[Executive Edge] Selling your business vision
Every person you meet has their own dreams and aspirations, many of them related to business and entrepreneurship. How then do you get them to buy into your own vision for a great product, a great service, a great idea?
Make no mistake, these are tricky waters. You’re dealing with a person’s pride, as any business requires that they dedicate their life to it. In other words, it will be what they think about when they wake up and worry about when they sleep.
Luckily, I had the privilege of speaking with Beatrice Tesoro, the founder and CEO of Ceritified Positive. Her product - a spiritually themed daily planner - fits well with the topic of the hour.
One by one, she convinced 3 others to take the leap of faith with her into founding Certified Positive. These include Clarish Barundia, marketing director; Sarah Mae Olicia, R&D director; Ed Escueta, creative director; and just recently, Aya Mula, sales director.
Together, they took it from nothing more than a Startup Weekend idea to the company that it is today, with its official product launch just two weeks away.
How did Tesoro inspire such confidence in her peers? Hint: It wasn’t just luck. In 8 points, Tesoro breaks down the strategies she used, so that you too can assemble the great team needed to turn your business dream into reality.
1. Look to your network (and extended network) for possible co-founders
Rather than post job listings or try to recruit at local colleges, Tesoro recommends that you first look to your immediate social circle for potential co-founders, especially those who may have already expressed enthusiasm for your idea. This can include everyone from friends and family to former classmates and colleagues.
Tesoro believes that doing so expedites the process of “recruiting, interviewing, and assessing,” candidates, which is particularly essential for a time-sensitive business as Certified Positive. Another benefit is in terms of finances.
“Since I am bootstrapping this project, I can’t pay for additional overhead costs in operations,” Tesoro said. “But it’s very rare to find someone who will work for staggered payments or for free. At least when you’re with your friends, they will most likely vouch that you’ll be sure to pay and be fair in terms of dividing the profits.”
2. Catalyze your idea through local startup events
It’s easy for a potential co-founder to say “no” to a vague business idea. It’s much harder for them to say “no” to a business idea that has been well-thought out and is in the process of execution.
To this end, Tesoro recommends startup events to make your business idea more concrete for other potential co-founders. She herself attended Startup Weekend Manila, which she used to test out the idea of Certified Positive and to give it greater direction.
There, she met Paul Pajo, a developer evangelist at Smart Communications and IdeaSpace and an influential leader in the Philippine startup community. He mentored Tesoro, helping her gaining the momentum she needed to better attract other co-founders and even other mentors. Pajo, for instance, introduced her to another mentor in David Quitoriano, who co-founded Yehey.com and other successful web sites.
3. Pitch with confidence
Let’s face it: No one will buy into your idea if you yourself do not seem fully enthused by it. To this end, Tesoro recommends all the usual activities that a person can do to build their confidence, such as mastering your pitch, anticipating likely questions, dressing one step higher than your prospect, and projecting positive body language.
She cautions against coming across as overly confident, however, especially in the Philippines where seeming so can be viewed negatively. “For me, the thin line between confidence and over-confidence is humility. You are given the responsibility to touch lives. Whatever you say can highly impact their future, so you must make sure you are humble enough to focus on what you can do to enrich them, not yourself.”
4. Speak in terms of the big-picture possibilities
Sadly, many Filipinos have poor career prospects and are micromanaged at work. Thus, when speaking with a potential co-founder, Tesoro emphasizes the need to discuss the big-picture possibilities of the startup and their role within it. To this end, you can discuss their job title, the great responsibilities they will have, and the potential difference that they can make.
In doing so, you should always tailor your pitch to your prospect. With generation Y employees, for example, Tesoro said, “We have more of a ‘change the world’ attitude. I believe that the best perks of a gen Y startup like Certified Positive is that you can make an impact on other people’s spiritual lives. So you must remind them how they can make that specific mark in society, and at the same time, a chance to be their own bosses one day.”
5. Promote work-life balance
The vast majority of Filipinos have never worked in a startup. Thus, most of what they think about startups may likely come from the stereotypes in the media: Founders are over-worked and driven to the point of insanity by their business idea.
To combat these expectations, Tesoro says that you should explicitly mention how you will actively promote a work-life balance. This can even be something you do as a team. For example, since Certified Positive is spiritually centered, Tesoro mapped out how they would “start meetings with Bible study” to ensure that “we, the founders, practice what we preach.”
6. Have more than your pitch ready
Anyone can make a pitch. Great ideas are everywhere, after all. It’s in the execution of an idea where you truly differentiate you and your company. To this end, Tesoro suggests you have materials ready that can encompass most anything a prospective co-founder would want to know.
Tesoro showed her team “the mission-vision, the timetable of tasks, and a profit and loss statement to manage their expectations in terms of expenses and financial capacity.” For other entrepreneurs, she advises that they prepare “the mission-vision, the profit and loss statement, the long and short-term goals of the company, the work environment / schedule, and the leader’s job responsibilities.”
By having all these materials ready, you can show potential co-founders that you mean business.
7. Gauge their commitment
Of the materials mentioned above, special consideration needs to be given to the work schedule. The number one reason that a startup doesn’t work out is not a lack of talent, nor a great business idea, but commitment.
When people have other jobs or freelance work, they are only partially invested into the startup. Tesoro recognized this issue. “I think the most difficult thing someone needs to sacrifice is their time. Most startups don’t really get to launch because they don’t give enough time. Usually the co-founders are already employed.”
Tesoro communicated these challenges to Clarish Barundia and Sarah Mae Olicia and both quit their jobs, joining Certified Positive full-time. They made this decision knowing that they had to fully dedicate themselves to Certified Positive if they wanted it to truly succeed.
8. Lead by example
Of course, Tesoro would not have been so convincing regarding the commitment issue if she herself was trying to retain a full-time job. In other words, she had to make it a point to lead by example with that and with everything else.
She showed her commitment through action. “I was the special assistant to the President in our family business and a Financial advisor for Sun Life,” Tesoro said. “I advised them that I would no longer be active as I was before because of Certified Positive.”
Now, even with her team fully assembled, she still makes it a matter of course to lead by example. “As the leader, you must be the most dedicated of all of the team members. You must be the one waking up the earliest and sleeping the latest, if necessary. You must show them that you are serious with the business and that you are doing everything you possibly can to make it succeed - for a well-led team can turn any idea into reality. We’re living proof of this.” – Rappler.com
Rappler business columnist Ezra Ferraz graduated from UC Berkeley and the University of Southern California, where he taught writing for 3 years. He now consults full-time for educational companies in the United States. He brings you Philippine business leaders, their insights, and their secrets via Executive Edge. Follow him on Twitter: @EzraFerraz