Do you ever find yourself wondering what it would take for you to achieve the level of success that you admire in others? I do, which is why I spoke business with “Shark” Robert Herjavec, who is also an entrepreneur.
While most of us know Herjavec as the friendly and daring investor who stars on Shark Tank (or perhaps you’re familiar with him from his stint on Dancing With The Stars), he cut his teeth (unintentional shark pun) as an entrepreneur and founder of Herjavec Group, a multi-national cybersecurity firm. Herjavec Group is a company that employs people from a variety of countries.
During our chat, Herjavec opens up about the value of the people you know, how to distinguish yourself from the crowd, smoothly transitioning between different professions, the significance of being interested and open-minded, and expanding one’s perspective.
Darrah Brustein: What is one piece of advice about networks and connections that you would offer to your 20-year-old self if you could go back in time?
Robert Herjavec: When I was younger, I didn’t know that people could really start their own companies.
I was clueless about the concept. I had no idea how to parlay my talent for working with people into a profession that I would feel enthusiastic about. At 22, I simply didn’t grasp it. If I didn’t know anybody in the industry that I wanted to work in, how was I going to create connections and network with people working there?
My father put me in contact with the most successful businessperson he knew, who happened to be the leader of his union. It was very evident that he was not going to turn out to be the savior who would guide me in the correct direction. But then it dawned on me that if it wasn’t going to be the people I knew who could help me move ahead, then it had to be the things I knew. I immersed myself in the study of technology, which is a rapidly expanding sector. Over the course of my career, I’ve built up my knowledge and competence, and finally, as a secondary step, I’ve expanded my personal network.
Brustein: How has the success of your primary company, Herjavec Group, been impacted by the work that your network has done?
Herjavec: It’s been said that it’s not so much what you know as it is who you know. In my opinion, it is only partially accurate. It is not my intention to ever put somebody off launching a company only on the basis that they do not know a large number of wealthy investors or bankers. You don’t need much prior experience to launch a company, but you will need to build up your clientele and expand your professional network.
At the end of the day, if we want Herjavec Group to continue to be successful, we need to have amazing connections with our customers. Their support is necessary to keep us going, and we need to find solutions to their difficulties. It’s a relatively straightforward process, and we count ourselves extremely lucky to have the support of the most successful businesses all around the world.
Building partnerships with other businesses and gaining their confidence has become more important to us as our operations have expanded across many countries, including Canada, the United States, and most recently, the United Kingdom. This is the first year that Herjavec Group has been awarded the number one spot on the annual Cybersecurity 500 List as well as the title of IDC Security Services Leader. Without the support of our larger community, which includes thought leaders, consumers, and our incredible staff of technical specialists, we would not have been able to receive these recognitions.
Brustein: Are you willing to talk about your experiences with mentoring, both as a mentor and as someone who received mentoring?
Herjavec: It doesn’t matter how successful you are; you can always improve your knowledge and skills. A mentor-student connection is one of the most significant partnerships you will ever have, regardless of whether it is in your professional life or your personal life.
It may be challenging to find a mentor since many individuals are unsure of how to approach someone, and what to say, and, to be honest, many don’t even realize the benefits of a genuine mentor-mentee connection.
A succession of defining interactions with influential people lies at the heart of the mentoring relationship. At the Herjavec Group, we aim to promote mentoring in a number of different ways, such as by organizing official programs and recommending informal get-togethers over coffee with company leaders.
There is no need that the search for a person to learn from be conducted in a methodical manner. Keep things straightforward and don’t let yourself get misled by common misconceptions about mentoring. Inquire, pay attention, and have an open mind since there are boundless chances for education all around you.
Brustein: Your career has not followed a traditional path: you started out in movies, then went on to IT security, and you are now notably involved in investment. To what do you attribute your ability to switch between different fields of work? What part does your network play in this situation?
Herjavec: A lot of people have the misconception that investing is my primary line of work, just as it is for a lot of the other sharks. However, the fact of the matter is that technology, and more especially cybersecurity, is both my passion and my primary line of work. Herjavec Group was founded by me 15 years ago, and now we are one of the leading privately-held cybersecurity service providers in the world. Our operations span the United States, the United Kingdom, and Canada, and our specialty is providing the biggest businesses in the world with cyber services such as identity management, managed security services, and incident response.
I was able to transition across different fields because I have a voracious appetite for learning and I am prepared to put in a lot of effort. I always made an effort to reach out to new individuals I met and made it a point to say yes to new possibilities. This allowed me to build really useful networks across the board. It’s crucial to preserve such networks. Be honest in both your purpose in life and the relationships you cultivate because you never know how the connections you make today may come in handy for you or the people around you in the future.
