Kevin Harrington is probably best known for being one of the original “Sharks” on the hit TV show Shark Tank! In 1984, Kevin produced one of the industry’s first 30 minute infomercials. Since then Kevin has been involved with over 500 product launches with sales of over $4 billion worldwide. Kevin Harrington is widely acknowledged as a pioneer and principal architect of the infomercial industry. Listen in as Kevin gives us the most profound advice he received from his mentors and how it changed his business and his life!
-how Kevin’s empire started with a simple idea!
-the one thing that Richard Brunson said to him that changed everything!
-the most important thing that every entrepreneur needs to do to leverage their time and scale their business!
Kevin Harrington, chairman and founder of TVGoods, Inc., is widely acknowledged as a pioneer and principal architect of the infomercial industry. Kevin founded Quantum International, Ltd. in the mid 1980s, which merged into National Media Corporation in 1991. Under his leadership as President, National Media reached $500 million in annual sales, distributing in over 100 countries and 20 languages.
This company’s success has been chronicled in a case study at Harvard/MIT for over a decade. Kevin was also CEO of several other entrepreneurial companies including HSN Direct, a joint venture with Home Shopping Network, in 1994 and Reliant International Media in 1997. He recently released a book entitled “Act Now: How I Turn Ideas into Million-Dollar Products” that chronicles his life and experiences in the DRTV industry.
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Kevin Harrington Podcast Transcript
[00:11:05] Kris Ward: Hey everyone. Welcome to the show. I am your host, Chris ward. And this is when the hour when the day. And I’m not kidding. You stop what you’re doing. Pay full attention because we have a guest. I mean, I’m not, Oh my gosh, she’s got so much. He could teach us. I would like to know if I knew what he’s forgotten.
[00:11:21] I’d be thrilled. So these specials. The special guests that we have is Kevin Harrington. And you probably know him best if, you know, from the shark tank, original shark. But really if you don’t know this about him, this is, this is a really super exciting as part Kevin Harrington, chairman and founder of TV goods incorporated is widely acknowledged as a pioneer and principal architect of the infomercial industry.
[00:11:47] In 1984, Kevin produced one of the industry’s first 30 minute infomercials. And since then has been involved with. 500 product launches that resulted in over 4 billion worldwide sales with 20 products that individually reached a hundred million each we are beyond excited to have you here at the show.
[00:12:07] Kevin Harrington: Welcome. Thank you. Wow, that’s that very nice introduction. Thank you. Thank you. We’re going to have fun today.
[00:12:14] Kris Ward: We are going to have fun and I’m going to let you do most of the talking, even though we pride ourselves on being a very conversational podcast, but your latest book, a mentor to millions boy.
[00:12:25] Oh boy. There’s so much you can talk about. And I’ve had the ultimate pleasure of running into a couple of times in intimate settings where I really got to learn some of your. Experiences and tricks of the trade. And as I’ve mentioned to you in the past, you know, we try really hard to look at every business example and pull from it and pull from the fabrics and, and learn a lesson.
[00:12:44] But you do such a phenomenal job of making these lessons totally relatable. So, you know, maybe you could start with that, that turning point in your life when you know, what do you do with the SCTV on part when you know, and I believe that’s in the book, mentors to millions. Which, you know, we, we don’t want to date the show, but it’s, it’s a budding success right now and I’m waiting for mine to land.
[00:13:08] So take us there.
[00:13:10] Kevin Harrington: Okay. So I’m going to do a one minute run before that, that big decision I had to make. So just to people to understand me on one of six kids grew up in Cincinnati, Ohio. My dad was a bartender, but when I was 11 years old, he said, Kevin, I’ve saved up enough money to open my own place. And so he opened Harrington’s Irish pub and I started at 11 years old working inside his umbrella, but I wasn’t just washing dishes, serving food.
[00:13:42] He had me counting the money at the end of the day. Learning the operations of the restaurant business. So I say, my dad was my first mentor and I had a business. Then he’d mentored me to open a business in high school. And then I had a full time business in college. I had 25 employees. We were doing over a million a year in sales, and this was back in the seventies.
