Business 20 December 2019
Fundraising isn't always fun. It can be a long, agonizing, and often emotional process. Emails go unanswered; pitches fall on deaf ears; and many times investors just don't get it. This constant feedback loop (or lack thereof) can be taxing on even the most seasoned pro and can push founders to believe that they have to change and become more aggressive, tougher, and do anything possible to get to that yes. Don't fall into this trap. Here's how to remain true to yourself and feel confident in your own story and pitch.
Don't "play the part" of a founder.
Founders come in all shapes and sizes, so be the real you during the process. It's very uncomfortable to pretend to be something you're not, and it becomes nearly impossible to live up to your potential because you're so focused on keeping up with the facade. It all goes back to trust. If you're inauthentic, people won't trust you. And without trust, there is no relationship. I know I always invest in people first, businesses second. Research shows that our instincts tell us to ask ourselves two questions when we first meet someone, "Can I trust this person?" and "can I respect this person?" We look to a person's warmth and competence to answer these two questions. And a big part of earning someone's trust is doing what you say you are going to do. If you walk away from an investor meeting with action items, make sure to follow up quickly.
Set a communication schedule.
The back and forth, uncertainty, and just plain silence can prey on your nerves, and it can be easy to let your annoyance seep into email communication. Take emotion out of the process by creating a follow-up checklist and communication schedule. For example, Day of meeting/coffee: Send a thank you email with actionable next steps. If no response one week later: Reiterate next steps. If still no response, wait one more week and write confidently something to the effect of, "I wanted to give you a brief fundraising update. We have great investors who have come on board (name them) and I am looking to close the round in xx days/weeks. I would love to have you be a part of this round. Please let me know if there is any additional information you need to make a decision." If they don't respond to this email, mark them as a NO on your investor tracking sheet and move on. Use simple, strong language to keep your irritation at bay.
Look for the small wins.
We know what big wins are after a pitch meeting, but it's just as essential to look for small wins to help you get ready to refine and try again. Sometimes an ah-ha phrase will emerge from the meeting, and your small win is that you picked up on a new way to communicate your message that will be more impactful. Other small wins: get an intro to an investor that may be a better fit or to a potential customer, or it may turn into an advising relationship. These are all parts of the process and appreciating the small wins will help keep you on track. If you go into fundraising with a growth mindset, it will make the whole process so much more enjoyable. Also have your eyes wide open that there are going to be a lot of no's, but look at every single no as a learning moment or an opportunity to gain a small win. Also, listen to what they're saying: What's holding them back from saying Yes?
Be confident in your value.
Remind yourself that you are offering investors the chance to be part of this amazing company—you're not begging for money. Build your confidence by paying close attention to your successes in life and how you accomplished them—you can't argue with facts. In my book, The Myth of the Nice Girl, I share the story of how I developed my own evidence-based confidence. Not too long ago, I was giving a big speech to three hundred managers and was really nervous. A close friend told me to think back to a time when I gave a good speech. I visualized that speech and recalled how I prepared for it, what I said and how I said it and it made me feel far more confident. To develop your own evidence-based confidence, start to write down moments when you've created value or earned a big or small win. Ask yourself these questions: 1) When have I done something difficult and survived? 2) When have I made a solid pitch? 3) What process have I used when making successful decisions?
Focus on the interests of both parties.
Spend time learning about the investor ahead of the meeting so that you can make a personal connection. I appreciate when a founder starts the meeting by referencing something about me personally. It's a basic human need to be acknowledged and it works in fundraising too. Experts also agree that using empathy is the best way to get a win-win outcome—and improves the relationship between the participants. To do this, focus on the interests of both parties—the things you are each trying to change or create. What does the investor stand to gain from funding your company? A big payoff, maybe. But what about the factors beyond the specifics of your business plan? Are you bringing them exposure to a new demographic? A new geographic area? Are there other investors already on board that this investor wants to do business with?
When they go low, stay high.
The sad reality is, there are [insert negative word] investors. When the person on the other side of the table isn't playing nice, your first instinct may be to mirror that behavior. Don't. Instead of becoming defensive, ask yourself: Is this someone I want on my team anyway? Yes, fundraising is about products and money and financial returns, but there is also a human factor—you're letting people into your world that you are hopefully going to be in a long-term relationship with. A big part of being successful at fundraising is partnering with people that have the same values and goals as you. Do your due diligence on the investor—check with past founders. You're giving up ownership and control in your company, and you want to make sure that your investors' goals, values, reputation and track record match up with your own. Do they have a good track record in my industry? Do they have a great reputation for the way they treat founders and partners? Ask yourself how you feel after meeting with the investor? Is this someone you will feel comfortable asking for advice? Never compromise your values for a check.
3 Min Read
With a lack of certainty surrounding the future, being and feeling healthy may help bring the security that you need during these unpredictable times.
When it comes to your health, there is a direct relationship between nutrition and physical activity that play an enormous part in physical, mental, and social well-being. As COVID-19 continues to impact almost every aspect of our lives, the uncertainty of the future may seem looming. Sometimes improvisation is necessary, and understanding how to stay healthy and fit can significantly help you manage your well-being during these times.
