By Carl Dorvil, CEO of Gex Management.
"I really believe in you." "I think you are one of the most impressive people I have ever met." "If anybody can do this, you can." "I'm so proud you." "I'm in." These are a few of the things I have been told along the way from friends and business colleagues right before they said "no" to investing in my company.
Since these are people I know (and love in some cases), I believe their comments were genuinely coming from a place of support, either because they couldn't afford to invest or were trying to be nice but didn't believe in what I was doing.
Whatever the reason, hearing "no" from people who believe in you (or at least say they do) is extra tough. Here's what you should do next time you experience this:
- Gut check. When you keep hearing "no" over and over again, first make sure that you have a good idea in the first place. Look yourself in the mirror and consider why people are turning you down. Is it because they don't understand the concept? Is it a bad idea, or do they think you can't execute on the dream? For me, I set up "trip wires" in order to re-evaluate what I'm trying to do: For example, I might tell myself that I'm not going to worry about what anybody says until 20 people say "no." Once I hit that number, I will ask myself whether or not I should continue to pursue the idea.
- Ask people for feedback. Thomas Edison famously failed 1,000 times before making the light bulb. When he was asked if he was discouraged, he said he now knew 1,000 things that didn't work. I know for me, in the moments after I hear someone say "no," I get angry and want to take it out on them. However, I've seen success by going back to the person a few days later and asking questions about my presentation. For example, what, if anything, really turned them off regarding the investment? Why was it not a good fit? Do they know someone else who might be interested? Is there anything I should change in my presentation, and did everything come off clear? Questions like these allow for the person to safely tell you what they think about your deal without the fear of your reaction. My experience is that most people will give you good insight into how to make your presentation better in the future.
- Keep working. You have gut checked yourself and you know you have a good idea. You received feedback, which has been making your presentations better and better. Now what? It's important when you're raising money that you come to grips with the harsh reality that nobody cares if you're successful except for you. I always recommend living by the mantra, "If it's going to be, it's up to me." Giving away hard-earned money so you can attempt your dream isn't an easy thing for people to do, so don't take it lightly. Don't allow yourself to internalize the "no"s because taking it personally will cripple your ability to keep working hard.
Don't believe the lie that you can only work smarter and not harder: You have to do both. Work smarter by consistently gut checking and asking for feedback about your investment idea, and work harder by putting in long hours to refine your pitch and improve your business. Raising money can be a tough journey: Mentally prepare yourself for a marathon, not a sprint.
Carl Dorvil is the CEO of GEX Management, a publicly traded licensed Professional Employer Organization (PEO) that also offers comprehensive consulting and professional services.