I always want to know if an entrepreneur I meet can sing and dance. That is to say, I want to know if he/she has the ability to sense any situation and adapt to it as needed. You run into so many different situations in a startup that you have to adapt to. Often you have to sell your way into or around these situations.
That is singing and dancing!
With ACT! I was in my mid 30s. I had already raised some investment money, but had run into a dry spell. We were growing so fast that I was constantly trying to raise money from anyone I met that had money. I had a new Board Of Directors member who had just invested in the company. When he attended his first BOD meeting we were discussing my difficulty raising money. One of the other BOD members said he thought our problem was that I was just not experienced or old enough to successfully raise all the money we needed to keep growing. “We need a professional manager with gray hair.”
My new BOD member reacted immediately saying, “Whoa! If you are going to bring in professional management I want my investment money back.” This took my other BOD member back. “Why?” he asked. The answer was, “Between now and when this company succeeds there is whole lot of singing and dancing that needs to happen.” Then he pointed at me and my partner. “And they know how to sing and dance. If they have to turn this into an oil company they will to succeed.” The BOD member who was complaining just shut up.
It was funny but true. We had already proven we could sing and dance and all we needed to do was keep doing it. And we did.
Care To Dance?
Another time we had brought in a senior partner from a top accounting firm to be our COO/CFO. One morning I walked into his office and he was in a total panic. I asked him what was wrong? He said he had been working on our cash flow and he thought we would go bankrupt in a month. He said we only have $50,000 in the bank! I said, “well, we’ve only had $50,000 for the last 15 months, so we are fine.” He was having a panic attack and I wasn’t the least bit worried! He was used to being in a very big firm and could not handle the pressure of operating with a very small amount of capital. He did not know how to sing and dance. He quit that day and we went right on along growing like crazy. We always had to manage our cash flow very carefully, but we had learned to sing and dance.
Starting and growing a new business is hard. You have to be very creative in many ways. I call it singing and dancing. Can you sing and dance?