Millions of Americans watch “Shark Tank” each week because it’s a reality show that has genuinely real stakes, with entrepreneurs pitching their companies to a panel of investors who can potentially change their lives.
The series has been huge for the personal brands of each of the six investors and has yielded investments that have made them millions of dollars, but they need to spend as little time as possible in the Los Angeles studio because their businesses are still their primary responsibilities.
To compromise, the show’s producers have worked out a schedule that allows an entire season of about 30 episodes to be shot over 17 days. The current, seventh season was split into a session early last summer and then early last fall. Each day on set lasts 12 hours, beginning at 6 a.m. or 7 a.m., and shooting is done in three-day splits separated by an off-day.
In his new book “You Don’t Have to be a Shark,” investor Robert Herjavec reveals that each of these three days has a distinct atmosphere, and the day an entrepreneur pitches to them on affects their chances of getting a deal — as well as how the Sharks interact with each other.
“The first day is generally a good one,” Herjavec writes. “We reacquaint ourselves with each other and get a buzz from routine preparations, trading gossip, catching up on each other’s careers, and talking with crew members in the studio.
Herjavec notes that the nature of the show requires their full attention, and that at the start of each three-day cycle they are rewiring their brains to forget about whatever is happening back at their companies or even their personal lives.
To help get into this mindset, the Sharks deliberately play up their personas, Herjavec explains. “For the first few hours of day one Kevin [O’Leary] snarls a little more, Mark [Cuban] is pushier, Lori [Greiner] sharpens her TV smarts, Barbara [Corcoran] plays her strict den mother role with greater relish, and Daymond [John] seems to rise even farther above it all,” he writes. “I tend to smile more easily, finding it all entertaining and refreshing.”
So, depending on which of the Sharks connects to an entrepreneur’s pitch, either with enthusiasm or distaste, landing a Day 1 spot can result in a slightly exaggerated reception.
“Day two is inevitably the best,” Herjavec says. The Sharks aren’t distracted by what’s happening back at their office and they’re not concerned about hamming it up. They’re acutely focused on making good deals.
“Those twelve-hour studio sessions have become our reality, and nothing intrudes on our assessment of the pitches (and the people making them),” he writes.
Day three presents the biggest challenge to entrepreneurs because it’s the least enjoyable for the Sharks.
As the day progresses, Herjavec says, “it becomes difficult to keep our minds off whatever we hope or fear is happening back at the office. It also becomes trickier to overlook little annoyances that were easy to shrug off a day or two earlier, when they might have earned a smile or a joke tossed between us for a laugh.”
The investors start to itch to get back to their companies, and they’re more likely to think about how cold, hungry, and miserable they are in the studio, Herjavec says. The producers enjoy the third day, he argues, because the ways the Sharks either attack an entrepreneur giving a weak pitch or attack each other over a deal when they’re in this mood makes for great television.
That’s what happened in Season 6, for example, when Herjavec yelled at Greiner and John for giving a “handout” to an entrepreneur he determined they felt sorry for, before storming off the set, with similarly disgusted Cuban and O’Leary not far behind him.
“Three days don’t represent just the maximum number of days we can stay away from our businesses; it’s the maximum number of days we can do our jobs as Sharks and still remain functional,” Herjavec writes. “Not to mention amiable and courteous with each other.”
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