As we plan our upcoming Startup Connection event, I’ve had the great pleasure to speak with several active investors right here in Arizona. I’ve noticed a common response to the question: “What would best help our entrepreneurs increase their chances of success?” The answer has been a variation on the following theme: challenge them. One investor told me that how founders and CEOs respond to tough questions is an indicator of the company’s likelihood of success. Another told me that founders and CEOs need to be kept off balance; if they’re too comfortable, they’re going to miss something important.
But, it’s hard getting challenged every day. Just once we’d like someone to tell us, you’re on the right track, well done; but, if that goes to our head and we’re too busy patting ourselves on our back, we can miss the fact that we may be biased in our approach to the market, our choice of team members; that we’ve made assumptions (false ones) about our ability to close sales quickly enough, or about managing cash flow. And then there are those instances that will arise out of nowhere because we had no idea there were also things we didn’t even know we didn’t know.
So, what can you do to insulate yourself from the number one killer of entrepreneurial dreams (ourselves)? First, you can assemble a team (or board) of advisors. These people should be smarter, more experienced, wiser and, most importantly, not emotionally tied to the success or failure of our entrepreneurial endeavor. Second, you need to listen to them and consider what they have to say.
Here are three things you can do on Take Action Tuesday to begin pulling together your “dream” team:
Get in front of the CI Advisory Board
If you’re a track 3 client, you have access (and all new track 3 clients are required) to use our advisory board, which meets quarterly. This group of current and former c-suite level individuals can offer the strategic, high-level insight for which you can’t yet afford to pay. Contact Jody at firstname.lastname@example.org to get on the list for our first session this fall.
Put together a “No” team
The opposite of a team made up of “yes” men and women; this team will keep you off balance. For earlier stage companies, start identifying those individuals within your inner circle who are willing to tell you you’re wrong. They will help you see what you can’t or don’t want to acknowledge. A good indicator that this person is pushing on the right point? Your defenses rise. Step back. Listen to what they have to say. You are guaranteed to come away more aware and open to the possibilities – a good thing for any startup leader.
Widen your sphere of influence
For all clients, consider that the people you need to help you evolve as a leader and grow your business, are the ones you don’t even know yet. Start asking around for them. Identify your strengths and weaknesses, ask for referrals for someone who will poke holes in your perspective, keep you off balance, and ultimately, challenge you.
I look forward to seeing you over here at ASU Chandler Innovation Center soon!