The benefits of starting thought leadership ASAP. An interview with Vaishali Dialani about her…
Gaining a Competitive Edge in Thought Leadership through Brand Recognition
An interview with Kevin Harrington about spotting trends, creating a brand, and the value of mentors.
Can creating a brand make your brand distinct, and give you a competitive advantage? Today, we dive into the deep end with a true shark of brand creation. We’ll answer that question – and more!
Kevin Harrington is an entrepreneur, business executive, and one of the most well-known hosts of the investment reality show Shark Tank. Kevin has decades of experience helping people like George Foreman and Tony Little build their brands, and generate billions of dollars in sales. And today, he’s our guest!
Kevin created his first infomercial in 1985, identifying an opportunity to fill late night and early morning dead air on cable networks. He’s seen the rise and fall of many brands, and has become one of the foremost thought leaders in the sphere of productization. Today, he explains how he noticed the change in trends and habits surrounding television, and why he chose to sell millions of assets to move away from broadcast television and toward the internet.
While Kevin has not been on Shark Tank for a few years, he still gets thousands of investment pitches per year. Now, he shares with us the checklist he uses to examine proposals, and why finding a “problem solver” is top of the list.
Finally, we discuss ways to use a book to elevate your brand. Kevin uses examples from his own books, Key Person of Influence and Mentor to Millions, to illustrate how he elevated his brand by writing books, creating content, and being a guest on great podcasts!
Three Key Takeaways:
- Creating a top-shelf thought leadership brand can set you apart, and give you an advantage.
- Don’t be afraid to surround yourself with experts outside of your area of thought leadership, or to get a mentor that can help you find traction.
- Being a guest on podcasts can open new relationships and build broader audiences for your thought leadership.
If you need a strategy to bring your thought leadership to market, Thought Leadership Leverage can assist you! Contact us for more information. In addition, we can help you implement marketing, research, and sales. Let us help you so you can devote yourself to what you do best.
Peter Winick And welcome, welcome, welcome, this is Peter Winick, I’m the founder and CEO of Thought Leadership Leverage, and you’re joining us on the podcast today, which is Leveraging Thought Leadership really excited today because we’ve got someone that checks pretty much every box out there. We’ve got Kevin Harrington, who is a shark, an entrepreneur, a thought leader, co-founder. VIDEO And he realized that until I was reading his bio and has had over 20 businesses that have grown to over $100 million. So instead of me talking about him, I’d rather talk to him. So welcome aboard, Kevin.
Kevin Harrington Thank you. Thank you, Peter. And when you said I’m a shark, you know, you better define that because sometimes people think of sharks as bad. OK, there you go. I’m an original shark from the Shark Tank. Now, some of those guys are a little tough too. But I like to think of myself as a good shot. OK.
Peter Winick Yes, you are. I was particularly with Shark Tank. You’re probably one of the good sharks as well.
Kevin Harrington I have. I always ask you why Kevin O’Leary calls himself Mr. Wonderful because nobody else will. I was going to say he’s the only one that thinks so.
Peter Winick Yeah, yeah. There’s a little bit of irony in that. So anyway. You’ve done lots of amazing things in your career. Right. So there’s speaking, founding businesses, advising television, etc. I want to just for selfish purposes. Talk about the increasing importance of thought leadership, maybe in each of those domains or not. If you don’t think it is…
Kevin Harrington You’re talking about thought leadership in the world of entrepreneurship, right? Is that, you know, is that one of
Peter Winick The things you think? It’s the world, the world of entrepreneur? I mean, my belief in feel free to, you know, go against that is, you know, we’re all getting commoditized, whatever your business is, whatever your services, whatever and thought, leadership is a great way to punch above your weight and avoid being commoditized by showing the world who you are as an individual and as an organization, what you’re about, what you believe in, what you stand for, what you do different, that that’s sort of my thinking on it.
Kevin Harrington Yeah, I mean, so yeah. So I mean, I’ll start by saying I started as a young entrepreneur. I’m going to go back almost 40 years ago just to get just a quick history. And I’m watching television. And all of a sudden, I just ordered cable TV. I got 30 channels. All of a sudden, the channel I’m watching discovery, it’s Channel 30. It went dark and I called the cable company and said, Hey, something’s wrong with my channel. They said, Oh, it’s six hours a day of darkness because it’s only an 18 hour a day channel. So, I said to myself, OK, what can I do with that six hours? Well, I started putting products on there, so that’s how I started building businesses and. And so, I was a director, the consumer entrepreneur. We created these massive amounts of infomercials. Tony Little Fitness, Jacqueline in the juicer. George Foreman, Billy Mays.
