30+ Quotes from Cold Hard Truth: On Business, Money, & Life by Kevin O'Leary

282 pages

Print | eBook | Audiobook

Kevin O’Leary is a serial entrepreneur, a great storyteller, and often shares his wisdom to people who want to listen. I would recommend this book for budding entrepreneurs and people who want to learn more about being a tougher boss.

When reading this book, I was re-affirmed that I like to shift between entrepreneur/freelancer and employee. I like the safety and comfort of working for a company, but I also like the freedom and flexibility of being an entrepreneur/freelancer. Everyone is able to learn a lesson from the book, regardless if they are an employer or employee.

Below is a list of quotes from Kevin’s book.

“So what did I do to get those meetings? I picked up the phone. Let me repeat that. I. Picked. Up. The. Phone. So many entrepreneurs with great ideas get stalled at this juncture. In fact, I shouldn’t even call those types entrepreneurs. Too many great ideas die at the feet of those afraid to pick up the phone because they don’t want to face potential rejection. And trust me, if you do take the risk of reaching out to venture capitalists and prominent executives, you will be rejected. Plenty of times. That’s how entrepreneurial calluses are formed. For every ten or twenty executives who rejected my calls, there were two or three who took them. And they were the only people who mattered to me. You don’t know who these people are until you find them.” - Kevin O’Leary, Cold Hard Truth, pg. 79

“I now had shareholders who wanted to be rich along with me. Having shareholders is an incredible incentive to grow a company from a million in sales to a billion. Getting rich feels like joy. A hot burst in the heart. But when you realize you’re also able to make other people rich, that’s an almost indescribable high.” - Kevin O’Leary, Cold Hard Truth, pg. 88

“So when do you whack someone? The moment you think, ‘Hey, this one's not really working out.’ The minute the notion enters my mind that I have to fire someone, I don’t hesitate. I don’t give the person three, four, five months to improve or change. Because I’ll tell you something else that’s unpopular to admit: problematic employees never change I’ve made that mistake in the past, because gut-churning conflict is meant to be avoided. Right? Wrong. Dive right into conflict, because in the time that passes between realizing someone wrong for your company and getting rid of that cancer, it’s metastasized, spreading toxins far and wide. So I repeat: the minute you sense someone’s not going to work out, let him or her go.” - Kevin O’Leary, Cold Hard Truth, pg. 90

“At the end of the day, the ugly truth is this:
everyone is replaceable - including me, by the way.”
- Kevin O’Leary, Cold Hard Truth, pg. 91

“Because here’s the thing: in business, if you’re not growing, you're dying.” - Kevin O’Leary, Cold Hard Truth, pg. 124

“So to become wealthy, you have to create something someone else want to own.” - Kevin O’Leary, Cold Hard Truth, pg. 133

“...how you handle failure is the truest indicator of future success.” - Kevin O’Leary, Cold Hard Truth, pg. 148

“I learned to ignore my critics, because opinions hold no power or truth. They’re just opinions - which are so often uninformed - and the critical chatter died down and eventually disappeared..” - Kevin O’Leary, Cold Hard Truth, pg. 150

“As a pitcher, you have to know your numbers the way you know your name, phone number, and birthday. And if you don’t, you’re just ‘the vision guy.’” - Kevin O’Leary, Cold Hard Truth, pg. 193

“I hadn’t been paying attention to what my money managers were doing, and because those managers hadn’t been paying attention to me, they had invested against my style...the key component to a healthy investment strategy: fear. The reason you don’t put all your money in one place is that you have a healthy fear that your instincts could be wrong. It’s a brand of humility, the admission that you might have missed something, or that there are forces at play that you don’t understand and cannot know in advance.” - Kevin O’Leary, Cold Hard Truth, pg. 230

“If you want to be a successful investor, you must remain alert, curious, and in touch with what’s happening in the world on every level.” - Kevin O’Leary, Cold Hard Truth, pg. 238

“The only way to make money is to get completely honest about what money is. Think of money like gravity. It is a law, an absolute. You can argue all you want about how you feel about gravity. But when you’re hanging off a cliff, do those feelings matter?” - Kevin O’Leary, Cold Hard Truth, pg. 3

(1) Stick it out through difficulties. You don’t have to be perfect; you just have to finish.

(2) Stand up for yourself.

(3) Explain what you need, clearly.

(4) Ask questions.

(5) If you don’t understand the answer, ask for a better, clearer explanation.

