What personality traits impress you when you first meet an aspiring entrepreneur?
It’s in their eyes and their body language. There is an air of confidence about them that is coupled with humility and a real willingness to learn. That humility is expressed in their ability to look beyond themselves when they are explaining their own success and an ability to look clearly at themselves when they need to apportion blame or take responsibility.
Why is it important for entrepreneurs to have the ability to make good impressions on others?
As an entrepreneur you are ‘the brand’ in every size, shape and form. The image you project in those first few seconds will leave a lasting impression on the people you meet or present to. In those first few seconds they have already decided whether they like you, trust you and want to do business with you. If things go well you will simply be reinforcing this belief over the course of your meeting or presentation and if things go badly you will be fighting an uphill battle to change their perceptions before you can even start to present your concepts or ideas.
What does it take for an entrepreneur’s idea to impress you?
It is certainly in the passion with which they are able to present their idea but it needs to be clear and understandable. I am looking out for signs that they understand their target market, that they understand the need their product or service is going to fulfill and extremely importantly that they understand how this idea or concept is going to make money. So many aspiring entrepreneurs have passion and wonderful ideas and absolutely no idea how to turn this into a viable business proposition.
What would you say are some of the telltale signs of a business that is at risk of failing?
Show me how much has been invested in the business and I will show you the likelihood of failure. That investment can be financial, time, sweat equity and commitment but if there is low investment and low risk, the chances of failure are greatly increased. If there is more than one shareholder or a partnership, this risk and commitment needs to be fairly and equally spread to ensure all parties are invested in the concept.
What are some of the most important questions aspiring entrepreneurs should be asking when they meet mentors such as yourself?
“What can you do for me?” is probably the single most important question. Of course you need to understand the fee structure if there is one, the deliverables and the expectations of both parties. There will come a time when an entrepreneur may need some assistance and in the early days you need an ‘insultant’ as much as a consultant. You need someone who is not afraid to risk losing the contract and will speak openly and honestly with the business’s best interests at heart. You need someone who can poke some holes in your ideas long before they cost you a lot of money.