Being resilient in the face of hardships was the reason why Robert Herjavec became a household name across North America. He came a long way from fleeing the communist regime in Yugoslavia into becoming one of the most successful entrepreneurs in Canada with a net worth of $200 million. His success story is truly not meant for the faint-hearted.
Who Is Robert Herjavec?
Born in 1962, Herjavec grew up on his uncle’s farm in Varazdin, in what is now Croatia. Although he was born into poverty, Herjavec doesn’t speak badly of his childhood, saying that ‘‘it never seemed bad…you never know the situation you grow up in until you compare it to something else.” In 1970, when Herjavec was eight, his family left the country, which had previously incarcerated Herjavec’s father, Vladimir, for speaking out against the regime, According to Herjavec, “He’d drink a little too much and then say bad things about Communism, and got thrown into jail 22 times for being an anti-Communist.” Herjavec’s family arrived in Halifax, Nova Scotia with a single suitcase and only $20. The family eventually settled in Toronto, where they lived in the basement of a family friend’s home for 18 months. For Herjavec, who spoke no English, the transition proved difficult, but due to his resilient attitude, he and his family were able to survive. In 1984 he graduated with a degree in English Literature and Political Science from the University of Toronto. In a promotional video for the University of Toronto, Herjavec explained that he made the right choice when he decided to study English Literature: “The ability to communicate is fundamental to what I do.” After graduation, and in order to make a living and help support his family, Herjavec took on a variety of minimum wage jobs in the 1990s, such as waiting tables, delivering newspapers, retail salesman, and debt collection officer.
Herjavec married Diane Plese in 1990 but they divorced in early 2016. He and his ex-wife have 3 children together. In June 2019, a judge ruled that Herjavec must pay his ex-wife additional sums that would bring the total she received from the marriage to $25 million. In September 2015, Herjavec confirmed his relationship with his former Dancing with the Stars partner Kym Johnson. On July 31, 2016, they were married in Los Angeles, California and a year later they announced that they were expecting twins. The twins, a boy, and a girl were born on April 23, 2018, named Hudson Robert Herjavec and Haven Mae Herjavec.
In 2017, Herjevec’s ex-girlfriend, Danielle Vasinova, whom he dated from 2013 to 2015, sued him for rape after he sued her for attempting to extort him over false claims of sexual assault. Both suits were dismissed in mid-2018. The allegations against Robert were withdrawn without financial settlement, and Vasinova apologized to Robert and his family.
How He Began His Successful Career
Herjavec began a career in the film business after graduating from college at age of 22. During that time he took on a role under Billy Jack creator Tom Laughlin. He also worked as a field producer for the 1984 Winter Olympic Games in Sarajevo (back in Yugoslavia). Herjavec later left the film industry to work at a technology company. As he once explained, ‘‘One day, my best friend at the time complained that he didn’t get this job with a tech company that was going to pay $30,000 a year. In 1985, that was a lot of money, so I decided to interview for it.”
Herjavec applied for a position at a technology company that sold computer software. Although he was not qualified for the role, Herjavec managed to get the job because he had offered to work for free for the first six months of his post. During that time, Herjavec learned as much as he could about the technology industry. To pay for his expenses, he waited tables at night until he received a permanent salary. As time passed, Herjavec was promoted to different roles in the company. He ultimately became the president before being fired in 1990. Following the termination of his employment at the Tech Company, Herjavec started a business with Warren Avis, the founder of Avis Rent a Car. His reason for becoming an entrepreneur was that he “needed to pay his mortgage.” Herjavec later sold his interest in that business for $60,000. Herjavec then started a technology business, BRAK Systems, on his own from his basement. The company quickly became the largest Internet security firm in Canada. It was acquired by AT&T, Inc. in 2000 for $30.2 million. After the acquisition, Herjavec took on the role of Vice President of Sales at another computer business called Ramp Network. The company was shortly sold to Nokia for $225 million.
In 2003, he started a new venture called the Herjavec Group. The company provides information security services to other companies and has grown its annual sales to $150 million in an eleven-year period.
Herjavec has appeared as a regular on the Canadian CBC Television series Dragons’ Den (seasons 1 to 6), and in the United States on ABC’s version of the series, Shark Tank, where business pitches from aspiring entrepreneurs are presented to a panel of potential investors. Herjavec’s most successful investment from the show is $100,000 for a 10% stake in sweater company Tipsy Elves. Herjavec won three Gemini Awards as part of Dragon’s Den for Outstanding Reality Show in Canada. Herjavec presented awards at the 2013 Creative Arts Emmy Awards and the 2013 Mr. Olympia contest. On February 24, 2015, Herjavec was announced as one of the contestants for season 20 of the reality series Dancing with the Stars. His partner was Australian dancer Kym Herjavec. On May 5, 2015, during a double-elimination, Herjavec and Johnson were eliminated and finished in 6th place.
Herjavec is the author of three books. His first two books were Driven: How to Succeed in Business and Life (2010) and The Will to Win: Leading, Competing, Succeeding (2013). Driven is organized by the work and life principles that made Herjavec both wealthy and successful, while The Will to Win delivers life lessons that promise to guide readers to greater happiness and success. “The Will to Win” is also the name of public presentations that Herjavec has given, which feature his advice to business people, based on his life experiences. On March 29, 2016, his third book titled You Don’t Have to Be a Shark: Creating Your Own Success was released.
Herjavec is a major donor to the Union Gospel Mission homeless shelter in Seattle, Washington, after being turned on to the organization by his pastor, whom he consulted to deal with his depression after his marriage fell apart.
3 Tips to Be Successful in the Business Industry
“A goal without a timeline is simply a dream.”
“It’s the thousand little, non-sexy, non-exciting, mundane things that you have to do in order to be recognized, that make you succeed.”
“People who succeed in life have a need for something greater than themselves.”
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