As an angel investor in new startups, I’ve long believed that investors invest in people, not ideas. But the magic that makes one entrepreneur stand out over others is hard to quantify – yet we all recognize it when we see it. In my view, it starts with your communication of real personal values, and ends your focus on results. In fact, these same attributes also bound your leadership skills.
As a mentor, my mission is to recommend actions that can strengthen your image with investors and peers, as well as help you get the startup job done. I believe all of us in business need to practice these actions to improve our effectiveness and leadership, to overcome the tough challenges, including funding and leadership, that we all face:
- Identify a “higher purpose” that embodies your values. The most respected business leaders today or those who balance business growth objectives in the context of making the world a better place, through addressing social or environmental issues. Of course, these must always be balanced with winning business practices for maximum value. An example of a good balance is clearly Whole Foods, whose focus on healthy foods and a sustainable environment is legendary. Their mix of business success and a higher purpose is credited as the major factor in attracting Amazon with a $13.7 billion buyout.
- Focus on customers and people over profits and ego. Especially in these modern times, both your customers and your team are looking for personal relationships to incent their engagement and loyalty. Practice being humble and demonstrating transparency in your communication of needs and challenges. Their support will make you a leader.
- Use your values to lead people, not push them. The days of “push” marketing and autocratic control are gone. Use active listening to learn from your team, your customers, and investors. Provide solutions they want today, not something they could appreciate tomorrow, or is “nice to have” from your perspective. Be a role model for humility.
- Practice logic and discipline rather than random walks. With discipline, people will see you as a leader who can overcome the tough challenges of business, rather than someone on an unpredictable or emotional roller coaster. Your values will help you build trust with team members and customers, increase your productivity, and inspire others.
- Demonstrate persistence and stability in all challenges. The market may not yet recognize the value of your solution, so investors and peers are watching and analyzing your initiatives and pivots. While I recognize that you may be your toughest critic, there is no substitute for actions versus excuses, and the best actions come from strong values.
- Highlight your values when discussing needs and decisions. All too often, I sense or hear “fear of failure” as the driver for help requests, and the answer to tough challenges. You need to show courage and a vision for overcoming fear, and discuss specific actions, rather than look for someone to provide an easy way out. There are no easy answers.
- Calmly accept responsibility for failures and success. We all know that your plan is full of personal choices, and what you do with them, based on your values, governs your reality and success. Don’t play the blame game. Accepting responsibility for things is key to building relationships, effective communications, and creating loyal advocates.
- Define and use real metrics to measure progress. Set quantitative goals for your business based on your values, and avoid the assessment of progress based on feelings. A vision and a dream are not a viable strategy for success. Take advantage of the latest tools for gathering data and tracking progress. Manual assessment is not productive.
So before you pitch your next idea to investors, or your next request to peers and customers, take a few moments to check the alignment with your personal values and how well these have been communicated to your audience. If you think that passion alone, or your other emotions, will get the message across - think again. Your leadership and success in business today depends on it.