Running A Business

Small Business Insights from Shark Tank’s Lori Greiner

Oct 30, 2020 • 4 min read
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      As one of the most beloved sharks on ABC’s Shark Tank and the “Queen of QVC,” Lori Greiner is one of the most visible businesswomen in the world. With a career spanning over 20 years, she is a leading expert on innovation, branding, and selling to millions of customers.

      Part of her success stems from the fact that she is one of the most prolific inventors of our era. She has invented well over 400 products and holds 120 patents. With her seat on Shark Tank and her flagship QVC show Clever & Unique Creations, Greiner has even pioneered selling the ideas of invention and entrepreneurship.

      Having started as an inventor in the 1990s, Greiner has a massive amount of knowledge about running a small business, no matter whether your company is inventing new things or sticking with what has worked in the past.

      What Makes A Good Product?

      Greiner has honed her ability to rate ideas down to a simple science, which helps because the contestants on Shark Tank have limited time to pitch anyway.

      For a product to be a winner, it needs to incorporate 3 things: 

      • It has to solve an existing problem.
      • It has to be able to be sold at a reasonable price.
      • It has to have mass appeal.

      “If you can answer these 3 questions right away with a resounding ‘yes,’ then your idea may be a hero,” she told Inc.

      Her simple “zero or hero” test can be an ongoing assessment for your business no matter what your field is. Thinking about these 3 elements applies to new technology, like smartphones, or businesses with a history that spans millennia, like shipping.  

      Test Your Business

      Greiner is a huge proponent of testing out products and business ideas before going all in. She believes the biggest pitfall of new entrepreneurs is that they do a massive up-front investment before any test marketing or sales to retailers.

      “They don’t listen to what people are telling them in regard to whether or not it’s a good product or idea,” she continued to Inc. “If, for example, you keep hearing people say they don’t like it, or ‘Why would anybody buy it?’ chances are they’re right, it’s not going to be a good product. A lot of people are stubborn and they keep forging ahead, convinced they have the next best thing since sliced bread.”

      Even though she has a platform to try out products in front of millions of people, she recommends doing the work and researching what people truly think of your business. This includes going out in the world.

      “I believe in hitting the streets and talking to strangers to truly get an honest opinion,” she told Forbes. “It’s important you ask the right questions, ones that will be the most helpful in getting accurate feedback to make wise decisions.”

      Branding Is the Key 

      As someone with years of experience on QVC, Greiner knows a few things about branding. Most importantly, she wants entrepreneurs to understand that branding is one of the most essential components of business success.

      “Visuals are very important,” she told Staples. “If someone can’t see it, they can’t relate to it. You want something that looks great or works great, so an investor can respond to it immediately with, ‘I love that. That looks great. That’s interesting.’ That’s very important.”

      It’s smart to go back and see how your branding succinctly answers the “zero or hero” test. Communicating those 3 points should be your main goal with any advertising you do, whether you’re putting up a billboard or pitching on Shark Tank.

      You Can’t Be Too Prepared

      You need to be an expert in your small business. This is critical for communicating with everyone you come across—investors, partners, customers, and employees. Greiner said that it is impossible to be too prepared when you’re pitching.

      However, she did think aspiring entrepreneurs could prepare in the wrong way for pitching to investors.

      “I think you can overtalk,” she noted to Staples. “Some people make the mistake of going on and on, not responding or waiting for a response from the people they’re pitching to, or not listening to who they’re pitching to. That can be a fatal mistake. If they give you feedback or they’re squirming in their seat like they’re bored, you have to react with the person you’re pitching to and change your direction if they give you a feeling or vibe that you’re doing something that’s not right.”

      Inventing a brilliant product or business, for better or worse, is only part of the process. Selling that product, service, or idea is a whole other challenge, and understanding communication will set you up for business success like nothing else. 

      About the author
      Barry Eitel

      Barry Eitel has written about business and technology for eight years, including working as a staff writer for Intuit's Small Business Center and as the Business Editor for the Piedmont Post, a weekly newspaper covering the city of Piedmont, California.

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