Daymond John with the crowd at CO— summit
Founder and CEO of FUBU and “Shark Tank" star Daymond John takes a photo with the audience at the CO— Summit in Washington, D.C., on October 17, 2019. — Ian Wagreich, U.S. Chamber of Commerce

What do a sock company, a barbecue rib joint and a novelty sunglass retailer have in common? They can all thank Daymond John for a sizable business investment.

Over the course of 10 seasons, ABC's "Shark Tank" investor Daymond John has made dozens of deals with hopeful entrepreneurs. He has invested more than $8.5 million of his own money into 60-plus businesses on the air, and many of those companies have gone on to achieve incredible success with John's help.

As both a Shark and the founder and CEO of $6 billion-dollar apparel brand FUBU, John has learned a lot about what it takes to launch and grow a business. CO— recently interviewed John live on stage at our 2019 Summit in Washington, D.C., to get his best advice for entrepreneurs.

Here are five of our top business takeaways from our conversation with Daymond John.

[Read: 7 Insider Tips from 'Shark Tank' Contestants]

Focus on solving a problem

In his early days of entrepreneurship, John says he was "doing business only to make money." Today, he has pivoted his approach to focus on solving problems for others.

"The entrepreneurs I see are successful are not doing it to make money," said John. "They feel that there was a problem that was not being addressed on the market … [and] said, 'I have to solve it.' They're almost always doing it for somebody else."

Have a six-month runway of capital on hand before you go all-in

Many would-be entrepreneurs wonder how much cash they really need before they commit to their business full-time. John agrees with the conventional wisdom of having at least six months' worth of expenses (but ideally, one year's worth) saved up before you take the leap.

"It depends on where you are," said John. "Are you working a day job and … at night, fiddling around and starting to get your feet wet? But if you're going to ... burn all the bridges and move into your business, six months [of capital] is the least you should have."

According to John, the only three ways you'll ever have to deal with a customer are to "acquire a new one, make one buy more frequently, or upsell a current one." — U.S. Chamber of Commerce

Find a local mentor

Many entrepreneurs want to mentored by prominent industry players who have founded and sold multi-million-dollar companies. However, a local mentor – say, a small business owner who's owned a mom-and-pop shop for decades – can teach you just as much as those "big" names.

"Somebody who's been operating a business for 20 years and been dealing with inflation, competition and changing technology … they still understand the fundamentals of business, and they can teach you those fundamentals," John said. "

Have a support system in place

Being an entrepreneur can be a lonely and isolating journey. You can't always share your challenges and struggles with the team that relies on you for their livelihood, so John recommends surrounding yourself with a strong, external support system – a network of people who genuinely care about you and your business.

"Make sure you have somebody to speak to," John said. "That's extremely important, because if you're not good, you can't take care of anybody else. You have to take inventory of yourself."

The entrepreneurs I see are successful are not doing it to make money.

Daymond John, founder and CEO, FUBU, and star, ABC’s “Shark Tank"

Tell your story and sell investors on your dream

If you're looking to land a "Shark Tank"-level investment, the best thing you can do is tell a passionate story and show confidence in your own future success. As John puts it, the Sharks invest in people first, and although knowing your numbers matters (a lot), so does selling an investor on your dream.

"Tell us a story," John told CO—. "Make us feel like, no matter what, this train is going to leave the station. You want us on the train, but you're not going to stop no matter what – and [by not investing] we're missing out on something."

[Read: 10 ‘Shark Tank’ Businesses That Made It Big]

"We invest in people more than anything else," said John, on striking deals with budding entrepreneurs on "Shark Tank." — U.S. Chamber of Commerce

CO— aims to bring you inspiration from leading respected experts. However, before making any business decision, you should consult a professional who can advise you based on your individual situation.

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Published November 18, 2019