am always prepared for everything I am doing. Any time I have a presentation or a meeting, I educate myself and do my due diligence the night before to be as ready as possible the day of.

I consider myself a good delegator. I cannot do it all by myself therefore I surround myself with people who have a stake in my companies. Because they have shares, they will treat the business as their own. They are not employees but partners.

I always know who to go to depending on the situation (lawyers, advisors …)

For example, today I received an email for an emergency meeting in NY next week. First it’s a very last minute scheduling and second I will be in Singapore during that time. So instead of turning them down, my son will be there. He lives in NY and has been working with me since he was 21 (now he is 29). Also, he is part of the board on this project. If possible I will try to Skype in but I’m confident that my son will do a great job and will manage it alone.

If I don’t know something, I will seek advice from my advisory board. I understand that situations can always occur but I try to deal with stress the best I can by being prepared and come up with a solution.

How did you get started?

In the early 80’s I invested $25,000 and launched Quantum International, which to my great surprise turned in to a very profitable business – $500 million per year business on the New York Stock Exchange (drove the stock price from $1 to $20 per share). Then I sold my interest and formed a joint Venture with the Home Shopping Network, called HSN Direct, which grew to hundreds of millions of dollars in sales.

I was there at the right time with the right idea and the right attitude.

Do you think that being a successful business person is a skill that can be learned or is inherent? 

As a child I was lucky to have my dad as my teacher/ mentor who also happened to be a great entrepreneur. He owned an Italian restaurant which he ran successfully for years. Very early on, I saw the realities he was faced with (chef stealing the steak, boss boys stealing knives, money…). I saw how he dealt with it and took the lessons with me. 

In the beginning when I was new and didn’t have the funds, I tried to do everything on my own and made a lot of mistakes along the way. I quickly realised that it is imperative to always have advisors to go to (accountants, lawyers, friends, etc…) – anyone who understands the business. I learned that if I don’t have the answer to something, I will always say, “let me think about it and get back to you.” In the meantime, I will seek my advisors’ advice.

So to answer your question, it is a skill that can absolutely be learned.

Have you ever failed?

Of course! The only way to learn is to fail. The more you fail the more you learn.

As Winston Churchill put it:

Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.

I’ve been in many different industries, have had many different companies and sadly many of them failed. For some of them, my son was involved with me. We invested a lot of money so when they failed, my son had a terrible time dealing with it and took it personally. He could not understand why I was so calm. I told him that there was no need to stress about something that happened in the past. Definitely not a pleasant situation but what are the lessons we need to take away from this? Let’s do the post-mortem to understand where we went wrong and not repeat the same mistakes again (hopefully!)

Failure is part of life, of business and is the best teacher!

Thank you Kevin for making time for me in the midst of  your busy schedule. I truly enjoyed your energy, candor and humility. Til next time 🙂

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