Published by CPA Canada in CareerVision
Although you’ve completed years of education and gained some experience, there is still much to learn. Whether this reality hits you as daunting, exciting, or somewhere in between, you probably don’t realize just how much your attitude matters when facing future learning. Many of us were raised with reminders to “think positive”, but probably didn’t realize just how important this is when facing something new. This concept is particularly relevant in the startup world.
Generating success isn’t just about getting something new to “work”; but rather, in the case of startup companies that require assistance and investment from others, it’s more about what comes along with the quest for capital. Investors tend to have many choices where they can put their money, and there are often far more options than what can be financed. For this reason, those with capital have the latitude to select the opportunities that represent the best “fit”, in terms of returns and the ease of getting there. A big part of this has to do with attitude.
Why it Matters
One of the “screens” that early stage investors tend to use to evaluate investment opportunities is the attitude of a company’s leadership, particularly in terms of responsiveness to advice. For all that is known, there is much more to learn, and investors typically bring a host of knowledge that is critical to moving a young company forward. Although they might not understand all of the intricacies of a startup’s technology platform, investors understand enough to generate success, as well as many other things that entrepreneurs typically don’t have the depth of experience to appreciate.
What is powerful is when experience and emerging ideas come together to build something that is both competitively advantageous and soundly executed. In order to do so, startups need to be receptive to good advice and demonstrate an ability to work well with those who have more experience than they do. What many startups don’t realize is that investors have better things to do than fight with entrepreneurs who will never see the light, and, as a result, will bypass these situations for more productive opportunities. Don’t let this happen to your business!
Experienced investors know that smart entrepreneurs will do whatever they can to reduce the risk of rejection. Since grace in times of what could be a hearty dose of reality isn’t a given, take the opportunity to get some practice; here’s how:
- Learn how to focus on “breathing”: If you’re not in the routine of receiving constructive criticism, it’s time to get used to it. When facing times of difficult questions or advice, learn how to respond. Practicing how to reflect on the question, “count to 10”, or give all ideas a “positive life” for a period of time can help.
- Reflect on what you don’t know: Step 1: Accept the fact that you don’t know everything. Step 2: Accept the fact that there are things that you will be wrong about. Step 3: Make an active effort to learn about what you don’t know. Step 4: Reconcile the first three steps and move forward with a positive attitude, not grudgingly or with resentment.
- Refresh research skills: Although it might be easy to find information online and think that this alone addresses the question or combats the advice, this is only half the battle. Investors know that understanding what to do with the information is what really matters. Think about it.
- Practice developing responses: Startups seeking capital will be asked a lot of questions and face a great deal of advice. Make the most of these opportunities (yes, these are opportunities!) by learning how to address inquiries directly with responses that are thorough and relevant, yet concise, and then utilize “smart advice” for all it’s worth!
There are lots of entrepreneurs who take the position that pushing forward with reckless abandon is what matters; be difficult, be original, never surrender. The reality is that when investment capital from others is needed, this type of approach just doesn’t cut it, and although some things might be worth fighting for, the list should be short. Failing to do so can result in alienating the audience that startups have such a critical need to engage in order to move forward; one that’s counting on your positive attitude.