Prior to the *SCAPE demo day last week (LINK TO ARTICLE), a few industry veterans stood in front of the audience (or were found after the event) and offered some advice to the young entrepreneurs in the audience.
All three comments followed a general theme: approaching people with the correct mindset. Whether it was grit, persuasion or patience, all three speakers brought up tips that had to do with how entrepreneurs interact with people.
We focus energy on learning new skills, life-hacking productivity and becoming the most efficient version of ourselves. But it is important to for entrepreneurs to understand that, first and foremost, they need to understand people. Without this skill, the startup will face immense challenges along its journey.
Now let’s get into more details about what each person said.
Felix Tang, Associate Director, NUS Entrepreneurship Centre at NUS Enterprise
For Tang, he made the argument that the most important skill for an entrepreneur is the power of persuasion.
“You must be able to sell yourself to get an appointment, sell to the VCs for funding, sell to the public in order to generate revenue and sell your mission and vision to your stakeholders and employees,” he said.
In many ways, this has as much to do with employees as it does with potential clients. The startup needs to be moving in the same direction and that requires being able to convince the team that the goal is worthy.
Part of the “art of persuasion” is learning how to handle objections. Because, as Tang puts it, “if you don’t know how to handle objections, you will get a rejection.”
Part of this, Tang said, is understanding how to close a deal. A lot of times it is not about convincing someone to buy something, it is about registering when they already are on-board…and not talking yourself out of a deal.
“An entrepreneur must know when to close a deal, stop talking and get them to sign on the dotted line,” he said.
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Finally, he compared entrepreneurship to video games — equating money to game credits (once you hit zero, it is Game Over).
“[Entrepreneurs] have to make sure your strategies are backed by sound financial resource because if it is not, it is not a strategy, it is a fantasy.If you have a good business plan that doesn’t have money to pay for it, nothing is going to work,” he said.
David Ding, Regional FinTech, Ecosystems and Innovation, DBS Bank
As an employee for a bank, Ding’s advice revolved around approaching corporations with an open mind.
A lot of startups want to get money from startups, but they enter discussions with preconceived notions and don’t really adapt to work with their potential business partner.
For example, being patient with how a corporation works is important. It is essentially impossible to make a deal after the first meeting, so exercise patience. This virtue may pay off in unforeseen ways.
“We may not be able to use your product right away, but I can have the right conversations. I can bring the right people into the room,” he said.
It is also important to be professional, and one way to do this is learning the corporate lingo. It may seem like a small thing, but it goes a long way towards having a corporate take you seriously.
Jian Liang Low, Founder, Reactor
Low pointed towards grit and determination as the key personality traits that helped entrepreneurs push through a bumpy road.
“It’s not an easy journey, it’s going to be really tough and difficult and some of them have already felt it. But, if you decide to still do it, that it is perseverance and grit that pushes it through,” he said.
e27 followed up about how to handle the flirtation process — when someone has an idea or a side-project but can’t figure out if it is worth quitting their job.
Low suggested that it’s about risk tolerance, and also said that’s why Reactor looks at young Founders (because a university student is risking a lot less than a 35-year-old with three toddlers).
“*SCAPE had another startup that was SMU students, they tried their idea, it didn’t take off and they were able to get full-time corporate job,” he said.
So, young entrepreneurs, when it is is time to dive into that next startup, try to think about people over productivity.