How to Learn About Business by Watching TV

posted by LindsaySatmary May 14, 2014

Like many people, you have probably heard how important it is to go to college after high school in order to get a decent job. And for many years, that made complete sense. Over the past years, however, changes in our economy have inspired an “Entrepreneur Culture.”  Instead of years at college studying to learn things that set individuals up for years of student load debt, people are starting to learn new skills and trades independently setting them up to find success in their own dreams rather than working to build someone else’s dreams as an employee. Among the many resources available to entrepreneurs from books, the Internet, seminars, and other sources, entrepreneurs now have several TV shows that can be helpful in learning about the business world. Whoever said TV was a waste of time?! Here are a few of my favorite TV shows that are ideal for entrepreneurs and businessmen/women alike who are interested in learning more about business, branding, project management, client acquisition, and more!


1. Shark Tank

Barbara Corcoran Daymond JohnThe critically-acclaimed business-themed show, features five out of six “Shark” investors —tough, self-made, multimillionaire and billionaire tycoons: Billionaire Mark Cuban, owner and chairman of AXS TV and outspoken owner of the 2011 NBA championship Dallas Mavericks; real estate mogul Barbara Corcoran; Fashion and branding expert, Daymond John; technology innovator, Robert Herjavec; venture capitalist, Kevin O’Leary; and “Queen of QVC” Lori Greiner. Each week, entrepreneurs, inventors, and business owners have a chance to pitch the Sharks their idea, product, or business and convince them to invest their own money to grow or save their business.

Shark Tank is a picture perfect show of the ultimate American Dream with enough drama and craziness to keep you entertained. If you pay close attention, there are some great pieces of advice from people who definitely know what they are talking about. This is one of my favorite shows and I especially enjoy the Updates that fast forward and share how some of the Entrepreneurs are doing after getting (or not getting) a deal and how many of them have gone from working in their homes to million-dollar sales with new fulfillment centers and the ability to hire employees.

Daymond John Barbara Corcoran


2. The Profit

Marcus LemonisWhen Marcus Lemonis isn’t running his multi-billion dollar company, Camping World, he goes on the hunt for struggling businesses that are desperate for cash and ripe for a deal. In the past 10 years, he’s successfully turned around over 100 companies. Now he’s bringing those skills to CNBC and doing something no one has ever done on TV before … he’s putting millions of dollars of his own money on the line. In each episode, Lemonis makes an offer that’s impossible to refuse; his cash for a piece of the business and a percentage of the profits. And once inside these companies, he’ll do almost anything to save the business and make himself a profit; even if it means firing the president, promoting the secretary or doing the work himself.

Although this is a relatively new show, it’s definitely up to par with Shark Tank. The only difference is this show profiles a single business in each episode. Each business has been established and a member of the business has reached out to Lemonis out of pure desperation after problems with finances, operations, sales, etc. While it’s obvious that Marcus knows and means business, I find myself in complete amazement by the behavior and actions of some of the business owners. I don’t understand how someone can grow a million-dollar business with such little business knowledge, even basic record keeping. While I’ve felt that some business owners were completely undeserving, some have really just needed some help. There have even been people who ended up with nothing after being unwilling to cooperate. It’s refreshing to see a show that tells it like it is, even when the deal doesn’t go through. I feel like it’s closer to reality because sometimes that’s exactly how things are: people’s attitudes and actions cause them to miss out on opportunities.

Marcus Lemonis

3. Restaurant Impossible

Food NetworkTurning around a failing restaurant is a daunting challenge under the best of circumstances. Attempting to do it in just two days with only $10,000 may be impossible. But Chef Robert Irvine is ready to take on the challenge. He’ll channel MacGyver and use a lot of muscle to rescue these desperate places from complete collapse. Can one man, in two days, with just $10,000, turn the tide of a failing restaurant and pave the road to a successful future? Find out as Robert Irvine takes on Restaurant: Impossible.

My husband and I really enjoy this show. It combines business knowledge, branding, marketing, customer service, and remodeling which are all topics that are relevant to today’s business world. It’s awesome to see a business completely transform in one episode. I know the restaurant industry is very competitive, so seeing a business get rescued is inspirational. At the end of the day, they all have their families to think of. Shows like this help teach what not to do in business and things that can hold a business back from succeeding. If you pay attention, you can learn a few things.

Food Network

4. Hotel Impossible

Hotel ImpossibleCompetition is fierce in the hotel business. Online review sites can kill a business’ reputation with one bad review. Staffs are untrained, surly or apathetic in a profession that lives or dies on service. So what’s a struggling hotel operator to do? Bring in Anthony Melchiorri, a hotel “fixer,” who can turn any establishment around in weeks … and he does just that in Hotel Impossible.

Melchiorri’s tough-love style can be hard to swallow and overhauling a business is a painful and often emotional task, but the potential reward of a fully booked hotel with excellent customer reviews makes it all worth it.
Each episode features a hotel that is having problems or is not living up to it’s potential. Melchiorri secretly scouts the property and identifies its biggest problems. He then meets with the staff from front desk receptionists to housekeeping to the owners themselves to determine the key operation issues. Some owners could risk losing their hotels if Melchiorri’s renovations do not work. After coming up with a plan and prescribing the changes that need to be made, Melchiorri revamps and re-motivates the staff and transforms the hotel. Whether it is demonstrating the proper way to pour a glass of wine or gutting and redecorating a lobby, Melchiorri knows how to turn a struggling hotel into a bustling tourist destination.

