Schmoozing with the Meanest Shark in the Tank, part 3

By Rosanne G. Dunkelberger

Kevin O’Leary — aka “Mr. Wonderful” — is the sixth dynamic speaker in the Power Forward series, sponsored by First Commerce Credit Union. He has gained fame as a co-host for 10 years on the business reality show “Shark Tank.” He is also an exceedingly successful entrepreneur who carries some of his financial savvy into the world of personal finance and relationships in his three “Cold Hard Facts” books, as well as a new podcast, “Ask Mr. Wonderful.”

Before his talk, which will focus on inner workings of the “Shark Tank” show, tips on how to become an effective entrepreneur and his “Golden Rules of Investing,”

Kevin shared some of his personal insights on success in life, business and entrepreneurship. Be sure to check out Part One and Part Two of this conversation.

When an entrepreneur has an idea for a product or service, what’s the best way to know it has legs, that it might just actually be a success?

The funny thing about business is there’s a certain amount of luck to it. The best way to find out if it’s going to work is to sell some. Actually get some customers. Don’t let your family tell you it’s a great idea or your friends. They’ll always tell you that. Go into the market and get 100 customers. That is the hardest thing in the world to do. You will learn, very quickly, what’s great about your idea and what isn’t. But if you can service 100 customers with a good product or idea, you’re off to the races.

Is there still an option for signing on and staying with one company throughout your working career with a gold watch at the end?

No, that’s not going to happen. That’s not the nature of commerce globally today. A career is going to have many, many touchstones. It’s going to be much more volatile, much more diverse — the type of work, where you work, how you work, the geography you work in, all of that is going to change and I think it’s very important to prepare people for that. There’s no getting a job at IBM in the mailroom and ending up running the company. Those days are over.

A bill will be introduced this year to the Florida legislature that would mandate a half-credit course for high school students focused on finances and money management. Does that sound like a good idea to you?

I totally agree with that. For decades I sold to every school in Florida, New York, Florida, Texas, California — that’s over half the schools in America. Florida has been one of the most advanced thinkers in high school education of any state. This is a very good initiative and I 100 percent support it. In fact, it has to be mandatory. It should be the first thing we teach them because, in life, if you don’t understand what credit card debt is, you can get into a very bad place.