Message to Entrepreneurs
Entrepreneurship is a noble cause. Even the Prophet Muhammad p.b.u.h. was an entrepreneur. What do you get from being an entrepreneur? Well, you grow your own business. From that business you provide offerings to the general public. At the same time you make money. That money can grow even bigger than a mere salaried income.
For many, entrepreneurship is the alternative to salaried income. For many as well, entrepreneurship is a last resort after everything else fail. It can also be a side thing where people with jobs do it on part time basis. For Gen Y, many do not like to "report" to bosses. They want to be their own bosses. Well, entrepreneurship is the right "religion" to be in for those lot.
There are many support given by the Government as well as the private sector in the name of entrepreneurship advocacy. In Malaysia, we have MaGIC, GEM, Teraju, Cradle, MDeC, Startup Malaysia, Impact Hub, Mind Valley, TeAM, MDV, KMP, MAVCAP, MyCreative, PNS, PUNB, MARA, SME Corp, SME Bank, MyIPO, SAME, MTDC and many more I cannot remember. The fact that I cannot remember says a lot about the magnitude of it. If you (entrepreneurs) have not heard of these entities, then you are not doing enough research.
So with all the support given, what do you as entrepreneurs need to do? Once a Venture Capitalist told me, "If you have 2 potential investees; One with great product but not so robust management; The other has average product but superb management; I will go for the latter". What does that mean? Well, it means your attitude matters.
What attitude are we talking about here? There are a few key qualities that makes an entrepreneur robust. I think it is only fair that entrepreneurs know what is it that the investors are looking for in them (entrepreneurs). For this, let me share my thoughts as follows:
How do you convey the awesomeness of your product without being boastful? Well, for a start, do not condemn competitors. You condemn, you have no class. Just simply state what issues can be resolved by using your products. Share testimony from existing users. Share awards won. Choose your battle. You do not have to win all battles to win the bigger war. Lose some battles even when you know you are right. The trick is to win people's heart first. Have a sincerely proud intonation and not a Zues-Darth Vader type statements. In short, just be humble.
Do not lie. Do not omit important information. Do not have hidden agendas. Do not give or take kickbacks. Big No No to any form of corruption. Identify and avoid conflict of interests. Do not breach laws and regulation. Read all your legal agreements and honour the terms in it. If you do not have the answer, don't bullshit too much. Know the right amount of bullshit to save your face but not to the extent that puts you as a liar. In short, put honest effort.
Make sure you have all the information required. Full details of product. Know who your workers with right skills are and always work in a team. Know who your suppliers are. Know which market you are targeting. Do research on these things. Oh ya! Financial reports are very very.... very very important. An investor needs a robust financial perspective. Get your Profit and Loss Statements, Balance Sheets and Cash Flows updated on frequent basis. Have your sales performance report handy. Have your business plan, projections all in place. Make sure you tick everything in the checklist. Do not find reasons for investors to reject you simply because you are disorganised and show lack of commitment to meet their (investors) requirements. If you do not do all that, not only you are portraying that you are not resourceful, you are also not making the potential investors fully informed of your position. In short, do not leave empty glasses.
There are a lot of motherhood statements that fill in this aspect. Continuous Improvement. Innovation. Creativity. Sacrifices. Make Things Happen. Just Do It. Skin in the Game. Make Time. Do R&D. "Dongibab" (don't give up), "Kipidap" (keep it up) and stand up every time you fall. As mentioned earlier, put honest effort. Don't just subcontract and outsource too much because you will just look like a middle man earning money "atas angin" (commission profits for being a middle man with no value added activities to the value chain). We have too many examples of "Ali Baba" (another expression for the middle man syndrome). Investors (Malaysian in particular) do not like Ali Babas because it is contrary to entrepreneurship. Look for encouragement, self esteem and motivation to drive. The list goes on and on; but all on the back of Commitment. If you do not have the commitment, you will not step foot on any of the earlier mentioned states of mind. In short, do not be "malas" (lazy).
There you go. In many organisations, these are also the key building blocks of performance appraisal although they are categorised differently such as the infamous trio People Skills - Management Skills - Knowledge. For many investors, these are like virtual, biological, natural, neorological checklist in their grey matter. If you pick any Venture Capitalists and ask them to write an article about What They Look For In An Entrepreneur?; I bet my bottom Ringgit that their views will be the same as mine if not more. I hope many entrepreneurs and entrepreneurs-to-be will ponder on these messages from me and become the entrepreneurs we all want to see. Long live entrepreneurship.
CEO of MyCreative