What’s More Important: The Pitch or The People?
You ideate, you do market research, you create a proposal and then you pitch it! That is the theme of most entrepreneurship classes. I have a degree from U.C. Berkeley with a focus on entrepreneurship and took entrepreneurship classes through Haas business school, Industrial Engineering and Operations Research, and the Sociology department. 85.7% of my classes followed the model listed in my first sentence. I was sitting in the front row of my sociology class listening to my over the top opinionated feminist professor. She DID NOT teach how to construct a business model. What she taught was what it meant to be an entrepreneur. It was in that over stuffed auditorium that I was inspired to dive deeper into the psychological makeup and societal patterns of entrepreneurs.
Yes, I can lean on my academic accomplishments and my two thesis papers on entrepreneurship for credibility. But truth be told, what I learned the most from was my interactions and observations of other entrepreneurs, and my own experience of being an entrepreneur. What I discovered, not so much from school, as through personal experience is that starting a prosperous business is all about people. In fact, I will boldly assert that this is true for everything in life. Success boils down to your connections to with people.
Here is how people play an essential role in business:
Step 1: Form a team. Without the right team a business will fail. A number of Venture Capitalists and angel investors that I spoke they with stated that the team is the primary success factor they review. Additionally, having a well balanced and active team will increases motivation and engagement of the internal team.
Step 2: WHO is your customer. Whether you are developing a product or a service you are selling it to someone. Who is that person? What are the problems they are facing? What are their buying habits? How are you going to interest and attract them to buy your goods?
Step 3: Networking to build resources. When building your product or a service you may find you need to add people to the team and engage in the inevitable hunt for funding. You might be able to experience some success by reaching out to 3rd degree connections, but the highest yielding successes will come through your direct contacts (either 1st or 2nd degree contacts).
Step 4: Marketing. If you are an entrepreneur you are a marketer. Marketing means contacting people to tell them about your product. It serves you well to listen to others, to hear their needs and tie in why your product/service is a good fit. You are also marketing your business to raise funds. Storytelling and understanding people's emotions and decision making motivations are important. Also understanding WHO makes decisions is important in this category.
Step 5: Connecting and establishing relationships. Throughout all these steps you will need interpersonal skills. Personal development is huge here. Many young founders get pushed out of their own companies because they lack the well rounded leadership skills. Interpersonal skills will help you manage the team, your investors, your customers, suppliers, and everyone else you have to interact with. Investing in personal growth and people management skills is essential. Not only will this pay off in business, but it will also pay off in your personal life.
Those are five major points. There are many other small ones that are more specific to your business type.
My challenge to you, the readers and entrepreneurs out there is: what is one actionable and measurable thing you can start doing to improve your interpersonal skills? Figure out one thing. Then tell someone what you plan on doing and have them hold you accountable.
I would love to hear your thoughts on this post and what action you’re taking to increase your interpersonal skills. We can all learn from each other.
Signing off with the hopes of empowerment, success and elevation.
Nicole Serena Silver