Peter Winick you can see because this is different world.
Kevin Harrington QVC, HSN selling to all those guys. I mean, we had Tony Little on HSN. We had Tony Little in a dozen infomercials, you know, billions of dollars in sales, by the way. So, so along the way, I said, Hey, look, I’m becoming more of a thought leader in my world because I was seeing the ups and the downs and the ups and the downs and Joe. So I’ll give you a good example. Ten years ago, I started seeing some things happening in my industry. I think things were starting to slip, and what was happening is television viewership was starting to plummet. I mean, it’s down by 60 percent from 10 years ago. And so I’m watching people going away from TV. Where are they going? Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, etc. So as a thought leader, I said to myself, Wait a minute, I own as seen a TV dot com as seen on TV Inc. But my business is sliding. It’s going away. What can I do? Well, know when to hold em, know when to fold. So all those assets, hundreds of you URLs, sites, you know, hundreds of millions of dollars in cash flow that have come out of all of this and sold it for a great opportunity to, I thought, maybe retire. But I didn’t, because now my son came along as we talked about and said, OK, it’s now a digital marketplace. Yes, Facebook, Instagram, where I said, follow the eyeballs. So this was me as a thought leader, saying, OK, I’m not in the SC. Yes, I’m in the TV business, but I’m in the business of connecting directly with consumers who want products. How can I connect? TV’s not working. I had to find other places to go, and that’s what I did.
Peter Winick So the thought leadership there is, to some degree, some trend spotting to say. Everybody’s got 17 screens, you know, to compete with an infinite number of Web sites. So you just said, oh, you know, there’s got to be some attention to be had over there.
Kevin Harrington Yes. So we saw people that used to watch TV three or four hours a day. Now they’ve cut the cord. Sixty million people stop using cable television. Why? Because they get tired of paying so much for it. And again, like I said, I was the guy filling a lot of the airwaves back then. So. So trend spotting was step one for me. And the good news is, no one to hold em know when to fold them, sold all the old assets and continued with the digital side of the business. And now we’re running on Facebook and Instagram and all the major, you know, kind of social media networks, including Tik Tok, LinkedIn, etc.. I used to go to a few channels that broadcast the millions. Now I focus on millions of channels broadcasting to a few.
Peter Winick Right? So it flip right to you. You’ve got multiple pieces there. So where else have you seen? So let’s go back to maybe take a couple of steps back, whether it’s to Shark Tank or other businesses that you found in your business. It’s about finding the consumer where they are and then supplying them with what they want in the way they want at the right price point. Right. When you’re evaluating deals as an investor, what things that are you looking at as a thought leader or hope that there might be some thought leadership embedded in the whatever?
Kevin Harrington So I mean, look, I have a sort of checklist of things that I that I look for as I’m as I’m running, you know, my day to day. But I like, first thing and let’s you let’s say I’m on Shark Tank. Someone’s coming out. They’re going to pitch me, right? What am I looking for? I want to, first of all, give me some kind of a problem solver that is solving a problem that’s not already being solved. All right. So I’d say, is your product or service or business unique enough such that the that there’s no other product service or business that solves that particular problem in a similar fashion?
Peter Winick Right. And if it does, how do you how do you increase the volume to show people that right?
Kevin Harrington It’s the better mousetrap if there’s something that is similarly solving it. Then I go to my next thing that is adding on functions. OK. So if you have a singular function item that solves a great problem, you may do very well with it. But now let’s add two or three more functions to it. You just gave an example. Here’s an item when I showed you probably will say, What the heck is that? OK, OK. What it is? It’s a multiple step system that will clean your glasses the first step. This comes out. Get all the dust in the dirt off. Three. All right now, the dust and dirt to open it up. Now you’ve got a double sided carbon cleaning system on both sides of your glasses simultaneously. That’s step two. Step three Clean it in the in the electrostatic chamber, and now it’s ready to go 500 more times. This is a product that solves a problem. It solves in a unique fashion. Nothing like it patented, and we’ve sold over $100 million worth of this item. So that’s the kind of thing that I look for as an entrepreneur, something that’s not already out there and a big problem solver in a unique fashion.
