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Naomi Simson shark tank season 1

This month we have been on set shooting “Shark Tank” Australia – for Channel Ten. The team of ‘sharks’ (pictured) is reviewing people pitching his or her business ideas – as we celebrate entrepreneurship and invention there are other things I will be looking for in the business ideas that — with nurturing and investment — will become great businesses.

We will see hundreds of business ideas. Not all will make it to TV. Some will paint themselves as a reluctant hero… called to action to solve a world problem. Some will present “me too” variations of other people’s ideas. Some will have global aspirations, whilst others will be boutique and local.

What most will not know is that they may well be pitching something that will become his or her life’s work.

But for the sake of 13 years, it could have been me on the other side of the desk… pitching, wooing, imploring.

When I started my business back in 2001, I did not realize at the time that it would become such an all-consuming part of my life. I have worked half my career at RedBalloon — and I bound out of bed every day still committed to sharing more good times, to making the world a better place through shared experiences.

I continue to ponder how founders choose where they spend their energy, love and time. What is it that calls them to action to make the world a better place? And does this “calling” equate to a great business?

I recently received an email from someone imploring me to consider what my legacy will be as he outlined what he had chosen as his life’s work. Increasingly I consider my role and how I can make the planet a better place for my children’s children. The reality is though that there are thousands of great ideas, there are endless opportunities to be involved.

As I listen to the people pitching ideas to us as part of Channel Ten’s Shark Tank program, I will be looking for this deep commitment. I really want to know: “Why did you choose what you chose?” Is it about a commercial outcome — or a calling?

I will be asking:

  1. Where does passion come from? I will look deeply and question, “Why this?”
  2. Is there a sense of persistence and resilience? I’ll check if they have one thing and do it really well – focus delivers a greater outcome.
  3. Are they innately positive, upbeat and curious? If they love what they do every day, it really does not seem like work.
  4. Will what they have chosen be a real and lasting contribution? Their choice might result in a thriving business, perhaps on a global scale.
  5. Have they built relationships? They are likely to be far more effective if they build lasting relationships based on shared values and a deep sense of purpose.

No matter how passionate they may well be about his or her contribution, there will be some days when they will struggle. At that point they must have people around them to remind them about why they chose this road.

Fundamentally we choose where we spend our time when we discover what makes a life worth living… and of course there must be a balance because without the “means” (i.e. finances) you cannot change the world.

I reflected on my choices. The business model has evolved, and we impact so many more people, customers, suppliers, employees than I ever really imagined. If ever I need to remind myself why I chose what I chose, I simply read customer stories. This keeps me real and grounded. And this has served me well.


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