At AFP 2018, opening keynote speaker Daymond John, star of ABC TV series “Shark Tank” and founder of FUBU, took attendees on a fascinating journey as he chronicled his rise from young kid scraping by in Queens to the founder and CEO of a global fashion empire. He also provided his five “S.H.A.R.K. Points”—key principles that have guided him throughout his personal and professional life.
Following his speech, John took the time to answer questions from treasury and finance professionals who were in attendance.
What’s your #1 advice for finance professionals to get out of their comfort zone and just do it?
Daymond John: Take small steps. Ask that colleague to collaborate with you. Bring that idea to your boss. Invest in that executive training course. Take small steps, but keep stepping, or, as I like to say, keep swimming.
How often do you think people fail to act on their ideas that may have been successful products or solutions, and what advice would you have given them?
John: I can’t say how many good ideas don’t get acted on, but I can say this: there’s no such thing as a good idea that doesn’t get acted on. It’s the action that defines whether an idea is good or bad. Were the Snuggie or Pet Rock good ideas? Looking back, it’s easy to say, “yes,” because the people who came up with the idea created the “good.”
In your opinion, what is the biggest threat to entrepreneurship?
John: The misbelief that you have to be special or have money to engage in it.
How do you infuse an established organization with “intrapreneurship?”
John: My business partner, Champ, has a program called InnerVation Lab that trains companies on how to foster an entrepreneurial environment within established businesses on a granular level. However, to answer your question, at least on a surface level, I’d say the company's founders should keep the reasons why they went into entrepreneurship in the first place in mind when creating or recreating their company culture. For example, I became an entrepreneur because I wanted more control over my life and my decisions. I wanted to work on something I cared about. I needed room to learn from my own mistakes. In a company, this may mean more flexible work schedules, autonomous projects, a culture that tolerates failures/celebrates folks who try new things. It also means being willing to hack your current business from the inside with openness to realize you may create something totally different.
Was there a point where you wanted to quit? If so, what motivated you to continue going?
John: Plenty of times. I had a few reasons to keep going, but the main one is probably the team that was assembled. When people invest in your movement, you don’t want to let them down. Your team is more important than any one idea or business model.
How do you adjust and control for emotional biases when you are evaluating an investment/ business opportunity?
John: I don’t get caught up on the hype and projections. What’s real? Are there sales? Do I like the entrepreneur personally? Are there sales orders? What real value can I add? Is this an affordable step for me in terms of resources—including my time, money and manpower?
Is sustainable fashion a thing of the future?
John: Who knows what will be a thing of the future? The future depends on what we do.
What is the key failure everyone has to make to succeed?
What is the difference between knowing the S.H.A.R.K. rules or writings of Napoleon Hill and realizing success? How do you make it real?
John: They’re both tools. It’s not an either-or thing. Put as many tools on your belt as you can and use them when you see fit.
What are the most important attributes of a quality employee?
John: He or she has to be a team player. Business is a team sport. No matter how talented they are, they tend not to get far or last long in my organizations if they can’t collaborate with anyone else on the team.
What is the hardest lesson you have learned in business?
John: Good people aren’t good for everything.
What are the most important characteristics/qualities of a leader?
Do you recommend going into business with friends and/or family?
John: Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. No blanket answer to this except it depends on the people involved. Everyone has to answer this for themselves.
What do you say to the person who earns a decent income on a job but has a passion for entrepreneurship?
John: You don’t necessarily have to quit your day job. I worked at Red Lobster while getting FUBU off the ground. You can take affordable steps while following your passion. You can be passionate without being reckless.
Do you still take the business risks now that you took in the 1980s?
John: Yes, I will never stop taking risks.
Who will be the keynote speaker for AFP 2019? It will be some time before we announce that, but registration is open now.