Peter Winick I love it. I love it. If you’re enjoying this episode of Leveraging Thought Leadership, please make sure to subscribe. If you’d like to help spread the word about our podcast, please leave us a review and share it with your friends. We’re available on Apple Podcasts and on all major listening apps, as well as at Thought Leadership Leverage dot com forward slash podcasts. So you’re on, you’re in the media a lot, obviously, right? Today’s New York Times, USA Today, etc.. How is your building up your brand? The Kevin brand helped you in terms of deal flow access because you’re not the only guy investing out there only in a bad way, right? But give me talk about how that has given you a competitive advantage when they want to bring you on as a go to guy to talk about,
Kevin Harrington I’m in the market, so it’s a great story. I was I got invited to hang out with Richard Branson Necker Island few years ago, and it was 10 plus years ago and so went down. Didn’t know what to expect, but I got a one on one time with Richard and he’s like, You haven’t said you’ve done some pretty cool stuff. You did that. You’re the same guy, Billy Mays, Jacqueline, that George Foreman guy loved watching all that stuff, he said. But then here he’s going to come out. But you never built your brand. You built all those other brands. And so I said, Well, you’re right, Richard. But hey, I made my. He did not. He said, yeah, but what about the continuity, the future? The world’s changing. So I said, OK, I should build my brand. How do I build my brand? He said, we’ve got to create content. He said, I’m out there as Richard Branson, the entrepreneur’s entrepreneur flying around in hot air balloons and having fun and, you know, connecting and speaking that you need to be speaking and I create content, right? Books. Boom, boom. I came out of there, went back home, wrote my first book. I started doing radio talk shows and twenty one. You know who called me Mark Burnett from Shark Tank? Kevin, I’m seeing you everywhere. I’m doing this new show called Shark Tank. Can I talk to you? Would you come meet me in Los Angeles? I mean, you’re raising my profile. Actually got me on Shark Tank because Jill, then nobody knew who and heck, I was. But I I religiously because you thought
Peter Winick you were behind the behind the curtain
Kevin Harrington behind the scenes. I mean, I’m shooting all these infomercials. Nobody saw me. And so you know it, it opened up my world in a big, big way.
Peter Winick Well, and then Shark Tank is another flywheel, right? So now you take and then the Shark Tank flywheel. And then I would imagine one of the benefits of that is the deal flow. There are people coming to you outside of Shark Tank World,
Kevin Harrington you who you all I had. I did one hundred and seventy five pitches on Shark Tank, which is quite a bit investment, dozens of deals and had a lot of fun. But now those shows are in syndication. They’re running them every week. All episodes run all around the world on a on a weekly monthly basis. Those hundred and seventy five. And so my deal flow is pretty crazy. It’s thousands of pitches that I take a year or, you know, and I have been for years. I mean, I’ve taken over 50000 thousand pitches twice now. And, you know, every single year, we take thousands still so and so now I get a chance to pick from when you got a couple of thousand things to pick from. You can find some pretty good needle in the haystack there. You know,
Peter Winick I I would think, right? Right. So that’s the flywheel piece. Interesting note that you would. Advise a typical entrepreneur, whatever that means, because they’re all pretty atypical, who is thought about because we work with several entrepreneurs where they’ve been thinking about a book. I don’t really need it, whatever, and then they sort of get in the mode and say they have to. They want to justify it. And it has to be fun, like talking about maybe, maybe the process and the benefits for them for you would still flow for someone else. And I’d be standing out from the crowd or it might be elevating their brand. But what should they be thinking about?
Kevin Harrington Well, my book is called How to become a Key, A Key Person of Influence. And there’s a seven step system to being the most sought after person in your industry and a few of the steps. One of the main steps, we’re kind of talking about it, but it’s raising your profile. All right. It’s writing books. It’s putting out content, creating video. By the way, I sit and I talk to entrepreneurs, and I was recently at a conference, a thousand entrepreneurs in the room and I said, OK, how many people in here have their own podcast? Let me see your hand, my three people out of 1000 that do their own. How many people have ever been on a podcast? Probably at about 50 60 hands. And I’m like, What? I mean, I don’t understand the podcasting. This is a way to connect. And so when I launched my last book called Mentor to Millions, I agreed with the publisher upfront. I said, I’ll do how many podcasts you want me to do, he said. We do 100. And I said, yes. And my very first one, I said, who’s the number one podcast in the world as well? That’s arguably among a couple of guys that will argue over that. But you know it. Google it. Adam Carolla shows up as the most downloaded podcast. I said, OK, I know Adam. I know who Adam Grohl is. Never met him. Shot a video. Hey, Adam, it’s Kevin Harrington. I’ve got a new book mentor to millions. I’ve had a lot of mentors that have shaped my life. I’m sure you’ve mentored a lot of people. How about we shared some stories on your podcast? I’d love to come on and be a guest on your show within an.