Like Restaurant Impossible, Hotel Impossible is full of lessons on what not to do and there are always things to learn about running a business the right way.

Hotel Impossible

5. The Apprentice

Donald TrumpI’ve watched The Apprentice from its first season and instantly fell in love. I was inspired by the level of success people my own age had attained and they’ve definitely set the bar high. Each season features a variety of successful business people in varying industries that compete in business challenges for an ultimate prize. I’ve always wanted to compete on the show, but I’m still working towards my business goals for now. Over the past couple seasons, the show has gravitated to celebrity contestants instead of everyday executives and professionals. Although I prefer the non-celebrity version of the show, I do enjoy the tasks every week and always think what I would do in each scenario. I actually think I would be a rock star on many tasks and hopefully one day I will have a chance to find out! In the meantime, the celebrity seasons do offer entertainment and the ability to see who has more business and street skills, which is always fun!

The one and only Donald Trump is getting back to business with an all-new season of superstars throwing down and raising cash. And with this year’s fresh lineup of celebrity contestants, there’s no question – the egos have landed. You can expect dramatic new twists and unexpected alliances as the tensions rise, the feuds mount and the pressures build. But only one contender will be crowned The Celebrity Apprentice and donate a $250,000 bonus check to their designated charity. Get ready for huge personalities, extraordinary challenges and all the cutthroat competition you’ve come to expect from the ultimate big business showdown.


6. Secret Millionaire

SECRET MILLIONAIREThe secret’s out! Some of America’s most successful self-made millionaires are embarking on a truly incredible journey. They will spend a week in the country’s poorest areas and ultimately reward some unsung community heroes with hundreds of thousands of dollars of their own money.

Based on the hit UK series of the same name, each episode of Secret Millionaire follows one of America’s most successful business people for a week as they leave the comforts of home behind. They’ll keep their true identities hidden while living in some of the country’s most impoverished neighborhoods. Residing in local housing on welfare-level wages, these “secret millionaires” will try to find the most deserving people within the community. We’re talking about those selfless individuals who continually sacrifice everything to help anyone in need, and ultimately encourage others to do the same. Throughout this incredible experience, the millionaires will come face-to-face with some truly extraordinary people who put their own needs aside for the sake of others. At the end of the journey, they’ll reveal their true identity and donate their own money to these local heroes. It’s a life-changing moment you won’t want to miss.

What I love about this show is that it teaches how important it is to give back and pay it forward. Once I reach my business goals, I have some big plans for doing exactly that. You often hear of people complaining about CEOs and how purchasing from a big store just allows them to buy another house or whatever the new Facebook memes are complaining about–but this shows that not every CEO is selfish. There are plenty of people who do so much for others and this show is just one way to share their stories. Definitely inspiring and heart-warming!


7. Undercover Boss

Undercover Boss logoUndercover Boss is an Emmy Award-winning reality series that follows high-level corporate executives as they slip anonymously into the rank-and-file of their own companies. Each week, a different executive will leave the comfort of their corner office for an undercover mission to examine the inner workings of their corporation.

What you can learn from this show is the importance of doing a great job, treating your customers well, and how much every employee matters to the overall success and image of the company. While this is a show that I really enjoy, I do find it hard to believe that after so many seasons, people are still falling for it. You would think having a film crew with an awkward employee show up out of the blue for a “contest” would scream Undercover Boss, but maybe some people don’t watch TV  these days. Either way, it’s a great show and I love the ways that employees and executives work together to make improvements that leave a lasting impression.

Undercover Boss

8. Flipping Out

Jeff LewisThe always entertaining Flipping Out returns for a seventh season and follows Jeff Lewis and his loyal assistant, Jenni Pulos, as they work in the booming interior design business for a slate of high-profile — and sometimes over-the-top — clients. After what felt like an eternity, Jeff and his partner Gage are finally settled into their newly remodeled Los Angeles home, Gramercy. Jeff Lewis Designs, now focusing more on interior design and remodel than house flipping, is thriving with new business. With a growing paint line and a wide array of prominent clients, including CSI actor George Eads and his wife, Monika, who are undertaking a major remodel of their Hollywood Hills home, Jeff’s time and resources are spread thin. Meanwhile, design assistant Andy is agitated over the hiring of a new assistant, Megan, who is getting more quality time with the boss.

While this is more of a reality show about personal drama, real estate, and design, I chose those show because it highlights the perspective of what it’s like to run a business from home and a lot about project management, which is extremely useful in every business! We operate our businesses from home and it’s sometimes hard to “turn it off.” I have also picked up some great lessons from Jeff like never allow yourself to work for a client without invoicing for your time, and being able to use your experience and skills as part of a value package when determining pricing.




Keep in mind that these are reality TV shows. And there is always certain elements that are created just for TV.  I am not saying that Reality TV is meant to be a substitute for a formal education. I’m just saying that a true entrepreneur will make his or her own way and find any tools they can to learn and grow. These are some of the TV shows I enjoy watching and they’ve all inspired me in some way in my businesses.

Can you think of any shows I missed? Leave your favorites in the comments below!



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