'Shark Tank' star Lori Greiner's 5 major rules for becoming a successful inventor

'Shark Tank': Success Story: Lori's All-Stars

The prolific inventor and multimillionaire investor shares her secrets to success.

I had the opportunity to interview prolific inventor and multimillionaire investor Lori Greiner. You probably know her from the wildly popular ABC show Shark Tank. But what you probably don't know about her is that outside of being fun to watch, she packs some serious credentials -- including having over 500 inventions and 120 patents to her name.

Lori wasn't born a successful inventor. Nobody taught her how to be an entrepreneur. It all started 17 years ago with a simple idea for an interesting jewelry box. Now, she has an estimated net worth over $100 million from all of her creations. And she's just getting started.

I learned a few crucial lessons while interviewing her.

1. There are two types of inventors.

As she astutely observes, there are two types of inventors: the Margaret Mitchells of the world, who create one "master work," and the serial inventors, who relish the thrill of coming up with a new idea and breathing life into it. Obviously, Greiner is the latter.

You must decide. Which one are you?

2. Don't be selfish with your idea.

No matter which type of inventor you are, you must seek out constant feedback.

It's no surprise that it's "easier" to do well with an idea that you're passionate about, because the passion will help you forge ahead when times get tough.

That's why passion is important. It's not because you'll be constantly happy--it's because you'll be more likely to keep going when it gets hard.

That said, you have to be open to feedback about your idea. "Don't fall in love with your idea to the point that you don't listen to feedback," Lori says. You can't block out what other people say--what your potential customers are saying--just because you're "so passionate" about your idea.

Maybe your product or service isn't quite what your customers want. Business is business and sometimes you'll need to pivot your idea to match demand. Are you going to be stubborn or savvy? Be passionate about doing great work, not about one idea.

3. "It just takes one idea."

Many people have lots of great ideas that don't work out. And that's OK. You don't need all of your ideas to work out. You just need one idea to take off.

BUT, here's the catch-22: To know what your million dollar idea is, you need to come up with a lot of ideas. That means you need to test and experiment what does and doesn't work. The best idea in your head might not what be what consumers are looking for. That means you can't be wedded to just one idea. You have to be comfortable with failing and moving on.

Do you think someone who's helped launch more than 400 products and holds 120 U.S. and international patents is wedded to just one idea? And for all her successes, Lori has a lot more failures and mistakes. She uncovered the winners only by trying.

4. The concept of "extreme DIY."

Obvious but not always intuitive. Simply put, beginning inventors and entrepreneurs need to learn every facet of their craft and their business firsthand to make the pivotal decisions. Read her latest book to find out why even after her first product was seeing success, she had to create over 20,000 pieces of jewelry by hand for her in-store displays. There are no secrets here. You have to put in the hours.

5. Do whatever it takes.

"Entrepreneurs are the only people who will work 80 hours a week to avoid working 40 hours a week," according to Lori.

Being your own boss is much harder work than working for someone else. But if it's in you, if it's who you are--you almost don't have a choice. You're willing to work 80 hours on your idea because it's actually "easier" than working 40 hours on someone else's idea.

When Greiner started out, she had to go to the library to find a list of every retailer in the country, because there was no Google then.

Can you imagine having no Google now? What would you even do? How would you ever find out anything?

That's the situation Greiner was in. But she figured it out anyway. Because figuring it out was "easier" than giving in and working for someone else.

How far are you willing to go for your idea?

"A true entrepreneur does whatever it takes. That's the bottom line."


Are you a true entrepreneur?

Are you doing whatever it takes?

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