“Shark Tank” star Robert Herjavec may be a hardworking multimillionaire businessman to the core, but he recently put his softer side on display and waltzed into the collective heart of America as a contestant on ABC’s “Dancing with the Stars.” On May 6, less than a full day after he and pro partner Kym Johnson were eliminated from the season 20 competition, Examiner spoke exclusively with Herjavec. The conversation touched on a number of different topics, from his involvement with the Deluxe Corporation’s Small Business Revolution to his real-deal opinion of the “DWTS” judges’ scoring to the one thing that surprised him most about his time in the esteemed ballroom.
Hi Robert, how are you?
Herjavec: I’m wonderful, how are you?
I’m doing pretty well. Actually at the moment, I am completely star-struck. I do these media tours all the time but I think you are awesome so I’m so excited right now.
Herjavec: Wow, thank you. You just made my day.
Good, I’m glad!
Herjavec: I’m going to record what you just said and send it to the [“DWTS”] judges.
Yes! Please do. I would love that. Now I have a ton of questions for you, so I’m gonna hit the ground running here.
Let me just start by asking about the Small Business Revolution. What is it, and what prompted you to get involved with that effort?
Herjavec: Well the Small Business Revolution is really a movement that was started by Deluxe Corporation, who are celebrating their 100th year in business, which is remarkable when you think about it. They service a lot of small businesses and wanted to give back and recognize them. It’s very, very hard to start a business and be successful at it, and every day we wake up and come to work or go somewhere you touch these businesses, from a coffee shop to a pastry shop, and a lot of them don’t get the recognition.
So Deluxe set up the Small Business Revolution, smallbusinessrevolution.org, and it’s a website where we’re going to profile 100 businesses through documentaries and photo essays. And the real prize, if you will, is anybody can go to a small business, go to the website, nominate them, and then one of these businesses gets $25,000, and the person presenting the check is the one who nominated them. So giving back to the community that way and really giving them recognition is a great idea.
It is a great idea! That sounds totally awesome. Now I’ve got to ask about your most recent venture. I’m a huge “Dancing with the Stars” fan. In fact, I write an entire column devoted to that subject. I was Team Sharkaroo from the very beginning. I was really bummed to see you and Kym get the boot last night.
Herjavec: Were you shocked we were voted off?
I wasn’t shocked, sadly. I kind of knew it was coming.
Herjavec: We were so disappointed in the low scores. We really felt that some of them were undeserved. We tried really hard, but… yeah.
Absolutely! Well, cough, cough, Carrie Ann [Inaba], cough, cough, really seemed to have an issue. Did you do something to her at some point?
Herjavec: Um, no [smiles].
I didn’t think so, but it seemed like there was something going on there.
Herjavec: I think we tried our best. I’m really proud of the fact that we got to eight weeks, and I can certainly leave with my head held high.
Absolutely! I was actually in the audience for the premiere, right next to the cannon that shot out the dollar bills during your routine…
Herjavec: Oh, that was so much fun.
…I have one of those dollar bills in my purse. I found it the other day.
Herjavec: I don’t have any!
You don’t have any? Oh! Well, you have a lot of real ones, so I guess that makes up for it.
Herjavec: [Smiles] It’s okay.
What was the most surprising thing about being on the show for you?
Herjavec: I loved all of it. I loved the experience. I think what really surprised me is everybody tells you when you first get there ‘it’s a marathon, not a sprint’ and you think ‘yeah, whatever, I’ll be gone in a week or two.’ But it really is a marathon, and about halfway through… I spent 75 days on that show, rehearsing five to six hours every day, and I didn’t have five days to give up for something like this, so it was hard. Everybody tells you it’s hard, but until you’re in it, you don’t realize how hard it is and how much you care. I’m a competitive guy, and [I didn’t realize how much I wouldn’t] want to go home after a certain point.
I’m not going to ask you the question that you shot Robin Roberts down on this morning [about whether or not Johnson and Herjavec are romantically involved], but are we going to keep seeing you and Kym out and about? And are you going to give her the car anyway?
Herjavec: Absolutely not! We didn’t win. Why would I give her a car? I mean, I don’t want to say I threw “Dancing with the Stars” so I wouldn’t have to give up a car, but perhaps I’m gonna put it out there. And of course you’re going to see us out and about. I mean, you spend 75 days with a small group of people, you become really good friends. I talk to Suzanne Somers almost every other day. I talk to Noah [Galloway] every day. It’s been great. It’s a great experience.
So who of the four who’s left is going to win?
Herjavec: Could be anybody’s, as we’ve learned. I mean, Rumer [Willis] is fantastic and she feels those dances in her face, in her expressions. Nastia [Liukin] is an incredible athlete. Riker [Lynch] can dance, and, you know, Noah looks good without a shirt. I can only say that because he’s a good friend of mine.
Oh, I can say it and I don’t know him.
Herjavec: [Grins] Yeah, it could be anybody’s. I wish them all the best.
So both you and Mark Cuban have been in the ballroom now. Which Shark should go next?
Herjavec: Well Mark didn’t actually go on the show when he was a Shark, so I’m the only Shark to have gone on there. But it could be anybody. I’d love to see Kevin [O’Leary], I’d love to see Lori [Greiner]. I think Barbara [Corcoran] would have a great time with all those young, male dancers. I mean, she’s very inappropriate, so that would be interesting.
Herjavec: Could you imagine Barbara being spun around by Sasha [Farber] or Val [Chmerkovskiy]? I mean, I don’t know if you could show that on TV.
Actually, I kinda can. So I’d like to see it now. You’ve got to work on her and get her to sign up for that. Okay. So, on both “Shark Tank” and “Dancing with the Stars,” you always seem remarkably grounded and compassionate. What do you credit with keeping your head screwed on straight?
Herjavec: My life as a business guy is so difficult. There’s so many challenges. I think the great thing about running your own business is just when you think you’ve figured it out, some new challenge happens every day to knock you down a few pegs. I’m very fortunate to have a lot of great employees and a lot of great friends who always, whenever my head gets this big [spreads arms apart], bring me back down to size. I’m very lucky that way.
I’m going to get personal for a second and say that I cried during your pre-dance package during your Most Memorable Week dance, when you said that you had all the resources in the world but the cancer just didn’t care when it came to your mom. Like your friend Daniel [Wang], my son died of brain cancer a few years ago. What kind of lessons do you take away from knowing someone like Daniel?
Herjavec: It was such an honor to meet him. He reached out to us through and organization that grants wishes to kids who are dying of cancer or are terminally ill, and it was his dream to meet me, as crazy as that sounds. It’s so humbling. He had actually gotten better and then he came to the show and the next day [they found new, rapidly growing tumor] and [he] passed away. Noah and I talked about this a lot and I think it’s wonderful that you’re able to affect people that way. I’m glad I had the time with him. Obviously pretty upsetting and sad that he passed away, but happy for the time that we had.
As a parent of someone who has succumbed to cancer, I can tell you that the memories that you gave his mom and sister from the show are absolutely priceless, so thank you for being open to being involved in that kind of way.
Herjavec: I think we all have a responsibility and we can give back. I feel for your loss. I think it’s always difficult… but I’m glad I had the experience. I really am.
Thank you so much for your time. Tell Kym that she is fabulous.
Herjavec: [With a huge grin] She is fabulous.