- Kevin O’Leary, Cold Hard Truth, pg. 22

“I’m telling you all of this for a reason. You must discover which role suits you best: employee or employer. Being a successful employee requires continually honing a talent for diplomacy and collaboration. You’re rewarded with security and a steady salary, with fewer of the headaches from which entrepreneurs suffer. Running a successful business, on the other hand, is an all-consuming, all-encompassing venture, which totally invigorates some, totally exhausts others.” - Kevin O’Leary, Cold Hard Truth, pg. 47

“No matter how good you are at something, if you can’t make money from it, it’s a hobby and should remain so.” - Kevin O’Leary, Cold Hard Truth, pg. 59

“If you want to be an entrepreneur, know that there will be stretches of time when you will have to work for other people. But know, too, that there will come a time when you need to leave the nest. Here is what I suggest: give yourself a time limit as to how long you’ll work for others. For me, the knowledge of a looming deadline came swifty, almost on my first day, when I felt a general sense of unease, as though the work culture itself didn’t suit me. You must set your own deadlines. Will you quit ager you’ve made a certain amount of money? After you’ve amassed a number of months, or year,s of experience? After reaching a certain job level? After making a certain number of contacts? After learning everything you can about the industry? Only you can decide what those deadlines are. Meanwhile, as you do your job, and do it well, gether everything shiny and useful and bring it back to your nest. (I’m not talking about stealing office supplies - you should get whacked for that. I’m talking about gathering skills, learning how an industry works, and figuring out what kind of team you’ll need around you when the time comes to yo out on your own.)” - Kevin O’Leary, Cold Hard Truth, pg. 67

“He [Don Cherry] abided by a few golden roles of television:
1) Never be boring.
2) Never be small - make every gesture big, dramatic, and bold.
3) Always be the antagonist, not the protagonist - being the good guy’s not interesting.
4) Always, always get the first and last words.”
- Kevin O’Leary, Cold Hard Truth, pg. 72

“Buried in Gerry’s buyout was another key lesson in business: if a company wants to buy yours, sell it, because their optimism often exceeds yours. That means they’re willing to pay more than what the company’s worth.” - Kevin O’Leary, Cold Hard Truth, pg. 73

“Licensing your idea to established companies to manufacture it is a beautiful business model - one I recommend all the time on Dragons’ Den. Why bother with the headache of not only making your product but then distributing and marketing it has well? This presumes that your company has top-notch expertise in everything, and so often, that’s not the case. Let an established business take what you’ve invented and put it through their manufacturing and distribution channels. Still, so many entrepreneurs remain unwilling to take a small fee in exchange for massive distribution. They balk at the idea, thinking they’re being told their product is only worth pennies, forgetting that those pennies can quickly multiply into millions. They remain intent on manufacturing their beloved invention themselves, no realizing they’ll have to elbow their way into the same distribution channels as their competitors. After that, they’ll have to fight for shelf space, if they even get any. Then comes the most expensive bottom line, jeopardizing its ability to continue to manufacture the product, let alone develop new ones. Not licensing your product is often a tragic business decision that can lead to a lot of casualties.” - Kevin O’Leary, Cold Hard Truth, pg. 80

“I look back at that starving phase of our SoftKey start-up with a lot of fondness, despite the fact that my day-to-day life was intensely focused and mostly fuelled by adrenaline and fear. When you’re broke, you have to make vital decisions, decisions about which limb you really need When you walk through the office, you start to see it through a very different lens. You begin asking questions that hadn’t seemed so obvious weeks or months earlier, such as: Do we really need that guy? What does she do at that desk all day? How much am I paying her? Why? Can I find someone to do that job better and cheaper? WHich office supplies are really necessary? Can’t people buy their own pens? Can’t we water our own plants? Why the hell do we even need plants? If you want shade or oxygen, go sit in the park!

When the stakes are high, you have to become ruthless about the bottom line - for your sake and for your employees’ sake. When you’re teetering on bankruptcy, you’re never more clear eyed about cutting and trimming, hiring, and firing. But that’s when you really come to understand the value of money, its flow in and out, where it thrives and where it disappears. Scarcity of cash is a great teacher.” - Kevin O’Leary, Cold Hard Truth, pg. 86 - 87

“Now I realize that very few people who are there in the beginning are going to be there are the end. I’ve already learned that if they’re not going to work out, there’s nothing you can do to fix it. The corporation’s culture will emerge on its own, and the people who stick will settle into that culture naturally or will adjust to make themselves fit that culture. Anyone who fights against the company will eventually leave or get whacked. And though it’s controversial to say this, it doesn’t really matter who you hire in the beginning - most of them are going to leave or get whacked anyway.” - Kevin O’Leary, Cold Hard Truth, pg. 90

