By   –  Staff Writer, Orlando Business Journal

You’ve got 90 seconds before “Shark Tank” investor Kevin O’Leary throws you — and your pitch — back into the water.

“Mr. Wonderful,” revealed what he looks for in that minute and a half from companies pitching their ideas while visiting Orlando on Jan. 4 for the Advertising Specialty Institute’s ASI Show Orlando. The show highlighted the $23 billion promotional products industry at the Orange County Convention Center and presented guest speakers, like O’Leary.

O’Leary shared advice on how to better your business in a crowded room of hungry entrepreneurs, addressing common business concerns presented to him by ASI President Tim Andrews. Here were the major takeaways from Mr. Wonderful:

On looking at pitches

“The three components that make up the secret sauce of ‘Shark Tank’ are: the entrepreneur must be able to articulate the opportunity in 90 seconds or less, they must be successful in convincing investors that they are the right team to execute the business plan, and they must know their numbers — which is where most of them fail during the pitch. The very first thing I look at is the idea. You have to pitch an idea in those 90 seconds of how you are creating a new market or how you are disrupting one. Secondly, on ‘Shark Tank,’ we write checks for, on average, $350,000. So, I’m thinking if I invest in this company, am I going to get the $350,000 back?”

On the decision for a business to be bigger

“The decision to keep a small family operation versus scaling is a completely different lifestyle. People make the mistake of thinking when they start a business, they will be rich. But really it takes a decade of experience to get to that level. It doesn’t really matter about the size of your company; it’s about how you want to spend your day. People will bring on partners so they share equity and fear as the company grows.”

On evaluating the right business partner

“The funny thing about partnerships — and marriages too — is you want them to be different. In a marriage, you are looking for a partner that covers your weaknesses. When companies get the first $100,000 in sales, it’s proof of concept. When they hit $5 million in sales, it starts to get hard. It requires you to give up equity to grow into a $25 million-plus company, and that’s when people want to buy your company.”

On significant mistakes

“We assume that when we look at the next year, we are good. But we don’t leave enough wiggle room for the inevitable, whether it’s revenue or the market. Also, listen to your gut.”

On not failing, finding success

“In America, eight out of 10 startups fail after 36 months. It’s because customer acquisition costs are less than the value of the customer. This is why I love social media and TV — they acquire customers for free. When a company gets on ‘Shark Tank,’ 4 million viewers may see it when it airs and another 6 million may see it when it replays the following week. A good example is Wicked Good Cupcakes, which landed a $75,000 investment on the show. They continue to be on TV and get seen. And social media is everything. The No. 1 platform right now for business is LinkedIn. It allows you to tell a story and lets you as an expert to talk to your customers on a professional platform.”

On personal advice

“For a lot of my career, I was selling with WalmartBed Bath & Beyond, and others. The relationship you have with the first person who brought you into that company is the most important. I never gave up on my person at Walmart. Even if it’s a company that doesn’t survive, keep that relationship. If you are or were a good supplier, word gets around. This is a big deal.”

On future outlook

“In the next 12-18 months, it’s going to be the age for domestic revenue. There’s going to be so much free cash flow because we are going from 39 percent corporate tax rate to 21 percent. This has never happened before. I’m going to be focusing on the middle and small-sized American companies.”

The List