[00:14:05] So I had to quit school, but make a long story short. One night I had ordered cable TV, and I was a successful entrepreneur and had a new home and new cable. And I looked at all 30 channels. That I just ordered and ESPN and HBO and CNN, 24 hours of news, I got to the last channel, it was discovery channel and there was nothing on.
[00:14:29] So I called the cable company and I said, Hey, I love this cable. I’m getting 29 channels. But I’m paying for 30. And they said, Oh, discovery is only an 18 hour a day channel. There’s nothing on there. Six hours a day. And I said, well, Oh my God, can I fill that out airtime? And maybe we work together if they’re on something.
[00:14:49] And they said, if you’ve got something that can, that you’re willing to try and generate some revenues, let’s try it. So I said, okay, great. Went down, signed a deal. And we started putting products on discovery. This is back in the early eighties. So we pioneered what is today? The infomercial business Diaz, Siemens TV industry.
[00:15:09] I started as CNN TV, inc, as semen T the.com. And here I was all of a sudden I’ve got Jack Lululemon, the juicer, Tony little, and the fitness products and Billy Mays, George Foreman, all these amazing celebrities and have it. We were doing hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars and it was great. But there’s things that happen, Christian, you know, because you’ve heard my story.
[00:15:35] So this is the question I think you were asking. I had built this business up to 500 million a year in sales. This was a very Pat we’re a public company. Stock went from a dollar, a share to $20 and I’m wheeling and dealing. We’re doing 50 infomercials a year, but I started seeing something happening.
[00:15:57] Television viewership was dropping precipitously. It was dropping to the point where if you look today, it’s dropped percent since then years ago. I mean, this is an, this is like disruption. So here I was. As seen on TV guy, I don’t see the TV inc. As she had tv.com. I saw my sales dropping every single week.
[00:16:25] It was just going like this. A couple of things, number one, the viewership. But secondly, Amazon had also come into the market and they were going after similar type products, et cetera. So, so I had two big things hitting me. Now. I reached out to mentors in my life and this again, I wrote the book mentor to millions.
[00:16:47] Because I’ve had amazing mentors in my life. And when I started talking to, I reached out, I mean, I’ve had Zig Ziglar, Richard Branson, Tony Robbins, Russell Brunson, Russell Brunson said, Kevin. TV is the old news way, man. And he said, you know, you’ve got to be in, into digital it’s Facebook, it’s Instagram, it’s YouTube.
[00:17:11] It’s this it’s that. And this is almost 10 years ago, but I listened. And then I took action and I actually ended up deciding, I said, you know, I can see it happening. I have a saying know when to hold them, know when to fold them. I decided to sell it all. I sold as seen a TV as seen the tv.com. And boy I’ve made a lot of money in the process.
[00:17:35] I mean, I got way more than, than I had invested in these assets. Like, I mean, hundreds of times more than they put into it. Okay. And at the end of the day, I now shifted gears and this is like eight, nine years ago. Shifted gears. Totally into digital marketing funnels, building funnels, running on social media, using social media influencers, micro influencers changed my model.
[00:18:05] And now we launched products and businesses and public companies and all of the above, we, we we’d launched. Typically, we start in a digital fashion. I no longer have, I don’t, I don’t have the, I mean, we used to spend a million plus dollars a week in television airtime day, probably. I mean, if I is less than $10,000 a week, it’s just because we’ve shifted over.
[00:18:33] So, I mean, I think that. We all get to these pivots situations. And for me, this was a major pivot. The good news is what I sold. It was perfect timing because it’s never been as powerful if it was when I had it. And now our business is so strong when we launched products. It’s just, it’s just amazing. So I owe it to the mentors that I talked to at the right time.
[00:19:00] To get me out of an industry that was on its way down into something new and exciting. And that’s, that’s what it’s, that’s why we all have mentors, Chris.
[00:19:09] Kris Ward: Yeah. But it’s also about listening to them because you know, you probably have a lot of. Emotional investment that your ego can get into the way. And like, Oh my gosh, I built this up and I did this and I did that.
[00:19:19] Right. So you gotta be able to listen to it.
