Every month I see 2-3 new entrepreneurs (E's to make it easy) working with the Band of Angels (who get the best deals in the valley for angels, hands down) in addition to others I meet and work with.
Over the course of these experiences I've met E's of every shape, size and background and I've been thinking about what attributes I evaluate in deciding whether I admire AND support them. (Note that support means that I think they are bankable, I play euchre with nice people, I do business with nice people who know how to make money.)
Note: One presumption here is that E's company has a product/solution that's needed in the market.
- Is he/she nice? (The kindness factor): I mean this with all sincerity. You do not have to be a jerk to succeed. You CAN be a jerk and succeed, but you don't have to be.
- Is she/he decisive? (The decisiveness factor): It is critical in the early stages of a company to be decisive. You can look to others for counsel, but do not look to them for decision making.
BTW, I absolutely believe that you can be a nice person and fire someone or tell them they are not doing their job and will be fired if they don't.
Decisiveness also includes knowing when to either shift dramatically or raise the white flag, close up shop and get set to try it again.
- Does he/she know what they don't know? (The humility factor): This one is a little self-serving but nothing boggles my mind more than when an E thinks they know how to do something but doesn't. I find out on this one real quick when I work on their presentations.
The main thing here I'm dealing with is ego (theirs and to a certain extent mine I admit it). I find it confusing when an E says that his or her approach will work when it's not working right in front of us.
It also manifests itself in their confidence to get in front of an audience and readily admit that they have holes in their management team. So, a company has a great product, a team that includes someone whose "felt the pain" but no one on the team who knows how to sell it. There's nothing wrong with that, happens all the time. But will they admit it?
If they will, I like it.
- Can she/he take criticism? (The resilience factor): I think resilience is the single most underrated attribute of being a successful E. The fact is you get more no's than a uber-successful rhinoplasty surgeon (I have NO idea where that came from...). I can see it in their eyes when they are questioned and then hear it in their words when they respond.
Do they say things like: "They just don't get it" "He's clueless", etc.
I'm not even suggesting that in fact people do get it or that they aren't clueless (believe me there are TONS out there who are). All I'm asking is how do they handle it. I understand that they hold their companies with great sanctity and that start-ups are emotional. But how mature are they when the no's and criticism come because in this environment you KNOW you'll get it.
I completely undrestand that luck plays a notable role in start-up success. I also get that there are other attributes out there that make a difference.
But give me an E who is kind AND decisive, humble AND resilient you've got a CEO that I would admire AND support.