Kevin O’Leary is a successful entrepreneur and TV personality known worldwide for his role on the show, Shark Tank – where aspiring entrepreneurs come to get investments from successful industrialists. For those who haven’t seen the show, O’Leary is the opinionated, often ruthless one shooting down entrepreneurs by finding loopholes in their ideas and products.
Today, O’Leary is worth US$300 million. And he didn’t get to where he was today by being Mr. Nice Guy. His methods may seem harsh, but he isn’t trying to be mean. In his own words, he is just being “brutally honest.”
“I’m not a tough guy. I’m just delivering the truth and only the truth and if you can’t deal with it, too bad.”
O’Leary’s inspiration to own a business and be powerful started at his very first job at an ice-cream parlour in Ottawa, Ont. It was a lesson that ruled his life in business and has played a major role in what he is today.
“‘I was finishing work one day and she (my boss) said to me, ‘“Get down on your knees and scrape the gum off the floor,’” I said ‘“No’” to which she replied, “ ‘You’re fired.’ ” I didn’t even know what fired meant. Within minutes I was on my bicycle on my way home in utter shame and shock, that she had that kind of control.”’
His fortune was built on a software company called SoftKey which he and his two partners started in a basement in at a Toronto, Ont. home with just $10,000. He built educational material that made it easier for children to read. SoftKey had as many as 60 competitors within 10 years of starting the company. He grew his company by buying out his competitors one by one and often discarded products that he felt would not work in the market.
“He went through our portfolio and threw out about half the products, referring to them as dogs,” says David Patrick, whose company SoftKey purchased in 1993.
He was born an average kid but he had the imagination to make things right and get it done his way. He put in a lot of hard work, had many failures and lost millions because of his mistakes. But he had faith in his work along with the determination to earn big bucks.
When you’re at the top, you can say and do whatever you want. O’ Leary did all of that right from the bottom and still made it to the top because he made himself look and feel powerful – something that people find it tough to achieve.
“Here’s how I think of my money – as soldiers – I send them out to war every day. I want them to take prisoners and come home, so there’s more of them.”
Most people try to be diplomatic in business, but O’Leary wasn’t one of those people. He delivered the ‘bitter truth’ in order to get things done in the way that he wanted them to be done.
Image Credit: alumni.uwaterloo.ca