Starting a business takes money. Sometimes a little, sometimes a lot. Which sometimes means finding funding from outside investors. That's why countless articles provide advice on business plans, elevator pitches, pitch decks -- all of which is useful.

But here's the thing: If your startup is based on a great idea, has tapped a genuine market, and is delivering great financials, you won't need a great elevator pitch. When all the fundamentals are right, investors are fairly easy to find.

But what if you're relatively early in the process of building a business? What if you need money to finish developing your product? Or need money to hire key employees? Or need money to implement your marketing strategy?

What if your startup skews heavily to the promise and potential side than the "actual" side?

Then your ability to attract funding may come down to one thing: You.

Why You're Your Own Biggest Advantage

For example, one venture capitalist who missed out on investing in Dropbox said that he's since learned it's more important to invest in the team behind an idea, not the idea itself. Dropbox had a great team and became immensely successful, while other ideas that seemed brilliant were led to failure by mediocre teams. To him, Dropbox will always be emblematic of why investors should invest in people, not ideas.

Plenty of other investors agree. Taizo Son, the founder of VC firm Mistletoe, says, "My criteria to invest are the founders. So I won't check any business plans, any economic projections, or spreadsheets; but  I focus on the founder's mindset (and) passion."

And that applies to investors from all sorts of backgrounds. NBA superstar -- and early stage investor in companies like SmileDirectClub -- Draymond Green says, "You follow people. Not so much ideas. Great person with a decent idea? Follow that person. A very smart, hardworking person with a decent idea? Follow that person. Someone with a brilliant idea but who doesn't put in the work, doesn't execute... run as far away as you possibly can."

Think of it that way, and your idea needs to be good -- but you need to be great. You need to be passionate. You need to be dedicated. You need to be committed. You need to be the person whose skill, experience, work ethic, and skin in the game makes other people believe in you.

You need to make other people want to work with you and to follow you. Prove that you have the skills and experience. If you can't yet, work hard to get it: Take classes, seek training, work part-time in the industry or field.

Prove you have the dedication and work ethic and spend nights and weekends developing your minimum viable product. Sacrifice and hustle and keep grinding so you can show -- not just say, show -- that you're willing to do whatever it takes to build a successful company.

Prove that you are the person other people should believe in -- and put their money behind. Then you can focus on developing a killer plan, pitch, and presentation.

Because then, potential investors will truly listen.

Published on: Sep 27, 2019
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.