Just Keep Swimming

“Shark Tank” star says in order to be successful, you must be a shark.

October 04, 2019

ATLANTA—Daymond John closed out the last general session of the 2019 NACS Show by teaching the audience how to be sharks. No, not the kind with fins and sharp teeth—the kind with a strong entrepreneurial spirit who doesn’t give up.

You may know John as one of the “sharks” on the popular reality TV show “Shark Tank,” but many don’t know that one of his first jobs was in a convenience store, where he was first introduced to the world of entrepreneurialism.

John explained that because he grew up in a single-parent family and in a low-income community, the heroes he looked up to weren’t exactly traditional.

“It wasn’t that a hero didn’t exist. My heroes were the entrepreneurs in the community—the ones who owned the bodega on the corner,” said John. “Those heroes were getting up at 5 a.m. in the morning providing for their families.”

John laid out five “S.H.A.R.K.” points that allowed him to be the success he is today.

“Every time I succeeded, all points were in play,” John said.

The first one, “S,” is “set goals.”

John is the founder of the highly-successful FUBU brand, which began with the simple purchase of a hat. It wasn’t just a hat, it was an uber trendy (and expensive) hat by a hip-hop clothing line, which he just had to have, he said. John was so proud of his purchase, he showed his mother, who was not as impressed as her son. She told him to go out and purchase $40 worth of fabric and taught John to sew multiple hats just like the one he purchased—for much less.

John took those hats and sold them outside a local mall, turning a $40 investment into $800.

John said that is when he set the intention that he wanted to be an entrepreneur and would never work for anyone else for the rest of his life.

“If you’re not in control of your goals, you let others control your goals.”

The “H” in S.H.A.R.K. stands for homework. John noted that one of the issues he sees when he shops at a convenience store is that many employees are not educated on the products they sell, and that can hurt a business’ bottom line.

“Once you become the person who educates [the customer], they will keep coming back.”

“A” is for amor or love. Once the FUBU brand exploded in popularity, John achieved one of his goals— being rich and famous. However, it came with a cost. John had a wife and two young daughters who he rarely saw. John and his wife eventually divorced, which made him realize he needed to pay it forward and spread love by helping other people eager to become entrepreneurs.

Next is “R,” which stands for “remember you are the brand.” John encouraged the audience to take control of their businesses by branding them.

“Can you put your business into two to five words,” John asked the crowd. “Can your employees?”

John says doing this and having everyone’s buy-in on the brand can help differentiate you from the competition.

Finally, “K” stands for “keep swimming.” John went into surgery to remove a nodule from his thyroid, which turned out to be a golf-ball-size tumor that was stage 2 cancer. Early detection saved him, he said, and what he learned from fighting and ultimately beating cancer was that life is too short. He said the key to success, whether in business or in life, is to just keep swimming—just like a shark.