212: Mentor To Millions With The Shark Mentor: The Kevin Harrington Story
Are you a Shark Tank enthusiast? If you are, then this is going to be a treat for you as Mitch Russo is joined by the very first shark ever, mentor and entrepreneur, Kevin Harrington. A hustler since his younger years, Kevin never runs out of brilliant ideas that make millions. He is the inventor of the infomercial and a pioneer of the As Seen On TV brand. Considering what he is worth today, you’d never guess his humble beginnings – a story that he shares in this episode. But wait, there’s more. Kevin also talks about Mentor to Millions, a new book that he wrote with serial entrepreneur Mark Timm, one of his most successful mentees. In many ways, Kevin is a product of mentoring himself and his definition of what a mentor and a mentee should be is worth taking away.
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Mentor To Millions With The Shark Mentor: The Kevin Harrington Story
Welcome to this moment in time when you get to chill out, tune in, and extract wisdom that you could use to grow your business with your first thousand clients. Do you want more publicity, leads, and more clients? I got something for you. You can get it right now. I have collected my absolute best tactical steps for getting on podcasts, joint ventures built, and press releases done, even with the exact format you need to send them to the press and get them published. All you got to do is go to ProfitStackingSecrets.com, download that and it’s all yours for free. Let’s get on to my favorite part of the show, my interview with someone special.
I’m about to introduce you to an old friend. We met at a mastermind many years ago and stayed friends and launching a company together. He’s doing some amazing things with his life. You’re going to learn all about them. You likely know him as the founder and the inventor of the infomercial in a new and exciting way. He created a brand called As Seen on TV, which I guarantee, if you look in your kitchen, you’ll find a product that he sold you. He’s appeared as a Shark on the original Shark Tank. He travels the world, speaking to hundreds of thousands of people from the stage. We’re here to chat about success in business and how they all come down to a few critically important concepts, which he will share with us as a mentor. We will be announcing his new book at the same time. Welcome, Kevin Harrington, to the show.
Mitch, it’s great to be here. There are a lot of interesting things happening in the world so it’s good timing.
Since all of this started, my belief is that this is the greatest time ever in the history of our planet. It’s one of those greatest times not because people are dying or because of the turmoil or the sadness but because of the pace of change is the greatest it’s ever been. We have a choice. We could choose to get into the stream of things and get involved and build things and create or we can watch Netflix and eat ice cream for a little while.
Bury your head in the sand maybe.
We’re not going to do that, Kevin.We are about to see the greatest transfer of wealth in the history of humanity. On the other side of this crisis is opportunity. Click To Tweet
Mitch, we’re about to see the greatest transfer of wealth in the history of humanity. When bad things like COVID happen, it’s a terrible thing for people who are getting sick and dying and their families. From the business side, there are tremendous opportunities. I’m seeing it. I’m living it. You can’t bury your head in the sand because those are the ones that are getting passed over. For example, when you look at the retail industry, the retail industry was barely making it before COVID. When COVID hit, it was the nail in the coffin. Brooks Brothers and Sports Authority are out of business. Many of these national chains that are having trouble. I don’t know what they’re going through exactly but there’s been lots of companies like that have mushroomed into a significant success. You have to know where to put your time and effort in the future years ahead. That’s why it’s a good brainstorming. You and I were partners in a deal a few years back. It’s good to reconnect with folks that you have high regard for, to be able to brainstorm and think about the future.
We’ve lived together for many years. We’re about the same age as we were chatting before. There are many eras that we’ve lived through when you think about it. We both worked in our dad’s retail businesses as kids. We then came up and got involved selling physical things and then selling things that were not physical as we moved on to software courses and programs. We’re recreating the world in another wonderful way as well. What I would love to do for readers who don’t know you, which sounds almost impossible, I’d love to go back and have you give us a little bit of history as to what you’ve done all these years in a nutshell and how they brought you to this moment in time that we’re in.
