This post is also available in: Français (French)
I have never once bought a lottery ticket. My father and mother taught me that there are no short cuts to successfully reaching one’s goals. Hard work and “stick-to-it-iveness” is the only way. They didn’t just preach this as an adage, they modeled it with their tireless commitment to pursuing their visions. I was fortunate to witness creative realization in action — from conceptual design to end product, again and again.
Because of this mindset, I have a philosophy that I won’t take “no” for an answer. This doesn’t mean that I am rude or that I have tantrums if I don’t get what I want. Rather, I believe in the necessity of doing everything possible to achieve a positive result. If I do hear the word, “no,” and it’s something that I have determined with my team that we want, then I go about defining what I need to do to turn that “no” into a “yes.”
This has served me well as an entrepreneur when interacting with investors, especially in the last quarter while I was raising $1.2 million of seed capital. No, or any derivative of no, is just an indicator that you have more to do. I am realistic enough to admit if I am not at the right stage of development for some investors or investment funds. But if the firm aligns with my value system and is made up of people that I would want on my team, then I will dig in. I will find out what it takes to be one of their star companies and I will set a trajectory towards that end. It might take months to years before they give me a yes, but I don’t mind putting in the work needed because it will make my company stronger in the long run.
Similarly, with customers, if a particular traction point is important to you, then be relentless in your pursuit of it. Start with customer discovery, validate the product market fit, manipulate your business plan to create a win-win for both parties, then close the deal and execute on your promises with the utmost of your ability. If a customer says “no” at any stage along this path, then you need to dig in and find out how to make that “no” a “yes.” Your customer discovery is an ongoing process. Humility goes a long way: “Can you please explain to me what I would need to change in order for you to agree to pay for this technology?”
If we take the time to learn how to turn every no into a yes, then we are students in the discovery of our ideal place in the value chain. However, with that great effort of learning, you and your team will experience a shift in your position where you will know so much about your customer, investors and the value chain that you will become the master, teaching them and showing them the path to success. Everything is discoverable as long as we can embrace the complexity of situations without shying away from it. This is the ultimate notion of accomplishment to me. It is less about return on investment financially, and more about a return on investment of time and knowledge. Finances will indeed follow intelligent design.