When I Don’t Have to Say NoNov 1, 2007
As I was reading Fred’s post on “saying no” the other day, I was contemplating just how hard it can be to say “no.” While most entrepreneurs take it in stride, I’ve had some that just look absolutely crestfallen (man, that feels awful), I’ve had others argue with me telling me how dumb I am (which doesn’t feel so awful), and I’ve had folks that address my reasoning telling me that they’d be happy to make whatever changes I think they need to make to the business as long as I cut a check (which is scary on many levels).
The one thing I still don’t have a handle on is the quick no. I know of investors who will schedule an hour meeting and ten minutes into it will tell the entrepreneur there is clearly no fit and will hustle them out of the office. I have a couple of problems with this model. First, even though I often think I know ten minutes into a conversation if the deal is interesting or not, there have been a few times where pitches that started out poorly ended up really winning me over. I would have hated to miss those. Even more problematic for me, though, is that it just feels rude. Yes, time is my most precious commodity and yes, it can be excruciating to sit through a presentation I know I will never fund. But if I have committed my time and the entrepreneur has taken the time to prepare a presentation, round up a team, and travel to the meeting, well, they deserve to be heard and to have a conversation about it. Heck, if nothing else, maybe I can give them a little food for thought while learning something new myself, and then introduce them to someone who may be able to help.
This all changed for me today when an entrepreneur did to me what I would not do to him. I was on a phone call with Maz and this entrepreneur. It wasn’t going great…we clearly didn’t see eye-to-eye on many of the core concepts of his business. Fifteen minutes into the call we asked yet another question about the business but this one was met with a derisive laugh and a “Did you really ask me that question?”
Well, yes we did ask that question and it seemed valid but……
Again with the derisive laughter and a “I can’t believe you asked me that question.” He then went on to say that if were asking a question as vapid as that we had nothing else to talk about and he hung up.
Made me feel really good about my already conceived notion that we were not going to fund this guy. And the bonus was that I wasn’t going to have to tell him why.
It also reinforced my thinking about the short “no.” I’m still unlikely to end a meeting prematurely and shuffle you out of my office. But if anytime you feel like getting up and leaving, feel free. It sure makes my job a lot easier