I’ll go all the way back to the early days. I’m 1 of 6 kids, Cincinnati, Ohio. I was the fourth. There are three boys and three girls. Two older sisters and brother. They all graduated from college and had teaching degrees. My brother was a corporate executive for the Gillette company up in Boston and I came along. I was in college but I had a business. I started in my dad’s restaurants and bars when I was eleven years old. I had a mentor when I was eleven, my father. He would teach me the inner workings. It wasn’t just show up and wash dishes. He would show me collecting the money and finishing out the reports at the end of the day and all of that, and also dealing with the suppliers and the people delivering goods and stuff. I felt like I was learning a lot and I was.
When I turned fifteen, I said, “Dad, I need to make more money than hourly.” He said, “It’s time you start your own business.” He mentored me. I started a driveway sealing business and then had that until I got my freshman year of college. My dad said, “I don’t have the capital to finance your college. I paid for your sisters because they didn’t have an income. You got income, Kevin. You’re a hustler.” I had to pay for my own college, school, tuition, apartment, room and board, and books. That’s a lot of money for a kid. Back then, even though it was less, it was relatively similar in expense. I had a heating and air conditioning business.
The transition out of that, these were labor-oriented businesses and I wanted to get knowledge and information. I started something unique. I started selling businesses. I was a business broker. I’d sell pizza parlors, restaurants, delicatessens, flower shops, laundromats, and small manufacturing companies. I’d sell the real estate. I had a real estate brokerage license and business brokerage company. We had dozens of salespeople outselling all this stuff. We would be sitting at the closing table. The guy is buying that bakery shop. I’d say, “Do you have insurance?” “Who should I call?” “Do you have an accountant?” “Do you have a recommendation?” “What about some jingles and some this and that? I need a lawyer also.” I said to myself, “People that buy a business, they need everything.”
At one time, I leased a whole floor of an office building in Cincinnati, Ohio. I called it the Small Business Center. I leased office space much like WeWork does to all the different supporting service providers. You walk in, there was my business brokerage company right in the middle. We had shared spaces then for an attorney, insurance company, accounting, advertising, and all the different service providers under one roof. We started taking equity in some of these deals and putting up capital when they needed it. This was all way before Shark Tank and even before I was doing infomercials.
I found it exhilarating because I had the books and records of hundreds of different businesses. I got to see their leases, employee costs, food costs, and percentages, everything. It was an education for me. I had to quit college because as I was building these businesses, I didn’t have the time. I had to earn an income. I didn’t have the time to go to school and build businesses. Here I am, successful. I bought a house. I ordered cable television. I go home and I got 30 channels. Mitch, we’re almost the same age. Do you remember way back before cable, you only had 3, 4 or five channels, CBS, NBC?
Yes, and the two weird channels on UHF, which we couldn’t get anyway.
That was it. When cable hit, I’ll never forget ESPN, 24 hours of sports, HBO, movies, MTV, music. I get to channel 30 and it’s the Discovery Channel. I get there and there’s nothing there. It’s just colored bars on the screen. I called the cable company and I said, “I got good news and bad news. I love the cable. This is great, all these different channels. There’s nothing on channel 30. I don’t know if there’s a technical problem or something’s got to be hooked up.” They said, “Discovery, it’s brand new. They don’t have a budget for 24 hours a day. It’s an eighteen-hour day channel.” I’m like, “You mean six hours of nothing?” That’s it. It’s just those bars. I said, “What if I had something to put in there?” They said, “We’d be interested in discussing it with you.” I started thinking and I’m like, “I got to put something in there.”
To make a long story short, I used to go to all these trade shows because I’m selling restaurants, flower shops, and home and garden stores. At the Philadelphia Home Show, there’s a guy cutting through a Coca-Cola can in the night and he’s got a knife in his hand. He’s cutting through a muffler through a pair of sneakers and I’m like, “Why is he doing all this with the knife?” He says, “It’s called the Ginsu knife. Two Ginsu for $19.95. Wait, there’s more. You get six free steak knives and a paring knife and a bread knife.” I saw people attack this man, and I was one of them. I’m like, “Here’s my $20. Give me that big set of knives.”
I got talking to him and I found out that he’d been doing these dozens of years. He had perfected the most amazing pitch. That’s when the light bulb went off, I said, “Arnold, I want to be partners. I’m going to film this and put it on Discovery.” He’s like, “What’s Discovery?” I said, “It’s a cable channel.” We filmed it and it took off. It was unbelievable. Arnold was making millions. Arnold said, “Kevin, I know dozens of people. If I introduced you to more people, would you be interested and would you pay me a commission?” I said, “Absolutely.” He brought me Billy Mays.
