It’s not about closing. It’s about opening.
Last week I talked about how I learned to work a room, and how important that skill was to propelling my company forward.
One of my epiphanies regarding this revolves around the idea that working the room is that first step in forming a relationship with potential investors, employees, and cheerleaders. You are not closing the deal. You are not asking for money. You are learning about these people by asking intelligent, relevant questions, and you are trying to find some common ground that can serve as a building block for future interactions. That’s it.
Because of the stresses involved in running an early stage company, it’s easy to psyche yourself out by the prospect of actually talking to investors.
Entrepreneurs are, by nature, an aggressive bunch. We like to make things happen NOW, rather than later. We are often our company’s first (and, some of us would argue, the best) salesperson, so the instinct to try and close as soon as you meet someone is high.
We talk about ourselves and we talk about our product, and we completely miss the fact that what we should be doing is finding out what our potential investor or employee values, and whether or not that fits with our company. Working a room is not about closing. It is about the opening.
Find people who can stand the heat
Opening up a dialogue where you can find the resonance on which to build a solid foundation is the key to the whole process. You wouldn’t get married the first night you meet someone, right? You want to get to know the other person, and figure out if their passions are your passions.
If you love dogs and your intended hates dogs and oh, by the way, is allergic, is your love strong enough to work past that obstacle, or are you both lukewarm enough that you shake hands and go your separate ways?
Finding investors, or early stage employees, is the same kind of thing.
In some ways, it’s even more vital to find value alignment before proceeding. Starting up a company is, in some ways, even more, stressful than sharing a life, because the timeline is so condensed. Early stage companies are a white-hot, bubbling crucible of stress, disappointment, deadlines, risk, and, on rare occasions, elation.
You need to find investors and employees who believe enough in you and your team that they are willing to jump into that crucible with you.
In the case of investors, you want to narrow that pool down to those who have enough experience with the process that they’ll bring some Nomex suits along with them.
In the case of employees, you want those people who don’t mind the heat, because what gets forged in that crucible is going to be a company that is worth all the stress and the sweat.
It’s OK to say “No”
So, how do you find those kinds of people? You talk to them about them. What are they passionate about? What have they done, and what would they like to do? Why did they make the choices they made?
During that conversation, you mentally tick off reasons why they’re the kind of person who might be fun to jump into a vat of melted iron with. If they aren’t, then kindly, and politely, thank them, and move on to the next person. Every “No,” gets you closer to that next “Yes.”
If they are the right fit, then get their card, and get permission to contact them, so that you can continue the process of getting to know one another.
Good investors have been through this dance many times before. They want to get to know you, too.
Paula Young-Libby is the CEO of MycoCann, Inc. an ag-tech startup with sights on revolutionizing how cannabis is grown. Join us here every week as Paula gives us an exclusive peek into the entrepreneurial experience.
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