It has been a long journey. You’ve worked for years developing your brand, spent months refining your strategy, and hundreds of hours crafting the perfect pitch deck. Finally, you are sitting across the table from an interested investor. You need them to say yes, you’ve not slept, and have applied enough antiperspirant to damn up a small river. This meeting means everything to you. You need a yes.
You make your pitch. You hit all the key points and it appears to be well received. Now it is time for the Q&A session. The first question, “Why start with a focus on e-commerce only?” Trying to sound open minded and show that you are malleable, a founder ready and willing to take advice and feedback, you offer your answer. “We felt we’d learn more about our consumer from e-commerce, but if you think we are wrong and there is a better way, we are happy to adjust.”
You’re thinking you nailed that answer and respond in similar fashion to those that follow. What you are unaware of is that interested investor now thinks you are a wimp and wonders if you have the fortitude and fight needed to persevere.
I’ve witnessed this. I’ve heard about it from investors. It is common. Most founders are afraid to appear stubborn, headstrong, unwilling to take in constructive criticism. However, in an effort to show otherwise, they over compensate. Instead, they appear feckless, indecisive, unsure. In many ways, this is worse than the aforementioned.
Don’t let the pendulum swing too far, don’t be a wimp. Have a strong point of view. Believe deeply in what you are doing and how you are doing it. Show and have confidence in your strategy, numbers, and product. It is important to have a strong point of view, but equally so, to hold it lightly.
Our point of view is fed by our experiences and the data we consume. It is what we use to make decisions. If we are presented with new data or the experiences of others, there is nothing wrong with adjusting or adapting.
To use the prior example, if the investor asks, “Why start with a focus on e-commerce only?” Simply answer, “Because, in our opinion, there is no better way to learn about our consumer.” That answer shows confidence without rigidity. If they offer some advice based on their experience with other brands in their portfolio, there is nothing wrong with taking in that information and reevaluating your strategy. But, make a change only if you believe it to be the right thing to do, not simply to show the investor that you are open minded.
It is a continuum with stubborn on one end and wimpy on the other. Too often, founders find themselves on the polar ends. Neither is likely to be very attractive to a potential investor. Instead, try to land somewhere in the middle. Have a strong point of view, but just hold it lightly. Doing so may just be the difference necessary to earn that investment.