Every entrepreneur dreams of landing big name board members and investors, but if you don't have family connections and you didn't go to an Ivy League college, it can be difficult to attract name brand advisors. Jordan Eisenberg is one young entrepreneur who has figured it out. Eisenberg landed the former CEOs of big brands Emergen-C and Mucinex to join his executive board and picked up a major celebrity investor as well.
Eisenberg, an active member of the Young Presidents' Organization (YPO), is the founder and CEO of UrgentRX, number 168 on this year's Inc. 5000 list. His company is disrupting the over-the-counter pharmaceutical space by offering pocket-friendly packets of fast acting powdered medicine for headaches, upset stomach, allergies, and more. Eisenberg's creativity and ingenuity led to Goldman Sachs selecting him as one of the 100 Most Intriguing Entrepreneurs of 2014 and 2015.
Eisenberg, 33, certainly has a good story to tell. Aside from the obvious innovation of the company, they have been aggressive about social responsibility. As of August 2015, UrgentRx has donated approximately $1.5 million worth of their products to people in need. But he primarily attributes his success in attracting big names to being intentional in his networking and relationship building. Here Eisenberg shares his secret sauce for bringing on the big names.
1. Don't cold call.
Finding someone in common is an imperative step to success. In fact, certain celebrity investors became involved with the UrgentRX brand because one of Eisenberg's major investors knew them and was able to make the ask. "Even if it takes a few steps more than you thought, always try to find a connection in common before you call someone," Eisenberg says. "You can always find a path if you try hard enough, and the initial connection will help you to establish trust. If you aren't successful at first, don't give up. Finding someone great is always hard and rarely comes easily on the first shot. Just rethink your strategy and try again."
2. Network with purpose.
So you're ready to find team members and you start asking around. Do you know what you're looking for? Take it from Eisenberg, "Going out looking for 'someone great' isn't going to cut it. Define what you're looking for: specific traits, experience, companies, industry, etc. Not only will this help you to clarify in your own mind what you're looking for, but it will also give people specificity when you start putting your feelers out there."
Eisenberg's advice is sound: "If you're looking for a specific person, find out who knows people in their circle and eventually find a path to them. If you're looking for a type of person, meet people who are in that specific space, i.e. networking events, investment banking conferences, trade shows/ industry associations, etc."
3. Do your homework.
Approaching people with vague reasons why they should join your team is bound to fail. Instead, Eisenberg says, "You better have done your homework on them, and be clear on specifically how and why they should join you. You can't just say, 'because you're great.' Have specific reasons you think they could help, and be compelling. Have one or two asks for the target, not a laundry list."
4. Be bold.
Eisenberg knows that passion and qualified risk-taking can draw great team members: "Make your future team member an offer they can't refuse. This may be far more than cash: It could be equity, your commitment to them, or something else valuable to that person," Eisenberg also recommends making the big ask in person: Emergen-C's former top executive Ron Fugate joined the board when Eisenberg flew out to meet him and asked him on the spot. "It's hard to say no if they look you in the eye and feel your passion," Says Eisenberg.
5. Go for the sell.
Don't beat around the bush when you really want someone; be direct with your ask. Eisenberg says to, "Try to appeal to their human side. This is particularly useful if you're early in your career and looking for those with more experience. They were once in the same spot, so hopefully they will empathize. But it can't be just about you. They have to see value in building a relationship with you as well. If the relationship is only one-way, it will likely be short-lived." Eisenberg continues, "Make sure you share your values or you won't be able to win them."
6. Make changes if things are not working.
"If your instincts are telling you that a person you thought was perfect is not quite so, listen to your instincts, there's a reason," Eisenberg says. "Teams are dynamic and evolve over time, so different people are required at different stages. People who are great at one stage may not be at another. Pay attention to your gut and address issues as they arise so you can get the team right at each stage or phase in your company's growth." Eisenberg advocates not worrying about being straightforward with the people who need to leave. He shares, "Chances are a change in team may not be such a surprise to them, it may actually be a relief."
7. Nurture the relationship after the "close."
You must keep relationships alive and going, because all the work it took getting people on your team doesn't matter if they leave from neglect. Eisenberg evangelizes, "Relationships are like a living organism. If you don't feed them they die. And be sincere, because nurturing relationships only works when they are genuine."
8. Respect their time.
Big name people are busy people. You are not their only concern. When you make an ask, be prepared and give them all the information they need to help. Then take the follow-up upon yourself so your engagement was an efficient process. They should walk away each time thinking the encounter was fun, easy and rewarding. Eisenberg aptly points out, "You went to the trouble of getting these great people to join your team, so make sure the relationship brings efficient value to both parties."
9. Get them to share your vision.
Eisenberg is very clear, "Be on the same page for whatever it is you're trying to achieve. You need them to help you reach your goal, so don't exaggerate or bluster: they will sniff it out. You must be genuine and passionate, otherwise, why would they bother?" Eisenberg shares this story: "After Mike Valentino finished running the company behind Mucinex, he was open to helping entrepreneurs benefit from his wisdom. I was able to share how my vision for UrgentRx fit with his direct experience. That made it easy for him to jump on board."
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