Because that’s Where the Money Is
There’s an anecdote (now disproven) that bank robber Willie Sutton once said he robbed banks “because that’s where the money is.” And even though he didn’t say it, there is still simple wisdom for the investor: Go where the money is.
Other People’s Money
You’ve got the idea, you’ve got the dream, you’ve studied and created a killer business plan, and now you’re ready for the big game. But to play in the big game you need money. Unless you’ve been blessed with a huge bank account from parents or a rich relative, you’re going to have to find legal ways (let’s not forget Willie Sutton—he was eventually arrested you know) to access other people’s money. There are all kinds of options: SBA Loan, crowd-funding, or traditional investors, and a few others.
For this piece we’re going to look at networking with investors.
Where do they hide?
Some people think finding investors is hard to do. But just like anything else it’s really a matter of knowing where to look.
Just like looking for a job, begin with the people you know. And you know more people than you think you do. Review your address book, your Facebook friends, LinkedIn contacts, look at every one. Let your friends know what you’re doing and what you’re looking for. Some of your friends likely know someone in a position to help or guide you. As you look at your friends evaluate them all. Most of us have a few among our circle of friends and acquaintances who have the resources, or knowledge to help either as an investor, or to guide us to someone who can help us in one way or another. The most important thing here is to ask for help and direction. No one can do anything all by themselves, but we have to ask.
Expanding your Network
In his book “Great Leaders Ask Great Questions” (Center Street, 2014) leadership guru John Maxwell says he always asks people, “Who do you know that I should know?” This doesn’t always lead to someone who can help, but even if ten percent of those you ask can give you at least one name, you’re ahead of the game. Maxwell says in his case it has often led to meeting interesting helpful people. The best one led him to know legendary UCLA basketball coach, the late, John Wooden.
You have no doubt met someone and instantly in your mind, you knew another friend of yours they should know. Be willing to ask the question.
Out and About
One of the best ways to meet investors is to be involved in the community.
A hallmark of most people with the means to help you is they are involved in the larger community, either on a personal level or at the corporate level. As I mentioned earlier, you need to be where the money is. Or the people who have the money are.
The story is told of one woman who wanted to work as a nurse at a certain hospital, but every time she contacted the HR department, she was told they didn’t have any openings. She heard of a community event the hospital was hosting and volunteered to help out for the day. She helped at a booth with another gentleman. As the day went on and they got to know each other, the man asked what she did and she said she was unemployed at the moment but was a nurse and had been trying to get on at that hospital. It turns out that her booth-mate was a senior administrator at that hospital and within two weeks she had a job there.
Make sure you know about and attend networking events in your community as well.
As you research your friends or outside investors, be thorough so you can be ready when the moment comes. Be ready for all eventualities. You never know when an opportunity will arise.
Yes, if you have a meeting with a potential investor, have your plan ready to present. Make sure it is concise and detailed (they are not mutually exclusive), also have an elevator proposal ready at all times—My Business Plan in 30 Seconds. If you are fortunate enough to meet a potential investor in a hurried situation, have a quick outline of what you are looking to do and what you are seeking that you can present in thirty seconds, the time it would take you for an elevator ride. Practice it so you can say it quickly and articulately.
The Personal Touch
You are your best asset. No one will be as enthusiastic about your project as you are. You can see the vision, and your job is to share that vision in such a way to excite others to trust you and become partners with you in your business.