It’s easy to rely on financial advice from experts with whom we share no personal connection. Monday night, however, 400 members of the Western community heard Kevin O’Leary’s advice in person, without a television or computer screen dividing the business guru and ticketholders. The predominantly male audience at Somerville House had an unobstructed view of the Ivey alumnus.
Known as the ruthless venture capitalist on CBC’s Dragon’s Den and ABC’s Shark Tank, Kevin O’Leary garners interest from viewers ranging from “9 year old girls to 90 year old men.” In between bragging about his shows’ high ratings, O’Leary marvelled at TV’s ability to propel his career. Nevertheless, O’Leary insisted that “television is not just about narcissism.”
He anticipates his next show, his third CBC production, Redemption Inc., will ignite controversial discussion when he offers ex-convicts a second chance. Maximizing every opportunity to create hype for his ventures, O’Leary gave Western an exclusive sneak peek at the full-length trailer, which showed ex-convicts competing to prove themselves as capable entrepreneurs. O’Leary describes Redemption Inc. as “The Apprentice on steroids” – an intriguing tagline that will surely attract viewers’ interest.
O’Leary pompously promoted Redemption Inc. without addressing its sensationalist nature. No amount of praise for the Ivey graduate can detract from his flair for generating buzz for CBC, including publicity which makes the public broadcaster’s programming filters questionable. Expressing only confidence in the show which invites criticism about O’Leary’s moral principles raises doubt about how he protects his personal brand. It is understandable why Dancing with the Stars is a better fit for former superstars than O’Leary, yet peculiar that he convinced CBC to add ex-convicts to their mid-season line-up.
Listening to O’Leary’s incessant self-promotion was as obnoxious as paying for a movie ticket and then sitting through commercials. Hence, it was a relief when he eventually shared insight about business trends. Fourth year business student Kristy Ho said she appreciated his fresh perspective on investing. His recommendations about investment strategies were far more useful than talking about Dragon’s Den, but the talk was clearly not tailored to students unfamiliar with dividends and shareholder relations.
O’Leary emphasized the pursuit of freedom: if you make smart investments, whether it’s in a Brazilian air conditioning company or eco-friendly elevators, then you can control how to spend your time. He approaches each day as if it were his last, questioning the value of each scheduled meeting or event in his itinerary. If it’s not worth his time, then he’ll cancel. This attitude may help curb procrastination habits as the December crunch approaches.
O’Leary implied he thought of a clever way to conclude his talk, yet finished with a story he has shared with media outlets for two years. The multimillionaire refuses to let his children fly coach with him to instil a hardworking ethic in them. Until they can afford the extra fare from their own pockets, he insists on limiting their lifestyle to teach them the value of money. His lesson speaks to how too many youth feel entitled to material goods and a lavish lifestyle, a phenomena explored by Jean Twenge in “Generation Me”. O’Leary’s concluding anecdote elicited laughter, but it’s disappointing when an acclaimed businessman recycles a story that’s been available on YouTube for so long.
Kevin O’Leary’s journey is a reminder that determination and perseverance are crucial for success. He encourages budding professionals to work hard, make money and be prepared to make huge sacrifices. “What’s easier to replace: your business or your girlfriend?” He asked.