[00:19:21] Kevin Harrington: It was tough. Yeah. I mean, cause I was telling people I’m going to sell as seen on tv.com. This was the site that was just, I didn’t have to do any advertising there. It was just, it was organic. And we were doing tens of millions of dollars in sales with a website.
[00:19:37] With no costs. I mean, this is the thing the profits were there. That’s why we had to sell it when we had to sell it, because I didn’t want to wait until there were no profits. And then you had an, a depleted asset, right?
[00:19:52] Kris Ward: Yeah. Did you feel at any point, like, you know, that was so tied into your identity?
[00:19:56] Okay. Well, what’s next because now you’re letting go of something, but you haven’t got the new road paved yet. So it’s a much bigger game than myself, right? Listeners they’re playing with, but it’s still, you’re still a human and there’s still that, ah, letting go and diving into something new.
[00:20:11] Kevin Harrington: The good news is we started right off the bat, hitting some really good home runs in the digital world.
[00:20:19] With some of our products not using any television at all. For example, like here, here’s an item, a guy brought me and he said, this is, you know, I’ve had 20 plus products that have done a hundred million. He said, this is going to be your next one. And I’m like, what the heck is it? It’s an eyeglass cleaner.
[00:20:36] And so it’s, this is this clean, the little brush comes out and cleans both sides. And then this is a double sided carbon cleaning system that cleans both sides of your glasses. And it’s just, it’s just that simple and it cleans itself, electrostatically. Boom, just like that. It’s clean. Ready to go. So this product, we, we, this was a transitional item.
[00:21:01] We tried an FC, no TV, commercial. It bombed. We did, we did digital versions for Facebook and Instagram and change the way we did it. And it was so successful. This became a hundred million dollar success. And now it’s, it’s in Walmart. It’s in target, tickle stores all around the world. It’s a very successful item and it’s because we were able to make the digital aspects work.
[00:21:30] Whereas the esteem and TV. Did not. So, I mean, we now have been doing this for dozens and dozens and dozens of products for the last eight years. And, um, and so, you know, I mean, at the end of the day, some people don’t even know that I sold it all now know, like I sold it. Yeah. W, you know, we put out a press release, but people still think I’m the product guy, which I am, and I still get product flow.
[00:21:58] So it still works to my benefit.
[00:22:01] Kris Ward: Really? It’s you kept the game, you changed the play. You’re like, okay, this we’re still going to do this. We’re just going to do it. And in a different way, we’re going to change the play. And you’re so right. It doesn’t matter that you sold it. Like people, you know, do most people should know by now Jack Canfield sold chicken soup for the soul, but who cares?
[00:22:15] You know, you still want him to be speaking at your event, right? So, okay. You have been blessed with some crazy phenomenal mentors throw with some pearls of wisdom that you think my gosh, like that was just, that was just like, people should know this.
[00:22:31] Kevin Harrington: So I, I went down to, um, Necker Island and Richard Branson invited me down, hang out for a couple of days and I was going to get, you know, sit with him one-on-one and so I’m sitting there talking to Branson and.
[00:22:45] It was very interesting. We’re talking about different things and some projects that I’m involved with. And then, and I, and I said, Richard, I said, you know, this has seen the TV business. You know, I’m doing this transition right now. And he said, Kevin, he said, I’ve been following that. I, you know, I watched some of these, these, the Jacqueline Elaine’s and the George foreman’s and the Tony little, and I know that you’re involved with those guys.
[00:23:07] He said, but let me just ask you like that Billy Mays guy, like, okay, where did you get him? How did you create it? What happened? You build an amazing brand. The same thing with Tony. And I said, yeah, he said, I met Billy Mays at the Philadelphia home show. We brought him into, started doing infomercials. Boom.
[00:23:27] He’s now. Famous. And of course he’s now passed away, but God bless. But Tony little was a bodybuilder. We created this amazing brand worth over a billion dollars. And then, so then branch had said, but guess what you didn’t do? And I said, what didn’t I do? He said, you never built your own brand. And Whoa. So that was the, that was the golden takeaway.
