Saturday, November 2, 2013

A Lesson in Authenticity from Tree T-Pee

Last night I watched Shark Tank and live tweet (while cooking dinner) and the final pitch was probably one of the best and most emotional ones I've seen on there.

It was Johnny Georges, the owner of a company/product called Tree T-Pee. It's an irrigation system for farmers that helps them lower the amount they spend on water and protects the trees. It can save around 24,200 gallons of water a year.

The best way I can describe Mr. Georges is as a country man who just wants to do the right thing and help people. While I watched his pitch and I watched them ask questions, I realized that almost everything I thought I knew about being true to yourself or "authentic" can probably be tossed out the window.

He knew his product. He had answers for their questions and explained why he had a winning idea. He told a story about how he gave away 5 of his Tree T-Pees away to a woman who was initially reluctant because he was trespassing on her land. Soon after he left the products on her trees and she had a chance to actually see them in action, she called to place a rather large order.

Johnny makes these products himself. He doesn't have a large distribution involved. He is only selling in a 5 county area in the state of Florida because that's where he lives and I gathered from what he said, he's doing everything personally. He has a patent on his product and they last roughly 5 years, although he said the oldest one out there was made by his father in 1984.

It costs him $2.95 to make them. He's made 126,500 of them and he sells them for an average of $4.50 each. He makes $1.00 profit off each one he sells. That's when the rubber hit the road - when the sharks started asking him about distribution and taking the product outside of Florida, he looked a little baffled. He's clearly not a greedy man and Kevin O'Leary didn't understand that concept at all. Mr. O'Leary wanted Mr. Georges to go bigger, get distribution and raise the cost significantly.

Mr. Georges held his ground. He doesn't do this for the money. He does this for the farmers. It's something he holds dear to his heart and he believes in. He said he's always tried to be right and do the right thing.

In the end, John Paul DeJoria, a guest judge on the show, decided to give Mr. Georges exactly what he asked for because he firmly believed in Mr. Georges character and what he was doing. Everyone else was out for profit (rightfully so, because that's what the show is about). Sometimes, some of the other sharks have done the same and given money to people who are looking to just do something good.

I was reminded of quite a few important things during this presentation and deal:

  • You don't have to be who people want you to be in order to be successful. Your definition of success is a personal one.
  • When you do the right thing, all the time, it pays off in the end. Mr. Georges got exactly what he needed for his business.
  • You don't have to ask for or take more than you need.
  • Charging your customers/clients a fortune is one way to get to your goal, but it's not the only way and it's definitely not the best way. If Mr. Georges priced his product unreasonably, his customers wouldn't be ordering 5000 or 10000 at a time.
  • ALWAYS be yourself.