Tip 1: Communicate with your current wellness providers and set a plan
Gyms, group fitness studios, trainers, and professionals can help you to lay out a plan that will either keep you on track through all of the changes and restrictions or help you to get back on the ball so that all of your health objectives are met.
Most facilities and providers are setting plans to provide for their clients and customers to accommodate the unpredictable future. The key to remaining consistent is to have solid plans in place. This means setting a plan A, plan B, and perhaps even a plan C. An enormous amount is on the table for this coming fall and winter; if your gym closes again, what is your plan? If outdoor exercising is not an option due to the weather, what is your plan? Leaving things to chance will significantly increase your chances of falling off of your regimen and will make consistency a big problem.
The key to remaining consistent is to have solid plans in place. This means setting a plan A, plan B, and perhaps even a plan C.
Tip 2: Stay active for both mental and physical health benefits
The rise of stress and anxiety as a result of the uncertainty around COVID-19 has affected everyone in some way. Staying active by exercising helps alleviate stress by releasing chemicals like serotonin and endorphins in your brain. In turn, these released chemicals can help improve your mood and even reduce risk of depression and cognitive decline. Additionally, physical activity can help boost your immune system and provide long term health benefits.
With the new work-from-home norm, it can be easy to bypass how much time you are spending sedentary. Be aware of your sitting time and balance it with activity. Struggling to find ways to stay active? Start simple with activities like going for a walk outside, doing a few reps in exchange for extra Netflix time, or even setting an alarm to move during your workday.
Tip 3: Start slow and strong
If you, like many others during the pandemic shift, have taken some time off of your normal fitness routine, don't push yourself to dive in head first, as this may lead to burnout, injury, and soreness. Plan to start at 50 percent of the volume and intensity of prior workouts when you return to the gym. Inactivity eats away at muscle mass, so rather than focusing on cardio, head to the weights or resistance bands and work on rebuilding your strength.
Be aware of your sitting time and balance it with activity.
Tip 4: If your gym is open, prepare to sanitize
In a study published earlier this year, researchers found drug-resistant bacteria, the flu virus, and other pathogens on about 25 percent of the surfaces they tested in multiple athletic training facilities. Even with heightened gym cleaning procedures in place for many facilities, if you are returning to the gym, ensuring that you disinfect any surfaces before and after using them is key.
When spraying disinfectant, wait a few minutes to kill the germs before wiping down the equipment. Also, don't forget to wash your hands frequently. In an enclosed space where many people are breathing heavier than usual, this can allow for a possible increase in virus droplets, so make sure to wear a mask and practice social distancing. Staying in the know and preparing for new gym policies will make it easy to return to these types of facilities as protocols and mutual respect can be agreed upon.
Tip 5: Have a good routine that extends outside of just your fitness
From work to working out, many routines have faltered during the COVID pandemic. If getting back into the routine seems daunting, investing in a new exercise machine, trainer, or small gadget can help to motivate you. Whether it's a larger investment such as a Peloton, a smaller device such as a Fitbit, or simply a great trainer, something new and fresh is always a great stimulus and motivator.
Make sure that when you do wake up well-rested, you are getting out of your pajamas and starting your day with a morning routine.
Just because you are working from home with a computer available 24/7 doesn't mean you have to sacrifice your entire day to work. Setting work hours, just as you would in the office, can help you to stay focused and productive.
A good night's sleep is also integral to obtaining and maintaining a healthy and effective routine. Adults need seven or more hours of sleep per night for their best health and wellbeing, so prioritizing your sleep schedule can drastically improve your day and is an important factor to staying healthy. Make sure that when you do wake up well-rested, you are getting out of your pajamas and starting your day with a morning routine. This can help the rest of your day feel normal while the uncertainty of working from home continues.
Tip 6: Focus on food and nutrition
In addition to having a well-rounded daily routine, eating at scheduled times throughout the day can help decrease poor food choices and unhealthy cravings. Understanding the nutrients that your body needs to stay healthy can help you stay more alert, but they do vary from person to person. If you are unsure of your suggested nutritional intake, check out a nutrition calculator.
If you are someone that prefers smaller meals and more snacks throughout the day, make sure you have plenty of healthy options, like fruits, vegetables and lean proteins available (an apple a day keeps the hospital away). While you may spend most of your time from home, meal prepping and planning can make your day flow easier without having to take a break to make an entire meal in the middle of your work day. Most importantly, stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water.
Tip 7: Don't forget about your mental health
While focusing on daily habits and routines to improve your physical health is important, it is also a great time to turn inward and check in with yourself. Perhaps your anxiety has increased and it's impacting your work or day-to-day life. Determining the cause and taking proactive steps toward mitigating these occurrences are important.
For example, with the increase in handwashing, this can also be a great time to practice mini meditation sessions by focusing on taking deep breaths. This can reduce anxiety and even lower your blood pressure. Keeping a journal and writing out your daily thoughts or worries can also help manage stress during unpredictable times, too.
While the future of COVI9-19 and our lives may be unpredictable, you can manage your personal uncertainties by focusing on improving the lifestyle factors you can control—from staying active to having a routine and focusing on your mental health—to make sure that you emerge from this pandemic as your same old self or maybe even better.