Robert Herjavec, founder and CEO of the Herjavec Group, a $125-million managed security company and star of the hit show Shark Tank, shared advice for business success with members of an Executive MBA (EMBA) class at the USC Marshall School of Business.
Herjavec spoke to students from the Los Angeles and San Diego EMBA contingents on April 12 during a section focusing on entrepreneurship taught by Steven Mednick, associate director of USC Marshall’s Center for Global Innovation and assistant professor of clinical entrepreneurship at the Lloyd Greif Center for Entrepreneurial Studies.
Herjavec, the author of Driven: How to Succeed in Business and Life and The Will to Win: Leading, Competing, Succeeding, recounted his unlikely path. A first-generation immigrant who fled communist Yugoslavia for Canada with his parents when he was 8 years old, Herjavec built and sold several IT companies to major players, including AT&T and Nokia, before founding his current company.
During his talk, Herjavec spoke about his determination to break into a sales position for which he had no formal training. After pledging to work for free for the first six months while he proved himself, Herjavec waited tables after hours to pay his rent and living expenses — part of the hard work necessary to move forward.
“Every dream,” he said, “has a price. Everyone wants to do better, but how many are willing to pay the price to do so? How much effort and hard work are you willing to do to get ahead?”
He went on to describe how he joined the cast of Shark Tank, where he helps budding entrepreneurs, and the attributes that can set contestants apart — even when their business pitches are flawed.
“If people don’t know their numbers, then that can be OK if they are nice and make you feel good in their presence,” he said. “Never underestimate in life how important it is to be pleasant. Be the source of sunshine for others but don’t underestimate the kindness.”