By Justin Shelley
Kevin O’Leary and Justin Shelley
On April 23rd of this year, I had the privilege of meeting Kevin O’Leary, one of the investors on ABC’s Shark Tank. I’m a huge fan of the show, and have been from day one. Kevin isn’t known for being warm and cuddly, but he has always been one of my favorites. I guess that’s because he gets right down to business. It’s all about the MONEY!
In our society, it has almost become a crime to talk about money. “Rich” people are vilified and any organization that dares to turn a profit is dismantled by the media. “Corporate Greed” is the phrase of choice. It aggravates me to no end. If those evil corporations weren’t greedy enough to make all those massive profits, there would be no jobs.
I was talking with a friend several years back who does not share my opinion about this subject. He said, “I’m all for spreading the wealth around a bit.” There were other comments which I don’t remember, but I do remember telling him how I loved rich people. At the time I was employed by a group of very rich people. Without them, I would have been unemployed.
In the end, opinions don’t matter. The fact is that no organization can survive without money. Even non-profits have to pay the bills. So what did I learn from Mr. O’Leary that can help your organization make money?
Kevin started off by talking about Shark Tank. He referenced a study conducted on all of the entrepreneurs that successfully closed a deal on the show. There were three characteristics that applied to all of them, without exception:
- They were able to articulate their idea (value proposition) in 90 seconds or less.
- They had the right team in place to execute their plan
- They knew their numbers (margins, break-even point, etc.)
Let’s take a look at each of these.
I’m a member of an online community of fellow IT business-owners. Someone posted a question about how to sell the value of a new tool he had bought. “I still do not see the ‘benefits’ for clients, as a monthly fee.” My response to him was, “You're thinking like a technician. You have a tool and want to know how to make the customer get excited about it. Do you care what type of socket set your mechanic uses to fix your car?” As a tech-junkie, I get excited about gadgets and tools. My clients generally do not.
The world of medicine is admittedly more complex than the world of technology, but you still have “customers” who are looking for value. Your customer might be the patient, it might be the provider, or it might be the insurance company. Maybe it’s all three. In any case, what value do you provide? How are you making someone’s life better? Remember, we’re not talking about the “tools”. We’re not even talking about the procedures. We’re talking about real value. The stuff that can only be measured on the warm-and-fuzzy meter.
This subject is a very deep, very complicated matter. I won’t try to break it all down in the small amount of space I have here. But if you’re looking for a place to start, just ask questions. Ask your customers (patients, providers, etc.) what they like about your practice. Ask them what they hate. And here’s a tip, ask them what they hate about health care in general. They will rarely tell you to your face what they dislike about you. People naturally shy away from confrontation. But if you generalize the question, you’ll be amazed at the feedback.
Having a solid value proposition is great. But it’s only step one. Even the organizations who think they have this one really dialed in might be surprised to learn that the rest of the team is not on the same page.
For a fun exercise, ask each member of your team what the organization’s core values are. Or what your mission statement is. I’ve seen organizations with this information posted on the wall in large, fancy print, and still the team can’t answer the question.
In order to really deliver consistent value, these three things must be in place:
- You must have the right team members
- Each team member must be doing the right job
- Everyone needs to have the same vision, with individual areas of responsibility and accountability
On the surface, you might think Kevin O’Leary is the definition of corporate greed. Honestly, my opinion of him wouldn’t change even if that were true. But his opening line really resonated with me:
“It’s not about greed. It’s not about the money. It’s about freedom.” Did you catch that? Kevin said it’s not about the money! If you watch Shark Tank, you will hear him talk a LOT about money. Why? Because money buys freedom. Freedom from overdue bills. Freedom from long, agonizing days because you are under-staffed. You may have your own version of freedom. But regardless, money can buy it.
Organizations do not have money by accident. It is a very deliberate, intentional process. But it starts with financial intelligence. Know your numbers! This will look different for every organization. It is also the difference between life and death.
So there you have it right from the mouth of my favorite shark. Here is your formula for making MONEY; here is your formula for buying freedom: know how you add value to the people around you, get everyone on board with the same vision, and know your numbers.
Here’s to corporate greed and every ounce of freedom it buys! (For you, your team, your family, and society as a whole.)