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Entrepreneurial series Shark Tank SA is made up of an incredibly successful panel of entrepreneurs. Ventureburn sat down with one of the judges, Marnus Broodryk to discuss his journey with the show as well as his take on entrepreneurship today.
This self-made millionaire embarked on a journey much like any other entrepreneur. He worked hard, sacrificing most of his childhood to put himself through school. Today, he’s been responsible for many successful ventures and has consulted with companies listed on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange as well as the New York Stock Exchange.
Presently, he sits on a panel of judges known as the ‘Sharks’ doling out investments where he sees fit. Giving the opportunity for someone else to achieve their goal comes with many hesitations. Do you invest in the person or do you invest in the business? Some hardened businessmen and women would probably say the latter. Not Broodryk.
“I think definitely with product anyone can come up with an idea and anyone can come up with a business but it’s really the entrepreneur behind it that’s going to make it work,” said Broodryk.
But neither entrepreneur nor the business will grab this judge’s attention. No investor would want to invest in a company that hasn’t seen initial traction. “If they’ve created some traction then I can take them from 10 clients to 1000 clients but if you have zero clients, I’ve got doubt in you whether you can create that first 10.”
For Broodryk, it seems as though the traditional perception of a hardened businessman is slowly fading out.
“I think people work with people and where we are in the world right now I think maybe the hard-core businessman, their time is over. I also don’t want to associate with people like that, I would rather not make money than work with people I don’t enjoy working with,” said Broodryk.
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“If you look at all the successful companies that started especially recently, some of the older ones are still in the old way of doing business. The new companies, the ones that are really making a dent in the universe are the ones that treat employees well and they’ve got an amazing culture,” he continued.
Even though it might seem the traits of a cutthroat businessman and woman might slowly be fading away, core business principals still remain intact. A well-informed and knowledgeable business person stands a better chance of receiving investment than one that enters a meeting spitballing from the top of their head. That being said, an idea and knowledge of a product won’t necessarily grab this shark’s attention.
“If you’re going come to me with just an idea, I’m almost automatically out. Anyone can come up with an idea, you can Google and find a million ideas, but it’s really the business, that’s definitely important for me; the person, that’s important.”
“Then, just in terms of businesses plan going forward, as an entrepreneur and as the driver of this, you kind of need to have this figured out. I’ll help you and I’ll guide you but we can’t sit for weeks trying to figure this out together,” Broodryk continues.
If one thing is ever constant in the world, it would be change. Structure, ecosystem, leadership, whatever it may be, it’s susceptible to change, and so is any business. Sometimes academic entrepreneurs, those studying to run their own business, aren’t being taught this mentions Broodryk.
“I think the traditional business is changing, the world is changing and it’s fast paced and things are being done differently. I don’t think those messages are always coming through to the entrepreneur.”
“I think traditional businesses and businesses models and businesses plans is all about for example if you want to set up a Truth Coffee you need to hire a massive building. You need to get funding of millions to get all the equipment setup here and that’s not how it works nowadays, it’s all about lean, how do I just start,” said Broodryk.
This, as he mentions, is something he’s seen on Shark Tank SA as well. “People are not putting that through to education and young entrepreneurs and we saw that on Shark Tank as well where people who’ve got these big dreams but don’t have any traction.”
Looking at entrepreneurs and their journeys, I’ve noticed that their academic theoretical knowledge is something that proves to be valuable, but it isn’t always the foundation of a good business.
“You need to be willing to work your butt off, like day and night it should be your passion,” said Broodryk.
“I don’t think academics is important. I mean in certain industries you can’t be a GP or a doctor and you didn’t study,” he says. “In certain industries, you don’t need a formal education and I think people need to get out there and need to start work and get the experience.”
“If I had an opportunity right now and I was 18 years old, go and study full-time at a university or go and work for free at a great company for four years, I would much rather do that [work for the company],” he concludes.
Backing someone and their idea is an incredibly risky move, especially if you’ve only heard their entire plan in a matter of minutes. There’s no guarantee that you’ll be getting your money’s worth, that uncertainty can sometimes shake the best of VC’s or investors. “Whether you’re VC or just an investor or whether you’re an investor on Shark Tank you want to do a great deal and you never want to lose money,” said Broodryk.
“It’s all about making good deals so that won’t happen. That’s the way I saw this, I’m very excited about the deals I did make that will transpire over the next couple of weeks and I’ll work with those businesses. I wasn’t nervous, I knew I had to make a good investment and I did.”
Presentation much like any form of communication requires clear and direct contact. A message that’s not clear and precise will leave financial backers confused which could breed uncertainty. “Just going through 70 pitches on Shark Tank I realise how important it is to get that right message and to get it across.”
“I don’t think that I have the most talent but what I always knew then was that I’ll always be able to out-work anyone,” said Broodryk proudly.
“As I said, people invest in people and people work with people and if you can’t represent yourself there’s no way I’m going to buy into your business. So that actually inspired me to look at the way I communicate with people,” continued Broodryk.
A big lesson Broodryk took from the show was how the various judges interacted with contestants, “All of them, they’re such people-people, that also inspired me on a practical side to be more focused on the people and also to have a lot of fun.”
Shark Tank is known for its ruthlessness and razor sharp truths which often leave participants feeling somewhat deterred and negative about their prospective futures. That negative mindset can be the downfall of many great businesses.
“Look, it’s non-negotiable, I don’t think if you’re an entrepreneur and you’ve got that negative outlook that you can ever make it,” said Broodryk.
That negativity is dangerous because on any given day things can go horribly wrong, employees could have resigned or just stopped pitching for work, clients could terminate their agreements and you have to suddenly be okay and get through the day with things falling apart around you. That negative mindset will cripple you in the times you need to be positive.
“I think if you’ve got a negative mindset this game is definitely not for you,” concludes Broodryk.