One of the commonest answers most founders will encounter will be No! Right from the start, when they first float the idea of founding a startup, most family members feel that it’s stupid to give up a safe and secure job in order to chase a dream because there’s so much uncertainty involved, and the risk of failure is so high. Potential investors will find 50 different reasons for why your business plan is flawed when they refuse to give you money. And prospective employees will refuse to join your company, or even worse, will join and then leave, because they have found a more stable job in an established firm.
It can be hard hearing no’s all the time. You need to have a lot of courage in your convictions in order to bounce back, be resilient, and continue going, no matter how many people say no. In fact, you need to be a little bit crazy in order to ignore all the no’s while you are hunting for a yes.
Encountering no’s is inevitable – it just goes with the territory. It’s not the no which matters – it’s how you cope with it and how you respond to it which is far more important. Every no carries an important lesson with it, and it’s up to you, as a founder, to learn from that no, so you become smarter and can move on.
Not every no is valuable, but some of them can be gems, because they highlight your weaknesses. You need to get over your bruised ego and feeling of personal rejection, and this gets easier over time, as you learn to develop a thick skin. Every no has a kernel of truth within it, and you may need to hunt for it, so that you can build a better and stronger company.
When someone says no, please thank them for their feedback and continue connecting with them. Not only will this help you to convert some of your sceptics, your critics can actually be your best friends in disguise.
The truth is that most investors you talk to about your company will just be polite and say “You have a great idea”, which is not likely to add much value to your life. Few will take the time and trouble to critique it – and even fewer will have the courage to point out its flaws and shortcomings, because they don’t want to hurt your feelings.
Someone who is willing to take the time and trouble to critically analyse your model and give you reasons as to why he is refusing to fund you can be a very valuable partner in helping you to objectively look at your startup’s weaknesses, so that you can overcome these. People who say No can help you to become more successful, because they provide useful insights you may have overlooked.
Every criticism is a gift. You need to identify the value in each criticism and then move on with your life. Whether it’s your first no or your fiftieth, life carries on. Remember that it really doesn’t matter whether you get 99 no’s – at the end of the day, all you need is a single yes. Continue going the distance, make good use of the no’s, and you will finally get to that yes if you are willing to be patient enough. Remember that raising funds is a lot like dating – you may need to kiss lots of frogs before you find prince charming !