This was the beginning of the modern-day infomercial. We were the creators, the inventors of the infomercial. We were doing kitchen products. We did the FoodSaver, Tony Little’s Fitness, Jack LaLanne and the juicer, George Foreman, 50 Cent and in his headphones. Paris Hilton wanted lip plumpers. I’ve done over 500 products. We’ve done $5 billion in sales. We took that company public on the New York Stock Exchange. We went from $1 a share to $20. This was back in the early ‘90s. I was the founder. I had millions of shares. I’m sitting there and I’m like, “What am I going to do with this?” This was the infomercial space. I sold off my interest and then got the phone call from Mark Burnett. Mark said, “I’m seeing all these amazing things you’re doing. Can I meet with you?” I did. He says, “You’re going to be a Shark.” I did the first 175 segments on Shark Tank. I love watching it because not only do they still shoot some new ones, but all those reruns keep rerunning in CNBC. Shark Tank is in over 100 countries on a global basis. I’m speaking around the world.
My last trip internationally was Mexico City, hanging with the Mexico City Sharks because they have a Spanish version. There’s a South African version, Israeli version, and an Australian version. I am the original Shark, the first Shark they pick in the United States and that’s where Shark Tank started. Now there are hundreds of Sharks around the world as part of the Shark Tank explosion. I like to network with the Sharks and have some fun. I’ve certainly continued to invest in a lot of cool companies. I’ve made over 500 investments. Some of them work. Some of them don’t. I focus on the good ones. That’s a little bit of my history and how I got here.Don’t bury your head in the sand if you don’t want to be passed over by opportunity. Click To Tweet
Throughout everything that you said to me, there’s one powerful thread that I keep picking up in everything that you described and its mentorship. It’s the fact that you’ve had mentors. More importantly, you’ve been a mentor. That mentorship has changed the lives of hundreds of thousands of people who’ve had the opportunity to learn from you. Maybe it’s like, “So what?” To me, I’m blown away by how many people have looked at you and said, “I could never do what Kevin does.” They then start reading your books and they start learning from you and then they try it and they find out that they can. Whether they call themselves sharkpreneurs or entrepreneurs, it doesn’t matter because the bottom line is that you were the spark that got them started and maybe in some cases, the one that kept them going too. You have a new book and you’re touring around and talking about it. Tell us a little bit about the book and how it’s evolved and why you wrote it and what’s it about.
It’s called Mentor to Millions. It’s co-authored with Mark Timm, someone that I’ve been mentoring. It’s about our journey. I don’t know if you’ve heard Tuesdays with Morrie, it’s got a similar feel in that. Mark and I go through this journey together. Mark Timm is a successful entrepreneur. We were both mentored by Zig Ziglar. Tom Ziglar was the one that introduced us. We then did business with Tom on the Ziglar assets. Mark and I invested in Zig Ziglar’s assets. We have exclusive rights to all of his digital assets, all of his assets for the world of digital. As we were going through this, Mark said, “Kevin, you’ve had twenty businesses that went to $100 million. I built several to $10 million.”
Zig used to tell a story that if you got a cup with a lid on it and you put little mosquitoes in there or fleas, they’re going to jump to try to get out of it. They’re jumping and there’s a lid there, they can’t get out. Take the lid off and they’re still jumping to the same height that they were jumping to. They can’t get out of there to survive. They end up dying. This is the same thing. If you’re used to building a $10 million business, you’re happy and you’re done. It happens. Mark is on his way to his first $100 million. He’s already bursting through the $10 million ceiling.
It’s this journey. It also has a lot of great practical information about why you need a mentor, how to get a good mentor, where to find a good mentor and when you are getting mentored and you’re the mentee, why it’s important for you to be the best student of that mentor. That’s important also. Mentor to Millions is all about all of this. Mark and I have a 30-day mentoring program for anybody that buys the book in advance. People pay $20 for a book and they get a free 30-day mentoring program from Mark and I. We’re excited about it. I can share some other stories about other mentors in my life if you like, but I wanted to give you a little overview of the book.