[00:23:50] He said, you need books, you need content. You need, you know, you gotta go home. And so I went home. A book of mine that I was just ready to go with was ready to launch. And Richard Branson said, yes, that’s going to be perfect timing. And so I, when I, when I launched the book, I did all just like done recently podcast.
[00:24:14] I did radio shows, et cetera. Well, as I was out doing all of that publicity who was watching. Mark Burnett from shark tank. That’s why I got the phone call. So mentor says, go start creating content, start writing books, start shooting videos, start building your brand. As I did that. Mark Burnett is seeing it saying, I want this guy to be a shark.
[00:24:40] So you just never know who’s watching at the right time. Cause my profile was betting being raised during this time enough that I got the attention of Mark Burnett. So that’s, I have to say, say your mentors have led to great things. But it’s also, you have to take action. And that’s one of the biggest challenges I think that some people run into is they’ve got a great idea.
[00:25:08] Start a business, they talk about it and they even maybe start trying to raise some money or something, but then, Oh, no. I can’t do that and they just stop. And then
[00:25:18] Kris Ward: business is different. You don’t understand there’s stuff. Couple of really powerful things in there. I want to unpack there. One is like, it’s the same game.
[00:25:25] So when you’re sitting here, you know, listeners and you think I got to produce content on Facebook and everyone’s telling you to do that, my gosh. So you’re just, you know, you’re dealing with whether it says semi-pros or the NFL, or you’re the local college, you’re still in the same game. You have to produce content just like we do.
[00:25:41] So it’s like, Oh my gosh, the rules don’t change just that the denominator of money does. And when you were telling that the story, it also made me think of, I remember when Billy Mays died and I remember thinking, Oh my gosh, It was such a hit because like you w you wanted to find an excuse to buy the stuff he was selling.
[00:25:58] He was so good. Like, I don’t have a car, but maybe I should find that in case it catches on fire. Right. You’re right. Not only did you not have your own brand, but you lost somebody very young that you didn’t expect, like that lends itself again to what mr. Branson said.
[00:26:14] Kevin Harrington: Yeah, for sure thing is, think about it this way.
[00:26:17] I’m in the business here. I mentioned this product. I’m in the business of selling this to people that are out there and I, you can call them eyeballs. Okay. So where are the eyeballs? Well, they used to be on TV. And 60% of them now, or on Facebook, Instagram and YouTube, and these other places. This is so follow the eyeballs.
[00:26:38] It’s a simple thing, but it’s not the simple when you’re living it and you’re in the middle of it and you’ve got overheads and you’ve got people and you’ve got employees and you’re like, wait a minute, I’ve got hundreds of employees and I don’t want to be doing this anymore because it’s, the landscape is shifting.
[00:26:56] And so that’s why I said, Sell it, no one to hold them, know when to fold them. I was a business broker one time in my life. So I’ve sold thousands of books, businesses over the years, small ones, large ones, big ones, public companies, small companies, whatever. But I said now is the time and it was great timing.
[00:27:14] And now I sit with an amazing staff, but it’s, we have a virtual business now. I’ve got virtual. I got people in New York. I got people in LA people in Chicago, people in Houston. I’m in st. Pete Florida. We run a virtual operation. It’s amazing how nice and lean and mean it is. And in this virtual world,
[00:27:35] Kris Ward: you probably have no idea.
[00:27:37] You know, the mentorship that you’re giving to people. Because as I said to you, before we even started the call, like some of the messaging that, you know, I’ve had the luxury of hearing from you, it’s been hugely profound, just like it is today where, you know, the fundamentals are the exact same. And that’s what I found.
[00:27:53] So powerful learning from you is. They’re the same, the dollar amount changes to players may change. It’s the same game, no matter what level you’re at, it’s just bigger numbers. And that is such a profound message where we all run around and think, Oh, my story is different. This is different. And it’s just really impossible.
[00:28:09] Cause I think at this point is your brand grows. You have no idea the lives you’re impacting. If I can speak for, you know, just even myself. So yeah. Awesome stuff. You, you are a man with a lot on the go. So we’ve got a few minutes left. Tell us one last thing that you think, you know, what, what was a profound lesson that you’d love to pass on?
