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A lesson from the Shark Tank: How to ask for what you want

Bibbitec

Photo by Carl Juste/Miami Herald

 

Last Friday night, I had my whole family glued to the TV. We watched Miami mom entrepreneur Susie Taylor make her debut on ABC's Shark Tank. The night didn't exactly go as expected.....

I have seen Susie, CEO of Bibbitec, pitch her fast-drying bibs at women's conferences in Miami and have been impressed. But watching Susie talk about business in front of the sharks, I saw her make a critical mistake.

It's a mistake I see repeated often and it's key in negotiating a business deal or an accommodation to improve your work life balance.

Susie asked the sharks, self made billionaires, to invest $40,000 for a 14 percent stake in the company. She became quite emotional when she explained to the sharks that she is a mom who considers her children a priority. She told them she has poured her life savings into this idea and needs their help to market the product on a grand scale because she doesn't have the time while balancing work and family. 

Her mistake: It's not about you. It's about them.

The sharks don't care about her work life dilemma. They care about themselves, what she can do for them and whether her product can make them money. They complained about the cost and sale price but I think Susie could have turned it around. She could have explained how being a mom keeps her connected to the consumer who would buy this product. She could have played up how being a mom helps her in her bib business and therefore will help them. 

One shark was particularly brutal. He said he liked the product but felt Susie was the wrong person to run her business and even suggested a college kid with internet marketing skills. 

Your boss is a shark, too. 

Whatever you ask for....flex time, reduced hours, the ability to work from home one day a week...your boss ONLY cares about how the arrangement you want will affect him or her. You want to ask for what you need in a way that they can understand what they have to gain by accommodating you or lose by not giving in to your request. 

Have you ever relied on someone in a business scenario and they rattle off all the personal reasons they haven't done what you need them to do? You might come off as if you care, but you don't. Your mind has shifted to how what they haven't done affects you. 

After her TV appearance, Susie has said she will pursue on with her company. It won't be easy and the balancing act will become increasingly difficult as she tries to market and distribute her bibs and give her kids top billing. But it can be done and I think Susie's experience holds a lesson that the rest of us can learn from -- the sharks are out there, make it about them...give them the bait they want to get them to bite. 

Shark-tank


 

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