Taking a bite out of life, ROBERT HERJAVEC of the hugely popular ‘Shark Tank’ reveals his successes and motivations
By Lynette Carrington
PHOTO COURTESY OF LUCAS SCARFONE
MENTION THE ABC HIT SHOW “SHARK TANK” AND A HOST OF THINGS COME TO MIND — business dreams realized, entrepreneurial aspirations dashed or thoughts about the panel of wealthy and savvy business owners that make up the panel of “Shark Tank.” Robert Herjavec is one of the favorite of the sharks that sits in and listens as business owners and entrepreneurs pitch the panel of wealthy multimillionaires in a bid to get them to invest in their product or company. The “Shark Tank” panel of experts includes a diverse array of business owners/entrepreneurs that have found success in a variety of companies and business ventures of their own, but Robert Herjavec has us captivated — hook, line and sinker. The self-made millionaire is one of the most successful entrepreneurs and businessmen in all of North America. With his parents, he landed in Canada after fleeing communism in the former Yugoslavia when he was 8 years old. The first-generation immigrant had his most humble beginnings delivering newspapers, waiting on tables and then eventually launching his own computer company from his home.
Fast forward a few decades and Robert Herjavec has achieved amazing success and now owns one of the most successful cyber security companies in the world. His company, The Herjavec Group, has built and sold several companies, including companies sold off to AT&T and Nokia. He has amassed a net worth of more than $100 million and is frequently called upon as an expert on matters of business advice and motivation. His two books on the subject, Driven and the latest release, The Will to Win, are both best sellers in Canada and are published by HarperCollins. Arizona Sports & Lifestyle Magazine considers Herjavec a brilliant business mind and we are thrilled to be swimming with this Shark!
A SUITCASE AND $20
It’s a story out of a movie. The Herjavec family sought freedom from communist oppression and showed up in Canada with not much more than a dream and determination. “I came here on a boat with a suitcase and 20 bucks and we lived in someone’s basement for a year,” recalled Herjavec. “When you go from that to where I am today, it is hard not to wake up every day with a certain sense of wonder. I am just so excited about the possibilities in life.” In a world filled with big business egos, this humility is refreshing.
Herjavec recounts one of the most vivid stories from his childhood that helped set him on his course. At 12 years old, he returned from school after being bullied by some classmates. Barely speaking English and growing tired of being poor, he lamented to his mother about his horrible day and his awful life. His father came home, listening intently as young Robert bemoaned his situation. Herjavec recounted his father’s words, “Never complain. All you’re ever owed in life is an opportunity.” After those words of wisdom, he then walked away. Said Herjavec, “It’s funny, but it really stuck with me, and I am not a good guy to complain to. I just think all of us — Americans, Canadians, Europeans — often times we take things for granted and we feel like the world owes us something … and the world owes us nothing but an opportunity.” The words of Herjavec’s father are especially poignant since he used to walk miles to work to save on bus fare in an effort to get his family a nicer apartment.
THE FEEDING FRENZY
ABC’s “Shark Tank” will soon be heading into its fifth season, and the feeding frenzy in the tank can be fierce as the Sharks battle to get a piece of the business action. “I think we are all different,” stated Herjavec. “Some of the Sharks have larger egos. Some also have a great deal of money and are OK with throwing it away. I’m not naming any names like Kevin (O’Leary) and Mark (Cuban) … but I definitely think we’re all different. I can also say that, in spite of these differences, we all respect each other.” Herjavec’s calm demeanor and willingness to mull over the details presented to him by the show’s guests reveal his warm character. He is the Shark that sits back and takes in the whole situation, carefully balancing potential monetary risk with the drive, work ethic and passion that is conveyed to him by the person seeking money. “My expectation when I make an investment is to get my money back,” Herjavec said. And he is careful with his pennies, literally. To this day, when he walks down the street and sees change on the ground, he hears the voice of his mother urging him to see the value in taking the time to pick up that money. This Shark’s most lucrative catch to date (from the show) has been “Chord Buddy” — the world’s best guitar-learning system. “I think it’s either the best investment that’s ever been made on ‘Shark Tank’ or right up there. In a year and a half, we’ve gone from zero sales to well over 3 million dollars. We bought a factory in Alabama and we employ 20 people. But it’s not my favorite deal just because of the money, and money is always good, but the entrepreneur Travis (Perry) is a great guy. I love when good things happen to good people … and he is good people,” explained Herjavec.
Another passion of Herjavec’s is car racing, and he races in the Ferrari Challenge. “I’ve always loved cars and I love car racing. Car racing for me is a lot like business. You have to go 100 miles an hour, or in our case sometimes 200 miles an hour and stay absolutely clearly laser-like focused and calm,” he explained. He’s a relative newbie on the racing scene, but is making great strides in the sport with his wife and kids cheering him on at the finish line. “They’re very nervous about it, but they also know that it’s part of what makes me who I am,” Herjavec said. “Im pretty good at it. I won five races last year and I was also the Rookie of the Year. So I think that gives them a little bit of comfort. They know my desire to be with them is greater than my desire to win a race. So I try not to do anything stupid on the track.”
THE WILL TO WIN
Herjavec’s second book, The Will to Win, just debuted a few short weeks ago. It immediately became a best seller. “It kind of picks up at a point where you’ve got a little bit of success and how you keep that going. I think one of the things I’ve learned is that my vision of success has really changed over time,” Herjavec noted. “I’ve had a fantastic opportunity to meet a lot of very successful people including Oprah and George St. Pierre [the UFC fighter] and all kinds of people from different fields. I drive them nuts because I’m always asking them, ‘What makes you tick? When you wake up, what keeps you going?’ So we’re sharing a lot of those kinds of lessons,” said Herjavec. The Will to Win is available through Amazon.
Will Arizona soon be getting its very own Shark? Could be! “I’m looking to buy a house in Arizona. I love Arizona. I have a house in Miami and I have for 15 years, but before we bought that house, I wanted to buy in Arizona,” noted Herjavec. He cites Tucson as one of his favorite areas, and he recently looked at some of the places up in the mountains with a view over Phoenix. “It’s gorgeous out there, just gorgeous. And Scottsdale? I love that area! I love the desert,” Herjavec said.