[00:28:26] Kevin Harrington: So when, when I’m I run through airports before COVID last year, I was on the road 225 days this year. Okay. So it’s a little bit different, right? I’m sure for you too. And many that, you know, we’re just not. Jumping on planes like we used to. Right. It’s and I mean, maybe not for a while that the industry is going to be different than it was, but the bottom line is I’m running to an airport and someone stops, Hey, you’re that guy from shark tank.
[00:28:52] Give me one tip that I can take as a young entrepreneur, one thing to take away. And so I’ve got a whittled, my thing, my ideas and advice. If I get, if someone says, give me just one idea, this is kind of what I said. And, and I have been through ups and downs. I, I don’t think I talked about how I used the finance mentor is that I just want to make sure because I do podcast all day.
[00:29:20] So I haven’t told you about how a mentor that helped me raise capital. Right? So he was a former bank president. And had been turned down by five banks. I brought them on as a mentor and within a few months he raised $3 million and boom, and he didn’t charge me anything. It was like, I’m going to do this for you because you deserve it.
[00:29:41] You’ve got a great business. And if you want to bring me on in some fashion, After I bring you the money we can talk, but that is so, so my, my point of all of this is, is that I, in the early days of being an entrepreneur, I ran business a little more egotistically thinking, Oh, I can do it all. I, I quit college.
[00:30:02] I’m running this business. I don’t, I can sell and I can do this and I can do that. But the reality is my skillsets stopped after really marketing and sales. I didn’t have operational skillsets, financial skillset, even things as simple as, you know, ledgers and, and financial statements. I mean, I could read them cause I was, you know, um, I’ve been schooled, um, three years of college, but the bottom line is I needed help and this is the message.
[00:30:32] The message is if you’re an entrepreneur and you’re a first time entrepreneur surround yourself with an amazing dream team, dream team of whether they be a combination of employees, coaches, mentors, whatever you can afford, because I’m not telling you, Oh, people say, Oh, how do you go? We’ll get the dream team.
[00:30:51] If you don’t have a lot of capital, I can, I can show you how to get mentors. And coaches that will work for you until things are happening. And then there’s rewards that can be shared at that point. So some mentors don’t charge anything. Others want to have some kind of upside if they’re going to spend it your time and, and hopefully you get good ones that are looking out for you and your business along the way entirely because there’s, there’s a code of ethics in the world of mentorship and you have a fiduciary responsibility to take the client’s interest at heart. And as your responsibility. Do not to take advantage and not to try to make this a big deal for yourself.
[00:31:40] So I say, get the right dream team. Focus on the people that have strengths that support you and your strengths. And for me, I was great at marketing and sales, hold on finance people and legal and operations. And that surrounded me with the dream team of experts. And now we were able to grow, go grow the business.
[00:32:01] Kris Ward: Well, mine haven’t, you are preaching to the choir because we call it your wind team. Your what is next team? So you can get to your, what is next? What is next? And you, mr. Harrington, I could write a book of what I’ve learned from you, and I’ve been very blessed. It’s had a deep and profound impact on how I view business.
[00:32:14] So you are a man in demand. I will not keep you. I know you have to hop on another call, but I cannot thank you enough. And let’s take a look at your latest book, mentor to millions. Oh my gosh. You must. Get it. It’s gold. You must get it.
[00:32:30] Kevin Harrington: I have one really cool thing for you. If they go to Kevin mentor.com, they can buy the book at 17 bucks, but they also, through that site, they’ll get a free mentoring
[00:32:45] Kris Ward: truckload of goodies.
[00:32:46] You got to check it out. There’s a truckload
[00:32:48] Kevin Harrington: of goodies, other bonuses too. So yeah,
[00:32:50] Kris Ward: absolutely.
[00:32:52] Kevin Harrington: Thank
[00:32:52] Kris Ward: you, mr. Harrington, we really appreciate your time. Your energy. Go have an amazing day and just keep taking over the world with your goodness and smartness. Thank you so much.
[00:33:00] Kevin Harrington: Thank you. Thanks. Thanks. Bye.
[00:33:02] Bye. Bye.