While Kevin O’Leary may be best known for his role as a Shark on ABC’s show Shark Tank, he also invests in the real world through his founding company, the O’Leary Financial Group. Whether you think he’s too harsh on budding entrepreneurs, or love his brutal honesty, you can’t deny that he knows a thing or two about what makes a business successful. Between his 30 years of experience in the business industry and his role on the show, O’Leary has likely seen more business pitches than most other investors receive in a lifetime. Here’s some of his advice for presenting your best pitch to potential investors:
Keep it Simple
The last thing you want is your investors being confused. Your investors need to understand your business model, your vision, and your plan for success. “Make sure you can explain your business to an eight-year-old,” says O’Leary. “If it takes more than a couple sentences to explain the opportunity you’re presenting, your idea needs more polish.”
Practice your pitch with friends, family, and other people who may not be well-versed in your industry. If your pitch is clear to them, it should hopefully be clear to your investors. If they have lots of questions or need more explanation, it might be time to rework your pitch.
Let’s be honest, not all industries are incredibly exciting. If you’re bored when doing your presentation, imagine how your audience feels. “If you’re talking about a dry business like security software or an agricultural product, you must find creative and entertaining ways to demonstrate it, or you will not make the cut,” explains O’Leary.
Again, practicing your presentation with others should help you gage how captivated your investors will be. If they are anything like O’Leary, you’ll want to steer clear of a less than interesting pitch. “Believe me, if you think I’m vicious in the den, try boring me in my own boardroom,” he warns.
Do Your Research
Would you walk into a job interview not having researched the company, viewed the LinkedIn profiles of your interviewers, and read about the latest industry trends? Treat your pitch like a job interview – because, really, it kind of is – and prepare ahead of time.
“Know everything about the business people to whom you’re pitching. Get the prospectus; read the website; Google the hell out of them. You can’t simply wing it in the Tank, or in the board room,” says O’Leary.
When it Comes to Props, Less is More
It’s not likely that too many budding entrepreneurs will be pitching their business on television, but that doesn’t mean they won’t show up with a trunk full of gimmicks to get their investors’ attention. According to O’Leary, you should keep the props to a minimum: “There’s a big difference between a solid pitch that happens to dazzle, and one that needs to dazzle to hide its lack of substance. Less is usually more. If yours is a good idea, it won’t need bells and whistles to make the grade.”
So maybe leave the marching band and back up dancers at home…
Key Players Only
Sure, your mom might be your biggest fan. Yes, your old college roommate might be your most dependable employee. But do either of them belong in the boardroom when you make your pitch? Doubt it.
“If you’ve got several partners who all want to make the case to potential investors, keep the cast to a minimum. Bring only key players,” O’Leary suggests. “For my money, I need to have the CFO present because all my questions will concern money. VPs can usually wait in the car.”
All Numbers on the Table
While your revenue might not be as high as you’d like it to be – or as high as it could be if you could just get more investors – there is no sense in trying to inflate your books.
“Nothing bothers me more than when entrepreneurs want to keep some of their numbers off the record. You must be prepared to disclose all relevant info, no matter how succulent the margins, how big the profits,” he says.
Not ready to share these numbers? For O’Leary it’s either all of your figures on the table, or you might as well just “stay home.”
Do Your Own PR
Before heading to the boardroom, O’Leary suggests you do your own “media blitz” to pump up your business. “Gather local media contacts, write yourself a press release then hit Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook like crazy. Big and small businesses are increasingly required to be social media savvy.”
Your potential investors are going to be looking up your business online. The more exposure and presence you have on the web, the more impressed they likely will be.