So you spent the time on your pitch, your financials, your deck and your hair and you secured an investment. Congrats! Now you have more people in your business than you had yesterday. Sometimes this can be good, very good; but, it can also be very, very bad. It depends on who your investors are.
It's easy to work with the investor who allows you to do your thing. They stay out of your way. They support your efforts. They make terrific introductions. They market you and your company in their circles. These are the people you want. They want a return on their money and they want to help you be successful, but they understand that you are the expert and they trust you.
What happens when you finally get the money that you've worked so hard to secure and the investor who tied to that capital is in your face every day? So now not only do you face the difficult task of executing on your plan and providing the financial results, but you also have to manage a new person who is not contributing to the day-to-day and doesn't understand your business. Worst of all, they have no problem offering "helpful" suggestions that are way off the mark. They are generally making your life miserable.
Your choices seem to be 1) give them their money back; or 2) deal with it.
Well, option #1 would be quite extreme. You're not going to give them the money back. Face it, you've probably spent some of the dough by the time you realized you aligned yourself to Chip Douglas (Jim Carrey's character from The Cable Guy) anyway. You would need to make them whole, give them some sort of return or a “go away” payment and then you’d have to start the process all over again.
Mark Cuban, Daymond John, Kevin O'Leary, Barbara Corcoran, and Robert Herjavec
So that leaves option #2 – deal with it.
How do you deal with it? Here are some suggestions:
1. Set weekly or bi-weekly calls – calls from your investor can be excellent. Usually you will find this person or group of people to provide much needed mentorship. Too many calls (like multiple times per week) can be a hindrance. You can’t have random daily calls from these people if they’re not really providing much value beyond their investment in the company. Don’t be rude, but let the investor know you value their input and would like to schedule a regular call to chat about your progress and pick their brain for ideas.
2. Give them a task – most of the time, investors want to help. However, they just don’t always know HOW to help. Give them direction. Tell them what you need and have them do it for you. I’m not talking about getting you coffee or lunch! I’m talking about an introduction to that big-time CEO that they played golf with last week or the former senator who sits on some of the same philanthropic boards as they do, for example. If someone is going to be in your hair, at least make them productive.
3. Email frequently – stay off the phone with them unless it is absolutely necessary. I’m not suggesting avoidance. Don’t avoid them. That is rude. However, an email from the road or after hours to let them know it is important to you to get back with them goes a long way. A lot of times it can be a substitution for returning their voice mail message, sitting on the phone and then not focusing on what you do best. There is a delicate balance here. Be careful.
4. Stay calm – hey, you are in a great position. You just got funded. You’ve got a great business. You have an awesome staff. You have people who believe in you. Sometimes you just need to take a deep breath and remember that it is more about the journey than it is about the destination. Sure you want to sell your company for, like a bazillion dollars, but enjoy it. Every obstacle is a learning opportunity. You have been in worse situations before and have managed to work your way through it. The overbearing investor is just another new challenge.
Whatever your problem is in dealing with your investors, don’t let it take you off course. Stay focused and choose your battles wisely. If you take your eyes of the prize, chances are your competitor will out-innovate you to the top. Don’t let that happen. Address it and move forward.