People think that I am a serious person and, for the most part, I am. However, most readers of this blog and most people who work with me only know one aspect of my personality: the side I choose to show them.
The world of startups is based on trust: investors, employees and customers want to associate with people they perceive as hard working and serious. In world of networking, there a mistake frequently made by younger people. You are invited to a party, event or bar to meet an investor or other influencer. As drinks are had, you foolishly partake in all the “evening fun” assuming that winning attention and accolades for the night means you’re building a relationship. I’ve seen many a night of ‘networking,’ turn into a glorified frat party, turn into the assumption that it all went amazingly well. The harsh reality is that people don’t invest in friends they make over drinks. If you want your idea to be taken seriosuly, if you want someone to invest in you, pass on the drinks and get their focus on attributes they do invest in: ideas, smarts and guts. Advisors and investors trust people who they believe can execute and provide them with a return. If you expect people to take you and your ideas seriously, you need need to project a seriousness worthy of your ambitions. This may mean checking your ego and acting lame or dorky. However, putting on a professional “front” of seriousness is born of necessity and more often than not, reality, in the startup world.
Seriously; Little Things Matter.
Little things matter more than you think. Punctuation and spelling. Eye Contact. Put down the Blackberry and listen. It’s amazing how invaluable your time can appear to others even as they ask YOU to do things for THEM. I will occasionally come across a LinkedIn profile or read someone’s bio using self-congratulating phrases like, “cultural maven,” “Ninja” or the equivalent of Zuckerberg’s famous “I’m CEO, bitch.” I don’t know anyone who reviews a bio or email using this kind of rhetoric and takes it seriously, let alone with a sense of urgency.
There is also a misconception among many startup novices that acting flamboyantly, ordering top-shelf, being the son of well known vc, having attended a certain school, or having done one thing well — once — makes you ‘deserving’ of respect. It doesn’t. In the world of startups, what matters is what you can measure. What matters is what you can get other people to vouch for. Remember that many of the “eccentric heroes” young type A’s model their behavior on, long-ago earned their right to act eccentrically through a proven track record of seriousness, execution and humble failure.
If people aren’t buying into the brand of you, take a hard look at the image you project. Make sure that the people you want to be taken seriosuly by are seeing your serious side.