The first thing I learned when I started my 30-year career in finance was the 3 Cs used for figuring out if a prospect was worthy of investment. They are Credit, Collateral and Character. The first two are easy to determine thanks to credit reporting agencies and appraisal firms. The third, character, can be a bit more challenging to ascertain. But investors and financial institutions need to consistently assess the ability to achieve success if they are going to effectively mitigate risk and protect their investments.
Jocelyn Cortez Young, an active member of the Young Presidents' Organization (YPO), understands this character aspect of success better than most. Her investment fund Minerva Capital Group attracts top grade investors, which include sovereign wealth funds. As the first female run investment fund in Latin America, Minerva has a high profile and needs to make super smart decisions about character, so Cortez Young has very specific traits she judges.
The criteria Cortez Young shares make a great checklist for anyone looking to achieve success. Put simply if you can't attract the cash you won't get very far. See how many of her criteria you meet to know if you are truly worthy of success.
1. Know your purpose.
Cortez Young looks for companies who have a bigger worldview than just generating profit. She wants to work with people who understand "why" they are in the business. What are they trying to accomplish? What impact are they making on society? What is the worthy big picture? Cortez Young emphasizes, "Making money is important, but making money while making a positive difference in people's lives is a big differentiator."
2. Build a network.
Successful people are rarely hermits. They achieve greatness through collaboration with other successful people. Cortez Young looks for entrepreneurs who attract and collaborate with doers and thinkers. She wants partners who are sensitive to all social and relationship building skills. The quality of one's network speaks volumes about his or her ability to connect empathetically with smart and talented people. It reflects one's thinking and longevity surfacing issues like: Can they deal with difficult people in extreme situations, and are they thinking global? Cortez Young puts it best, "Without empathy for others and good relationships, the smartest person in the world won't make it out their own front door, much less succeed in business."
3. Turn risk into reward.
Many entrepreneurs are willing to risk, but the best have a clear payoff in mind. The rest are simply reckless. Cortez Young wants to invest in risk takers who understands that all risks are not equally worthy. No pivot is guaranteed and each has its inherent cost. Smart risk has a competitive advantage as the desired conclusion. Cortez Young shares her view, "New ideas are a dime a dozen, while great ideas are rare and priceless." Cortez Young knows success comes from the person who can discern the great idea.
4. Apply creativity.
If creating a successful and scalable company were easy, more people would be doing it. The world is constantly changing and it takes ingenuity and innovation to navigate the unknown and hidden challenges. Cortez Young looks for a breadth of knowledge and an integrated approach. She explains, "My thinking is guided by the same reasons I named my firm Minerva--after the soldier of wisdom, arts, and strategy. It took me almost a year to come up with the name, which summarizes what I look for in companies and people. They need all three Minerva traits to succeed."
5. Be self-aware.
Successful people know how to adjust for their own weaknesses. Of course, that is nearly impossible to execute if you don't acknowledge your own limits. Leaders need to identify their blind spots so they can compensate with hired talent. Cortez Young believes in a commitment to egoless self-exploration. She states simply, "Self-reflection and self-mastery are key to becoming a successful leader."
6. Know when to say no.
Cortez Young gives strong emphasis to this point. "For the vast majority of the world's 7 billion people, including entrepreneurs, the most difficult word to say in any language is also the simplest--'no'--yet it's one of the most critical factors in business success." Cortez Young believes the smartest people instinctively know when it's time to walk away even from seemingly exciting opportunities.
7. Be a giver not a taker.
Cortez Young believes, "Ultimately the mark of a great business that serves people isn't about what it gets, but what it gives." People in business just for their own wealth or aggrandizement are of little interest. She likes companies that have a structured social impact program aligned with the company's products or services. As for entrepreneurs, she looks to see if they are authentically supporting the company's program. Cortez Young looks for companies and people that are doing well because they are doing good.
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