5 Keys to Success from Shark Tank and a Titan of Industry

by Diane Berenbaum

Daymond John is one of the investors on the popular TV show, "Shark Tank." He is also the President and CEO of the American apparel company line, FUBU, which stands for "For Us, By Us." It includes casual wear, sportswear, a suit collection, eyewear, belts, and shoes. FUBU has become a leader in designer sportswear and a $6 billion brand. 

John was born in Brooklyn and raised in New York City's Hollis Queens neighborhood. As an only child, he witnessed the strong work ethic demonstrated by his mother and father. John's mother raised him as a single parent after his parents divorced when he was 10.  

His mother was a flight attendant who worked multiple jobs while he was growing up. He's written that his mother was "disciplined, diligent, and determined" to make sure he had a chance to rise above negative influences in his neighborhood. "The crowd I grew up with was getting into all kinds of trouble. … And me, I got into my share, right alongside. (But I) wasn't so deep into it … mostly because my mother was on me to keep my head down and steer clear." She also believed in him. That’s why she mortgaged their home, several times, to provide seed money for FUBU.

How did he achieve this success in the corporate world?  He applied the following five keys:

Five Keys to Success 

1.    Customer Service and Customer First Focus

Daymond John told Forbes contributor, Micah Solomon, that "Nothing is more important than great customer service. To over-deliver in service to a customer is by far the most valuable thing to a business. Because, there are only two ways to improve the operations of a business:  increase sales or decrease costs. In today's environment, decreasing costs is hard. And as far as increasing sales, doing so via customer service is highly effective."

He also stressed, however, that for him the term customer service doesn’t mean doing the normal, the expected. Instead, it means going far beyond expectations, to create an emotional connection with the customer; a feeling for the customer that they're special to you and that you absolutely have their back.  

2.    Give 100% Effort

Daymond John wasn’t born rich, but he learned about the value of work ethic from his mother and step-father. His mother didn't hover over him, but she was present. "It made all the difference," he said.  

He was working from the time he was 6; selling pencils in school, shoveling snow and raking leaves. Even then he was a young deal maker, getting "exclusives" in the winter from customers in return for free work in the spring.

3.    Learn from Failures and Complaints

According to John, "The keys were failing a bunch of times at a very small level and learning what my customer wanted or didn't want, and knowing my customer better than anybody else in the world."

He also recognized the power of complaints and noted that, "90% of the most profitable products in corporate America came from customer complaints."

4.    Outthink and Outperform the Competition

In the book, "The Power of Broke: How Empty Pockets, a Tight Budget, and a Hunger for Success Can Become Your Greatest Competitive Advantage," he noted that "You need to outthink, out-hustle, outperform every one of your competitors" and "You need to work so hard you'll wonder how far you can push yourself."

Dave Heath, co-founder and CEO of Bombas, a maker of high quality comfort socks that John invested in on "Shark Tank," said of him: "Even though he often has a number of projects and businesses in progress at any time, when he sets his mind on something he gives it 100% of his effort and doesn't get distracted."

5.    Work with Mentors and Read a Lot

His life has been about seeking out and working with mentors. There have been teachers, small-business owners, and gurus in marketing, including marketing advisor and author, Jay Abraham, and entrepreneur, author, Seth Godin.  

He also reads a lot.  He’s gained life lessons from a variety of sources, including Muhammad Ali, Bruce Lee, Bob Marley, Steven Spielberg, Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr. and titans of industry.

In addition to being a sought-after speaker, consultant and best-selling author, John was named a Presidential Ambassador for Global Entrepreneurship by President Barack Obama. His numerous honors include being named Brandweek's Marketer of the Year, Advertising Age Marketer of the Year, Ernst & Young's Master Entrepreneur of the Year, and one of Details' 50 Most Influential Men.

So, in the words of Daymond John:

  • "The choice of whether to succeed—or not—is all mine."
  • "We don't get where we're going by standing still. We've got to move the needle every day."

  •  "We do the best job we can for our customer today and a better job tomorrow and it keeps growing."

  • "Success is doing the thing that you want to do every single day and being around the people that you want to be around. It's also knowing that you define who you are, and that you don't need anyone else's validation, unless the validation is out of love."

What will you do differently to sharpen your approach and make a difference?
Diane Berenbaum is a long-time contributor and former editor of the MAGIC Service Newsletter. She has more than twenty-five years of experience as a consultant, coach, and facilitator. Diane is the co-author of How to Talk to Customers: Create a Great Impression Every Time with MAGIC® .

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