The cornerstone building block of all business dealings is your reputation. It will open or close doors for you, but if you don’t have one, borrow one via a high-level introduction…
It’s the fundamental reason that people care about “brands.” Certain brands like Nordstrom, Porsche, Louis Vuitton and Apple instantly evoke feelings of white-glove customer service, high-performance, build quality or innovation (respectively) because their reputations are based on following-through with their promises. Your reputation is what keeps your customers satisfied and your profits coming in.
Who are you again?
However, if you’re part of a startup seeking money, it will be the difference between being taken seriously by an investor and being told “we’ll get back to you” –which is investor-speak for “we’re not interested.” Normally, would-be entrepreneurs have a strong-sense of purpose propelling them to turn their ideas into reality. But, they generally have no idea where to go to find the capital necessary (outside of friends and family) to develop their projects.
Enter the venture capitalists, angels and investor groups. Most of them have made it their profession-of-choice to entertain entrepreneurial ideas and fund the ones that truly resonate with them. They have access to lots of cash and as such they get bombarded with requests to fund projects and companies daily. Contrary to popular belief, though, it is not just a matter of submitting your idea via an executive summary to anyone and everyone calling themselves investors.
An investor’s willingness to take a look at your project is directly related to the reputation of the introducing party. For example, an executive summary sent via the investor’s website will eventually get read, but it will be done so with the same level of caring that a nightclub bouncer looks at the people waiting in line to get in. You’re not getting in until they say you’re getting in –which could be longer than you might care to wait. And, even then it’s likely your executive summary won’t make it past the screeners who are looking for every little fault to dismiss you. On the other hand, if your project is introduced by someone with a strong reputation it will increase your odds-of-success dramatically.
When someone makes a business introduction he takes a risk because he is tacitly vouching for you. Well-connected individuals understand that making an introduction effectively puts their reputation on the line. If they introduce a “tire-kicker” or somebody with a “crap project” then the person whom they introduced will think less of them. And, if it happens continuously, it may adversely affect the relationship. It’s also why great connectors jealously guard who they know.
If you’re blessed with well-connected individuals in your life, enlist their help to get you high-level introductions with top-level VCs and investors. If you’re not, make your pitch or opening-email to the VC firm as customized as possible. Include names, why you’d like to specifically work with their firm and, most of all, be authentic. It’s that same authenticity that will build you a sterling reputation.