It’s no secret that investors seek the right people more than the right ideas. We invest in hustlers who understand their market and share our core values. It’s pretty simple.
Most entrepreneurs pitching know that “people matter” and are smart to be sure I understand the background of each co-founder when they pitch. Sometimes it’s on a slide deck, occasionally it’s full resumes of each team member (please don’t, by the way), and other times it’s just a great story in the first meeting. Yes, the individuals do matter and this information is important. However, there is another element that too many teams miss.
The dynamic of the team is just as important as the credentials of the individuals. How does the team get along? Do they generally appear to enjoy each others’ company? It should be obvious that you must L-O-V-E your team in a startup. When doing a startup together, you’re about to spend a ton of time together. It is 100% likely that you will disagree on something and have to deal with it. Here are some team dynamics I’ve observed:
Laughter. There’s nothing better than genuine laughter in a meeting. Teams that have fun together and connect with others are awesome. Other times, laughter is a nervous reaction, fake, and forced. It’s so obvious when it’s not real.
*How* you Interrupt each other. I love the teams that finish each others sentences. These are the ones that are on the same page and it shows. Then there are the teams who interrupt each other without grace and even show that the person who was interrupted is frustrated. If you can’t pull it together and polish your shtick in an investor meeting, your team that you’re about to build will surely see the friction too.
Correcting each other. Some details are ok to have wrong. My personal preference if your cofounder is in a pitch meeting and says something incorrect is to just let it go. Correcting someone is a delicate social maneuver. My suggestion is to only correct a team member in a pitch meeting if the incorrect data is vitally important to the conversation.
Naive followers of an overly optimistic leader. Many CEOs are rockstars and their team is on board with them all the way and they are in tune to each other. Other times, I’ve seen a CEO who is a great salesman, who has obviously made big promises to the team, and from the outside, it’s plain as day that what they’ve promised isn’t going to happen. This one is hard to watch, but it’s obvious to investors. If you are a CEO be humble enough to find out how your team feels about you and the mission. If you’ve joined a CEO and have some doubts, be brave enough to voice them with the CEO before going into an investor meeting. It will be a healthy for you and if you decide to stay, the critical step forward will be noticeable.
Basic southern courtesy. As a southern boy, this seems obvious. Holding the door for someone. Silencing your cell phone. Not answering your phone as it rings during your pitch (yes, seriously it has happened).
Team dynamics are critical. This isn’t a tip that is intended to help you put on a better show for investors. You can’t fake this stuff. Rather, I hope this is a tip that you will use to evaluate whether you’re in the right place. If you are, come see me.