Brustein: Who do you consider to be the person who most significantly contributed to the launch of your professional achievement, and why? What new insights did you get from going through that experience?
Herjavec: The key to one’s own success is looking inside. My parents, my first employer, my first client, my staff, and my family may all be credited with helping me get started in this industry, but ultimately, it is up to you to choose and create the success that you have in your life. It is necessary for it to originate from the inside.
I had no credentials when I first began working in the IT industry. To prepare myself for a career as a sales representative, I started off by volunteering my services as an office assistant for a period of six months. As a side job, I waited tables, which is how I became familiar with the meaning of the phrase “hustle.” I was in desperate need of a shot, and I was eager to offer myself up for it. Even though it was unpaid work at first, I will be forever thankful to my first supervisor for giving me the opportunity to get into this industry. It ended up being profitable in the long term.
Brustein: When, in your view, is it appropriate to seek assistance from a member of your network that you already know and trust?
Herjavec: This isn’t a problem, of course. In fact, it’s very important to build strong networks and honest connections. My opinion is that one of the most crucial things is knowing when to seek assistance. Don’t let the fact that you depend on other people to solve your problems stop you from learning new things. Getting comments, seeking out perspectives, and seeking help from individuals who have a specialty or lot of experience are all essential steps. It is always a good idea to look for advice, and that is exactly what your network is there for:
Keep in mind that you can go either direction on this roadway. If someone in your network is in need of assistance, you need to be able to provide that assistance and be willing to do so.
Brustein: The ability of “The Sharks” to break down almost any door has been a significant contributor to the show’s overall popularity. How would you advise someone who is just starting out in their job to get started cultivating the kind of dynamic network and impact you describe?
Herjavec recommends that people have an inquisitive mindset, interact with people in their personal and professional lives, and pose questions to others. If there is a sector of the economy that piques your interest, talk to the people around you to find out who they know who could be related to that sector. Conduct your research on the internet or on LinkedIn. Connect with people by using mentoring and networking resources such as Ten Thousand Coffees. Get out there and make yourself known!
It is recommended that you carry out the same action at the workplace. Spend as much time as you can with the person whose dedication to hard work you respect the most. Learn as much as you can from them, including their experiences, tales, etc. You have to make the effort to put yourself in a position to succeed in order to attract the attention of a mentor.
Brustein: You have a sizable staff at your disposal. What is the one most important piece of advice you could provide to job candidates so that they stand out?
Herjavec: I want someone to keep my attention and get me enthusiastic about the time we are going to spend together. People that know their figures (or the facts of the industry/company) and who can teach me something new or provide me with a new perspective are attractive to me. When you tell me something that I am not previously aware of, I am instantly interested and involved in the conversation.
Brustein: You convey your belief that “great salesmen are developed, not born,” and that “no one achieves success in life without learning how to sell,” in your most recent book, You Don’t Have to Be a Shark. Could you go into further detail about this?
Herjavec: When it comes to sales, “natural aptitude” is not the most important aspect in deciding whether or not someone will be successful. It is the ability to take direction. You need to have a positive attitude and be willing to learn new things. You may be amazed at how successfully you can position yourself for a career in sales if you have the ambition and enthusiasm, and if you follow the instructions of an experienced mentor.
Brustein: There has been a lot of discussion on the ties between the “Sharks.” Which of those relationships has provided you with the biggest pleasant surprise in terms of the benefits it has brought you?
Herjavec: Everyone in this room has their own individual objectives, methods for interacting with other people, and perspectives on the business world in general. Despite our many differences, throughout the course of our time working together, we have developed into something more than simply a cast. We engage in healthy competition with one another, and the most pleasant surprise has been the growth in our businesses that has resulted from the openness with which we share criticism and recommendations with one another. The sharks have inspired me to think more expansively and to take more chances in my commercial endeavors.
Prior to my appearance on “Shark Tank,” Herjavec Group was exclusively active inside the borders of Canada. I’m not sure why, but I’ve never given any attention to growing my business outside the borders of Canada. Perhaps I lacked the necessary self-assurance, or perhaps I just didn’t think it was possible.
But a little more than five years ago, we decided to make the change. We extended our operations over the whole of the United Kingdom not long after that. We are now supporting some of the biggest and most complicated companies in the world with a team of 300 individuals spread throughout Canada, the United States, and the United Kingdom. Perhaps getting my foot in the door was the kick in the rear I needed to think on a grander scale.