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Sink or Swim: Lessons in Entrepreneurship from Robert Herjavec and Daymond John

Sink or Swim: Lessons in Entrepreneurship from Robert Herjavec and Daymond John 

Robert Herjavec, the owner of Herjavec Group, Canada’s largest computer securities firm talked about his history, growing up as a refugee who escaped with his parents from former Yugoslavia as a child. Robert detailed a story of when he’d lost his job, and gone home to tell his mother about his new plan. “I’m starting a company, I’m going to do it,” Robert proclaimed to his mother. In reply, she said, “Don’t worry, you’ll get a job one day.” Undeterred by this less than encouraging prod, Robert went on to wait tables by day and create his future by night.

He continued to push on and finally made his first big sale to General Electric by selling the Vital Link Bridge software for $40,000. GE could have bought this software from Sun Microsystems, a seemingly clear choice, but rather they decided to go with a guy who was working out of his basement.

After calling the supplier, he had a rude awakening to the realities of the business world. The $35,000 needed for the product would have to be paid up-front with money, he didn’t have. So what did Robert do? He turned his car around, walked back into GE and sat the same executives down again and explained the situation. “Thank you very much for the order, but I need a favor. I need you to pre-pay for the order,” he said. “If you give me this chance and you help me out, I’ll take care of you better than anyone’s ever taken care of you … I just need you to help me out.” Which they did! Proving that money is not the stumbling block to success. Creativity, lack of will, lack of effort and lack of sales, those are the stumbling blocks.

“Anybody can learn sales … I wasn’t like this in my twenties,” said Robert. “I was scared of my own shadow. I think those skills come directly as a result of your desire. If you want it hard enough, you’ll learn sales. If you don’t, you’ll make an excuse. Sales is fundamental. If you own a business you are in sales. If you are a CEO or owner, or the founder, you are in the business of sales. And sales is everything. You can’t hire great people without selling them on your company. You can’t get customers to come on board, it’s all about sales.”

When the pain of your current situation becomes unbearable you will change, that was the mantra of Daymond and Robert’s talk.

“You have to sell to what matters to the person you are selling to,” said Daymond John, founder of FUBU, and author of The Power of Broke. “The bottom line of this book is we don’t need money to make money. If you look at the top wealthiest 1000 people in the world, over 60% were self-made millionaires.” He went on to talk about how every single person in this world started off selling. You’re selling every second of your life.

The refreshing refrain of Daymond and Robert’s talk was dispelling the common entrepreneurial myths of “you need money to make money” and “it’s not what you know but who you know”. No, it’s about the hard work, the effort, the desire to succeed that really sets people apart.

You have to become the person people want to get to know some day. To top that, “sales skills” is the number one reason both Daymond and Robert bring people on board into their companies. They also delved into how sales is not something that is a have-it or doesn’t-have-it skill. It’s something that you can grow, you can develop with hard work.


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