Kevin, if somebody buys it on Amazon, for example, how do they get the 30-day mentorship course?
They have to come through your portal. If they buy it directly from Amazon without us knowing, it’s a lot tougher for us. If they come through your portal, we’ll automatically know it and we’ll get them in the program right away.'You can have everything in life you want, if you will just help other people get what they want.' – Zig Ziglar Click To Tweet
All you got to do is go to the show page, Kevin Harrington, on my site, YourFirstThousandClients.com and click the link. Get hooked up with this. This is $20 bucks. This is amazing.
People say to me, “Kevin, you had mentors?” I said, “My father was my first mentor.” When I was growing one of my first company in the As Seen on TV space, we build it from $0 to $50 million and we flatlined. The reason being is we didn’t have the capital for inventory. I was turning the profits as quickly as I could to buy more inventory but I needed more money to buy more inventory. If you’re going to sell something, you can’t say, “Give me your money now and I’ll send you the product in 90 days after I go buy it and bring it in.”
I went to five banks and they loved my business but they said, “We’re not going to lend you money. You’re a startup. You got no track record and no assets other than the inventory that you want to buy.” A bank needs something to attach if you don’t pay. I ended up reaching out to some different connections. I found a former bank president who had been retired. In the first meeting, he said, “Kevin, you’ve been to five banks. I’m going to make you a deal.” I told him about my business. I told him I needed $3 million to $5 million.
He said, “I’m going to get you a minimum of $3 million in your bank account within 90 days. I’ll get it from one of the banks that turned you down. I’m not going to charge you a dime. It’s free. I’m going to mentor you for free. After that, if you like what I did, you may want to talk to me about getting involved in a bigger situation with your company.” Everything that he said happened like clockwork. He knew the guy that turned me down at one of the banks and spun the tail a little bit differently because I was talking about my past success. He was talking about how the money would be secured on a going-forward basis and that’s what the bank is concerned with. We got $3 million. We then grew from $50 million to over $500 million. This all happened because I got a financial mentor in my business.
Let’s cover that briefly from a different angle because a lot of people talk about and use the word mentor, but sometimes they don’t understand what they’re talking about. What would you say is the key difference between a mentor and a coach?
Earlier on another podcast, somebody said, “Coaches, sometimes, are selling you whatever their services are.” We’re in the industry. We know there are some coaches that are not as good as others. A coach is a fee-based situation. Most coaching programs, it’s upfront money and maybe monthly fees, etc. By the way, I use coaches and I pay coaches for many different parts of a business. A mentor, generally, is a different type of person. It’s someone that’s going to take an interest in you on all levels and not just your business level.
They need to understand your personal side, your life, your family. Are you married? Do you have kids? All of that. In the case of Mark, one of the things that were holding him back was a family situation. Mark Timm is in his driveway and had the best day of his life in business. He’s trying to get all the fun out of himself because he’s going to walk into his house and get hammered for getting home late and all the problems of the family and not how great the business is. He had to work through that. My father was my first mentor. Your father is thinking of you on all levels. The best mentors take that kind of approach.
Would you then say that a commitment to be a mentor means that you are committing to another human being at a soul level, to connect with them in a deep way to help them across every aspect of their life? I know that you’ve done this and I’ve done it too as a mentor and have had mentors. How does it feel when someone you’ve mentored reaches the point that they only dreamed about but could never have gotten there without you?
It’s an unbelievable feeling. Zig Ziglar and you know him from the old days. I’ve got a book of his sayings and one of his amazing sayings is, “You can get everything in life that you want if you help enough other people to get what they want.” I’ve been doing this my whole life. I have an ex-wife. I’m married twice. I’m batting 500% of that category. My first wife was like, “Kevin, why do you always help these people? You don’t charge them anything. What is this about you?” I’m like, “They need help.”
I was a co-founder of the Entrepreneurs’ Organization in 1987, a nonprofit. I put money into an account with Michael Dell and Ted Leonsis and a few other people and we formed an organization to help entrepreneurs. Not only did I never get any payments back from them but I went to Europe and I went to Asia on my dime to help launch EO on a global basis. This has been my mentality of wanting to give back to the entrepreneurial community.
