I have been fortunate to meet a lot of entrepreneurs over the last 4 years as a Partner at Perot Jain. While there is no magic formula in terms of characteristics that make an entrepreneur successful, there are a few intangible assets that I tend to focus on:
SELF-AWARE The ability to be able to clearly assess one’s strengths, weaknesses, motivations etc. is critical. I never expect an entrepreneur to be great at everything, so it is always refreshing when an entrepreneur knows their limitations and blind spots and is thoughtful about how to fill them in. This impacts your co-founders, employees, advisors and anyone you bring into your inner circle.
SELF-CONFIDENCE As an entrepreneur, I think it is really difficult to get an investor to believe in you if you don’t believe in yourself. This is probably no different for employees and customers. They all want to see that an entrepreneur is confident in their abilities and judgment. There is a fine line between self-confidence and arrogance, the latter seems to always invite other challenges.
EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE Being an entrepreneur is obviously stressful and the highs and lows can come at a rapid pace. It’s so important to be able to manage your emotions and the emotions of the people around you. The ability to take emotional information and cues to guide one’s communication and thinking may be even more important. In the military, I always appreciated leaders that could remain even keeled in ridiculously stressful situations.
INTELLECTUALLY CURIOUS I’m a big fan of growing through learning. I welcome entrepreneurs that will experiment, test boundaries, challenge conventional thinking and not be afraid to ask the question. This also means you are not content or complacent when it comes to your level of knowledge. There is too much information and knowledge out there within reach of our fingertips not to explore.
STORYTELLER Pitching is not an easy task for a lot of entrepreneurs. You can literally do everything right, answer every question and still get dinged. The ability to be able to craft a concise and compelling narrative is so important. I call this story telling because a good story has to capture and engage the audience. As an entrepreneur you are asking an investor to join you on a journey, so you have to make them believe.
SINCERITY You can call this truthfulness, genuineness, candor or a number of other terms. The point is that an investor needs to know and feel that an entrepreneur is a straight shooter. Mean what you say and say what you mean! This can be extremely difficult to judge in the controlled setting of a pitch, but if you dig the truth will surface. My advice to entrepreneurs is to be authentic and share your truth those are things in your control.
HUSTLER MENTALITY This is not to be confused with being overzealous (which could literally be a separate post). I am referring to entrepreneurs that regardless of the circumstance, they seem to skillfully navigate nasty situations and find a way to win. To be clear, it is not the win that defines the hustler it is the relentless drive and optimism that is impressive. A hustler is always assessing the situation and environment and utilizing all tools at their disposal to tackle any obstacle.
ATTENTION TO DETAIL Little things matter. In the Army it could be the difference between life and death. In investment banking it could be the difference between making millions and a goose egg. For the entrepreneur, I am assessing everything from the tone and style of your email to the way you treat our receptionist that grabs you a cup of coffee. If I can’t trust you with the little things how can I trust you to effectively manage our capital? A solid definition for attention to detail– thoroughness in accomplishing a task through concern for all areas involved.