“Who do I fire? The underperformers, the complainers, the players, the posers, the ones who infect otherwise healthy environments with their arrogance or their negative attitude or outlook. I get rid of them. I keep the process simple and respectful.” - Kevin O’Leary, Cold Hard Truth, pg. 90

“...here’s another thing I’ve learned: if you want to buy a company, don’t talk to the president or CEO. He or she is often just an employee. Go straight to the shareholders and dangle big bucks in front of their faces.” - Kevin O’Leary, Cold Hard Truth, pg. 118

“But here’s the truth: I knew that if I panicked, they’d panic. If I didn’t face the facts, how could they? If I obsessed about what couldn’t be changed, so would they - and that could be deadly in an already volatile environment. In corporations, panic produces a kind of rigidity that kills the vital senses required to correct mistakes, regroup, and conquer. Never panic.” - Kevin O’Leary, Cold Hard Truth, pg. 126

“That’s when I realized I was Employee Number 67008. Here’s what I think of as one of the worst mistakes a CEO can make: alienating the very people charged with helping the company grow. Apart from the obvious management differences we encountered post-merger, there was also a serious culture clash between TLC’s and MAttel’s working styles.”- Kevin O’Leary, Cold Hard Truth, pg. 139

“During that period, I became aware that whatever I paid attention to grew. If I focused on the bad news nd the awful aftermath, it seemed that the whole world was pointing its finger at me. If I focused on the amazing company we had created, I began to trust that I could do it again. I just had to brush myself off and get back on that entrepreneurial horse. I also had to remind myself that TLC has been the seller, not the buyr. The basic rule of mergers and acquisitions is this: once you sell a company, it’s the buyer’s to profit from or screw up. As the seller, my job was to maximize value for my shareholders. I had done my job.” - Kevin O’Leary, Cold Hard Truth, pg. 150

“Here are the types of questions you’re likely to face on Dragon’s Den and in the real world of venture capitalism:

- What would you do if things went wrong?

- What would you do if your market share suddenly slipped?

- How much does it cost to advertise your particular gadget/business/service?

- How much inventory do you have to build?

- Do you plan to franchise, or can you license the concept? Do you understand the difference?

- What were the margins in the first year? Second year? Third?

- What were your profits in the first year? Second year? Third?

- How much capital do you require? Where would you deploy it effectively?

- How flexible is your manufacturing plan? Any resistance to taking it overseas? And if so, why?” - Kevin O’Leary, Cold Hard Truth, pg. 192

The single biggest mistake entrepreneurs make when they come to me for my money is not knowing their numbers. What do I mean by numbers? Here are just a few that you should know like your own name:

- What are your gross margins?

- What percentage of the market do you have to capture to break even?

- I’ll assume you know your profits, but what profits have your competitors generated?

- Where is it cheaper to produce your product?

- How much are your retail listing fees?

- Will those fees likely go up or down?

- How much interest is on your debt?

- How much debt are you in to begin with? (You’d be surprised how many people don’t know this number.)

- What percentage of the company is yours?” - Kevin O’Leary, Cold Hard Truth, pg. 193

“Why do people overvalue their companies? They have access to the same metrics as an entrepreneur. I think they lose all sense of proportion because they’ve been locked in a basement with an idea for too long. Like Dr. Frankenstein, they’ve fallen in love with their monster, making it impossible to see its flaws and defects. - Kevin O’Leary, Cold Hard Truth, pg. 194

“Make no mistake: if you have a Facebook account, a MySpace page, a Twitter profile, you are a brand. Everytime you upload a photo, and a link, or post an update, you’re putting into the world another idea of yourself and what you stand for. These are innovations built to harness an innate quest for fame, marketing, and promotion, even among your own circle of friends.” - Kevin O’Leary, Cold Hard Truth, pg. 223

“Entrepreneurs do something governments can’t do: we inspire the next generation of wealth builders. The pursuit of wealth is fascinating to watch. Shows like Dragon’s Den and Shark Tank demonstrate again and again the power of money and the freedom it affords. When money flows toward a good idea, everyone feels it - the venture capitalists, the entrepreneurs, the viewers and the consumer. That’s the power of money.” - Kevin O’Leary, Cold Hard Truth, pg. 242