Peter Winick Boom, I’m. So the beauty of that is there’s a time to have your own podcast and then there’s a time to be on others. We are
Kevin Harrington usually exclusive, so
Peter Winick corroded is what you don’t have. He’s got distribution and audience and whatever. All you need to do is be engaging and charming for 20 minutes. Not that difficult, right? He’s got it. And if you do that 100 times. Holy cow. And then, you know, part of the beautiful thing about podcasting is it’s so niche now. It’s so targeted. So if you wanted to go after entrepreneurs with businesses of a certain size in the Midwest bang, there’s podcasting. I mean, any niche you want. There’s 100 podcasts and it doesn’t. I mean, Carol is a pretty high bar. But for most of them, it’s actually pretty easy to get on their show.
Kevin Harrington Yeah, absolutely. Now, once I got on Adam’s everybody else, let me see this. Yeah, this is great. A great interview, right? And by the way, I, the publisher, after we did the 100, I said, Hey, I’ll do another hundred. We did 100 podcasts. It’s a big, big, big word CNN, CNBC and all the big networks and everything. And we hit number two on Wall Street Journal bestseller list today, et cetera. So I mean, the reality is that for those that are out there that want to become a key person of influence as you raise your profile, what are you doing? You’re building your brand. You’re speaking, you’re writing content, you’re putting out videos, you’re on podcast. Maybe you have your own podcast so you can’t know it just sitting at home expecting your phone to ring right, you got to get out there and make it happen. Or you know that right?
Peter Winick And then, you know, there’s nothing wrong with television, as we were talking about before, but there’s a lot of old school PR that still pitching for the fences, right? Listen, it’s great to be on the Today show, but the reality is in this market, it doesn’t move books. If you were, you know, I would argue that 100 or 200 podcasts that you did, there’s probably a direct connection you could watch as those podcast released your Amazon sales. There’s literally a direct connection. Right? And if you didn’t do those, we can’t do that, editors, but we would know, you know, the book probably wouldn’t have done nearly as well.
Kevin Harrington Yeah, no exact. I mean. Oh yeah.
Peter Winick Yeah, he’s been awesome, Kevin. It’s always interesting to have someone so low energy on. I’ve got to do all the work trying to make this happen, you know? Maybe next time an espresso or Red Bull to pick it up and get
Kevin Harrington me to get ready for next year, get
Peter Winick ready next. I appreciate your time. I appreciate you sharing those. Any final words of wisdom to anyone out there?
Kevin Harrington Well, part of my seven step system, I say the folks don’t be ashamed or afraid to go get a mentor. I also use another term, I say, building a dream team. And so a quick story. We were doing a beauty project. I had a and someone said, Well, you’re a gadget guy. You don’t need to watch and mixers and grills and whatever, right? But I should warn you, the beauty gun show I found through my sources and referrals and I used to be the president of L’Oreal Beauty, ran a five billion dollar company, L’Oreal USA president, and retired after 10 years, and he lived in Clearwater Beach in his final years. And I’m like, Hey, what do you do? Would you be interested? I got hold of them. I got a hot new project and brought him into a dance show. He said, Look, I get a million dollars a year if you want to hire me, and I said, No, I just need you two days a month. How about I? Can you work for 10 grand a month? And he’s like 10 grand a month, two days, five grand, you know for you. I really love the product. Let’s do it. I said, Well, let me tell you how we’re going to pay you. There’s no money in the account yet. We’re going to go raise the money. And once we raise the money, you’ll get paid retroactively the month one. So. So he’s like, You know what? You look like a good guy. Let’s do it. So what did I do? I brought the president of L’Oreal India into a company that I was raising money for that used his resume to go, raise $8 million and then retroactively pay him for his expertise and said, This is creating a dream team. So let’s do it. This is what I do with every company that I get involved with. I’m on nine public boards and advising another couple of thousand companies. So get yourself a great dream team. Experts surround yourself. And some of these experts are younger populations kids that know digital marketing like the 32 year old son. You know, he knows digital marketing. And so these kids twenty five, twenty eight, 30, this is sometimes you got to go younger, even get some of these experts. But build yourself a dream team and you can make it happen.
Peter Winick I love it. Thanks, man. Thank you so much.
Kevin Harrington All right, Peter, would anybody take care
Peter Winick To learn more about Thought Leadership Leverage, please visit our website at ThoughtLeadershipLeverage.com to reach me directly. Feel free to email me at Peter at ThoughtLeadershipLeverage.com and please subscribe to Leveraging Thought Leadership on iTunes or your favorite podcast app to get your weekly episode automatically.