After just five hours of meetings, a venture capitalist writes a cheque to fund an entrepreneur. When asked why he was confident despite so little diligence, the VC responds: “We just clicked.”
A case could be made that the more people you have in support of your venture, the better its chance of success. So how do you go about attracting people — venture capitalists, angel investors, mentors, coaches, partners or managers – to help you with key decisions?
Much of it comes down to how well you “click” with them when you first meet. Clicking had been a subjective art form, until brothers Ori and Rom Brafman came along and decoded it in their book Click: The Magic of Instant Connections.
I spoke with Ori Brafman recently and asked him for his advice for business owners looking to assemble an inner circle of advisers, partners and investors they click with. He broke it down into five categories:
As business owners, we’re often tempted to puff out our chests when people ask us about our business, exaggerating how many people we employ or boasting about our revenue. It turns out, according to Mr. Brafman, that this tendency to brag undermines our ability to attract people to help us. Mr. Brafman’s research found that we click with people who actually expose their weaknesses.
Mr. Brafman uses the example of John Doerr, the venture capitalist who spotted Amazon, Google and Intuit, among others. He will often show up unannounced at a company he’s interested in funding. “He’ll bring a pizza and ask that the founders hang out with him so they can get to know each other as real human beings. By just showing up, pizza in hand, without an appointment, Doerr is himself exercising a sense of vulnerability, which encourages the same from his would-be partners.”
Mr. Brafman’s research revealed that we are much more likely to feel as though we click with people who are physically close to us. He points to a study of dorm-residing first-year college students that found for every room apart the students were, their chances of feeling as though they clicked with the resident went down by 50 per cent.
Mr. Brafman’s advice is to show up face-to-face to meet. “In a world of Skype and video-calling, it is tempting to use technology to meet people, but the research is definitive: we click with people we meet face to face.” He adds: “The most important part of any meeting is what happens just before and just after the actual meeting. That’s when you take the time to get to know the people you’re meeting with as individuals and the chance to click occurs — that just doesn’t happen when you’re talking to someone on the phone.”
According to Mr. Brafman, people who resonate with us are both “present” and “flowing.”
“Being present is about showing up as a real person and a fully engaged human being. When nurses are present for their patients, they get to know them as people, and it actually helps patients heal faster.”
The second part of resonating is to be “flowing,” which, Mr. Brafman says, is about being challenged while doing something you’re good at. “A great chess player flows when they are fully engaged by a challenging opponent. If you’re talking to an investor, and you’re just going through the motions of your elevator pitch, you’re toast. People know when you’re just acting rather than feeling challenged and being fully present.”
When you’re trying to click with someone, Mr. Brafman found the number of similarities between two individuals is critical. In fact, the quantity of commonalities trumps the qualities of those connections, according to his research. Two people who share a deep interest in geophysics with little else in common will click less readily than two people who can quickly identify seven or eight trivial similarities, such as where they live or went to school or sports they enjoy, gadgets they like and so on.
“Once you pass seven or eight acknowledged similarities, you hit a watershed where you start to see the other person as trustworthy — even more moral. In short, you feel like you click.”
So when you’re meeting with the business development executive from the company looking to buy your business, look for and acknowledge your personal similarities early in your discussions.
5. Safe places
When soldiers experience a violent combat experience together, they are much more likely to attend a reunion 20 years later than soldiers who did not see active combat. The experience of going through something difficult together and coming out the other side to safety makes people from different backgrounds feel as though they click.
In order to simulate this sensation in a business context, Mr. Brafman suggests you acknowledge difficult periods you’ve gone through with your inner circle: “The fact that you are framing a challenge you went through together as a shared experience will heighten the odds you’ll click.”
There is an old African proverb that says, “It takes a village to raise a child.” It just may be the case that the same is true of raising a business.
Special to The Globe and Mail
John Warrillow is a writer, speaker and angel investor in a number of start-up companies. He writes a blog about building a valuable – sellable – company.Report Typo/Error