Valuable meetings are not “Deal or No Deal”
[caption id=”attachment_303" align=”alignright” width=”150" caption=”If it is “Deal or No Deal” it will be Dismal”]
Since reading Fred’s post on meetings (after running into him at the Coffee Shop) I have been thinking a lot about my own meetings. Like Fred I have between 7 and 10 meetings a day in person or by phone and feel that more than 2/3rd are really good. These meetings are not all with entrepreneurs, and those that are will only rarely (less than 1%, really) result in funding.
I do my best to prepare for every meeting (I have written about this before here) and to learn from everyone I meet. I want to engage with the ideas, not the deal because a career that is focused on getting to an answer that is “no” 99% of the time is going to suck. Saying “no” sucks almost as much as being told “no.” When VC’s focus on “The Deal” they make it dismal for everyone, one meeting at a time.
Glenn Kelman’s piece on TechCrunch recently confirmed that good questions can help move a business forward regardless of the investment that follows. You know when these moments occur in a meeting, the moments that add value for all involved. A statement that sparks a new thought in a founder or investor; some pushback on an assumption that exposes a dependency before it hurts the company or shows an investor the new dynamics of a market; a question that feels like it might have an obvious answer but turns out to surface a key gap in the logic of a product design or go to market plan all represent opportunity.
The fact that I get paid to meet incredibly smart people who are working on amazing projects is genius. The ability to engage in the business and learn about the challenges, offer advice and help an entrepreneur iterate is awesome. I have the opportunity to do this in EVERY meeting — as many as 10 times a day so long as I do three things:
Prepare and focus on the idea, not the deal
Ask tough questions that may not have immediate answers
Be transparent and never waste an entrepreneur’s time
If I can engage in the business, connect with the entrepreneur and add value to their process 70% of the time that will be far from dismal. This is my goal and it dictates how I approach my meetings. If we get the chance to meet, I hope you will see this in action and if you don’t, I hope you will call me on it.
If you have examples of great questions, great meetings or the opposite, please leave them in the comments.