I’ve had one, I don’t want to mention any names, but he came to me and he was struggling and he was down. I said, “Do you know what would be good right now? You have so much experience. You should write a book.” He wrote his book. He lives in Peoria, Illinois. He’s becoming a key person of influence. He is launching his own TV show. He’s unbelievably happy with all of the things that have been happening. The juice that mentors get is seeing that success. If the mentee is not a good student, if I’m going to meet with somebody and give them all my ideas and pour my heart and soul and then a month later, “How did all that go?” “That was a great meeting we had last month. I’m going to get on that soon.” I’m like, “That’s the last meeting I’m going to have.” You got to be a good student.
Jay Abraham was that for me at one point in my life. He said to me, “You can’t not teach people what you know.” I said, “Jay, how do I do that?” He goes, “I don’t know, but you can’t keep that inside. You know too much. You have to share that.” That was the inspiration for my first book, The Invisible Organization. Mentorship to me, as you call it juice, is life itself in many ways. The feeling of helping another person, watching them grow and watching them evolve, is probably the most satisfying thing another human being can do for someone else in a professional relationship, which then becomes a personal relationship at the same time. In all my life, I’ve had 1 or 2 key mentors and I’ve been a mentor to a few people as well. It is incredibly satisfying. The last thing I want to ask you is going to be a hard question to answer. I want you to look into the future. We’re sitting here and there’s COVID and there’s all this stuff going on. What do you think the world looks like in the future?It’s going to be tough, but there will be great opportunities for those who are smart enough to focus on them. Click To Tweet
The world of virtual that we’re doing is going to be here forever. When COVID first hit, they thought by the first quarter of January, events are going to be coming back. Yes, we have sporting events but no live audiences. The world that we live in, which is coaching and helping entrepreneurs and people and marketers, we’re going to see a virtual world and more people working from their home. I’m in the business of the personal protection type of products. The sanitization products and walking through sanitization boots before you go into places and products that don’t even exist yet are being created. I’m looking at prototypes of things. It’s going to be a cleaner and healthier world.
When I first visited Japan in 1985, I jumped in a taxi and the guy has got white gloves on and a white mask. I’m like, “What’s going on here?” They understood. The world is going to have to change and people are going to have to be more careful and cautious. There will be things loosening up eventually, but it’s still going to be a little bit tight. People are still going to be a little nervous. You’re going to want to be protective of yourself, your children, and your family from others. Is COVID coming back? We don’t know what the next bounce might be.
It’s good to be planning for the fact that it’s probably going to be similar to what’s happening but probably to a lesser degree. From a business standpoint, this why I have been crushing it during the tough times because we’re working on things that are going to be helping people in the future in these areas we’ve been discussing. There are great opportunities. Let’s end it on a high note. It’s going to be tough but there’s going to be great opportunities for those who are smart enough to be able to focus on.
I’m going to add one more element. As spiritual beings, we’re evolving and COVID has accelerated that. I know there’ some turmoil. I know there’s this crazy election. I know that we have a tough year. On the other side of this, life will be better. There’s an evolution going on at a level that maybe we don’t perceive that is changing humanity in a positive way. Yes, there’ll be difficulties and downsides. On the upside, this is going to be the greatest era ever to live in.
I’m going to agree with you on that one. I’m enjoying home-cooked meals every night. It’s amazing, all the great stuff that’s going on. Let’s agree on that one. It’s going to be a great opportunity and a great world for everybody.
Kevin Harrington, it’s been such a pleasure chatting with you, seeing you, and hanging with you again. Readers, this guy is a source of incredible knowledge, skill, and information. Do whatever you can to learn from him. Go check out his new book. It is amazing. Mentor to Millions, go get it. Come to my site, YourFirstThousandClients.com. Grab it while you can. Thank you, Kevin. We’ll talk again soon.
It’s great seeing you again, buddy. Take care and be safe.
- As Seen on TV
- Kevin Harrington
- Mentor to Millions
- Tuesdays with Morrie
- Entrepreneurs’ Organization
- The Invisible Organization
- @HarringtonKevin – Twitter
- @OfficialKevinHarrington – Facebook
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