Lessons From the Tank
by Joe Altieri
March 2nd, 2021

Risk and (Sometimes) Reward

I’m not known for my patience. And my wife would attest that is an extreme understatement. Sometimes my impatience can lead me down some dangerous paths. Here’s an example of one of my riskiest (and potentially most foolish) business moves that happened because I was tired of waiting.

Many people don’t realize that entrepreneurs who get a deal on Shark Tank might not actually close the deal when all is said and done. A handshake on the show is not a contractual agreement.

The Sharks have no previous information before filming and know nothing about the pitch, product or entrepreneur they’re going to see, so their reactions and questions are genuine. But that means there is a lot of work to be done after the handshake. The Sharks’ legal teams start their deep-dive research, including requests for loads of paperwork and information and a lot of phone calls, e-mails, and back and forth between teams. Then, after an extensive and exhaustive review, the decision is made to move forward with a deal or not.

It was an excruciatingly long journey from my filming date to finally inking our deal with Lori Greiner, and it seemed like an eternity to me. But I’ve since learned that my wait was really not that uncommon. The Sharks have incredibly demanding schedules, juggle multiple businesses, and have many other deals on the table to sort out. It’s naturally a slow-moving, meticulous process.

But, as I mentioned, I’m not known for my patience. So, after a long period of what seemed like radio silence from Lori’s team, which led my mind to all sorts of undesirable scenarios, I did a thing.

After hovering over the “send” button for an extraordinarily long time while I contemplated the implications of what I was about to do, I sent a one-sentence e-mail to Lori and her team that simply asked: “Have you lost interest in this project?” That’s all it said—nothing else. And right after my finger fell on that “send” button, the little bit of confidence that I had in that decision melted away like a birthday candle in a blast furnace, and I fully understood the concept of instant regret.

Fortunately, I only had to agonize for a short time about whether or not I had just blown the biggest opportunity of my life because it didn’t take long before I got a response that they were very much still interested. I finally exhaled.

Recently, my company appeared on the show again in a “Shark Tank Update” segment, highlighting all of the incredible things that have happened since my first appearance and subsequent deal with Lori.

Sometimes the risk is worth it. But how do you know? The answer is: you don’t. If you knew how it would turn out, it wouldn’t be a risk. If I had it to do over again, would I push “send” on that e-mail? I don’t know if I would or not. All I know for sure is that risk-taking is part of an entrepreneur’s DNA, and even if we could escape that part of ourselves, we probably wouldn’t. Because in the words of T.S. Eliot: “Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far it is possible to go.”

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