Make Investors Sit Up and Notice #3 – It’s a Team Sport
OK, Vision Masters (innovators, founders), it’s time for a pop quiz . . .
Who is Gene Kranz?
Now, if you don’t know off the top of your head, don’t feel bad. Although he’s been portrayed in several major motion pictures and had a distinguished career in the US Air Force, with McDonnell-Douglas, and at NASA, Gene Kranz isn’t a household name.
And that’s the point. Well, part of the point I want to make in this post. I’ll explain in a few moments.
First, let’s talk about business plans, spreadsheets, investor trust and funding. I’m sure by now you’ve written several business plans and spreadsheets, or at least had a hand in developing them for your company. After all, everyone knows that without a plan and financial forecast no investor will take you seriously, right?
But that’s only true to a point, because if your plan is never properly executed what value does it have?
That’s how investors think when reading a plan. Yes, it has to be cogent and thorough. Yes, it has to demonstrate that you know your product and market, your competition and advantages and your customers and his or her needs. And it has to have a forecast that shows a great growth curve and the ability to generate profit and scale. But it’s just a plan and plans require execution to have any value. You might know exactly where you’re going and why and what will happen when you get there . . . but if you never get there who cares? Might as well be a trip to the moon.
So if you want to REALLY prepare for investor meetings, focus on how you’ll get where you’re going.
That’s where Gene Kranz comes in.
Gene wasn’t an astronaut and he didn’t run NASA. He didn’t invent space flight technology and he wasn’t the one who conceived of the idea that mankind could (and should) land on the moon. He didn’t pitch Congress on the idea in order to get funding and he wasn’t the guy that got President Kennedy behind the project.
Vision Masters did most of those things. People just like you who see the future, understand what’s possible and rally the team and funding to make it become real. And so many other important people set the goal for the exploration of space, the creation of rocket ships that could travel beyond Earth’s atmosphere and the audacious goal that ended with Neil Armstrong’s “one great step for mankind.”
But how the hell did they actually GET THERE?
Really think about that. Because to most investors, your business plan is a flight to the moon. In their eyes, your plan is just as risky, just as difficult and also just as glorious — if it works. If it doesn’t work it’s just another perpetual energy machine and worse — the failure now has the investor’s name, money, and reputation tied to it.
They’ve got to know it will work and your job is to create enough trust in them that your plan will work that they’ll fund it before you have any real proof.
You need to show them your TEAM can get the job done. Specifically, that you, the Vision Master have an Execution Master in place whose sole purpose is getting the plan to work, day by day, decision by decision.
In other words, you need a Gene Kranz.
You see, Gene was the Flight Director for Apollo 13. Kranz managed damage control when part of the Apollo 13 space ship exploded. Kranz and his team, under incredibly stressful conditions, set the constraints for the consumption of oxygen, electricity, and water on the ship and controlled the three course-correction “burns” during the ship’s return to Earth, as well as the power-up procedures that allowed the astronauts to land safely in the command module. Prior to his work on Apollo 13, for which he won the Congressional Medal of Honor, Kranz was Mission Control Officer for each of the many manned and unmanned Mercury space flights. Kranz was put in charge of integrating Mercury Control with the Launch Control Team, writing the “Go/NoGo” procedures that allowed missions to continue as planned or be aborted. He also coordinated communications between the control center at Cape Canaveral and NASA’s fourteen remote tracking stations.
In other words, he got shit done, he created and oversaw detailed plans, he managed crises and he coordinated teams that got the job done.
You, the visionary, need a Gene Kranz if you want investors to believe that your plan can actually be executed upon successfully. I’ve written extensively about this powerful combination of vision and execution in this blog, as well as in my book “Born to Star” (soon available on Amazon Kindle). I’ve written so much about this “winning combination” because I know first-hand, as both an investor and an entrepreneur that this combination of different skill sets is THE catalyst that gets rockets to the moon or businesses past the startup stage.
If you haven’t read about the need for Vision Masters to partner with Execution Masters let me summarize it for you. I’ll do that by relating this to three things we’ve discussed again and again in this blog. First, without trust you won’t get funded. Second, a great way to establish trust is, to be frank about your shortcomings and clear about what you’re doing to compensate for them. Third, you’re on an uphill climb with investors when you seek funding before you’ve proven your concept in the marketplace.
Get the conundrum?
You need investor trust in order to get funding, yet nearly every investor mistrusts you because they see you as a gigantic risk. To clear this high hurdle you’ve got to take actions that evoke trust and in my experience, there is no more powerful action that you, the visionary, can take than to bring a competent execution oriented co-leader into the business. That one important act shows investors that YOU understand how important it is to not just have a great plan, but the capability to see it carried out to a successful conclusion. It demonstrates that you know your limitations and aren’t afraid to fill those gaps with other talented people in leadership roles. It will show investors that you understand the human dynamics involved in executing on a plan and it will show them that you value execution mastery as much as you do vision mastery.
Do that and you’ll begin to stand out from the crowd with investors.
But let’s take it a step further because I want you to not just stand out from the crowd but to be unforgettable and irresistible to them.
You see, investors inherently know that they’re investing more in your team than in your idea, because as we’ve said the idea is executing on the idea and that nearly always takes a strong team. But investors don’t often know HOW to evaluate a team. Now here’s the cool thing…you can show them.
Because you’ve done the self-assessment to understand your own limitations and identified the leadership gaps necessary to fill in so that your company will win. You’ve taken the time to assess the different thinking styles and focuses of Vision Masters and Execution Masters. You can teach investors what those are – once you read and apply the distinctions from “Born to Star.” You can show investors that you took direct action to close the leadership gap by finding and hiring a great Execution Master. And you can demonstrate what that key person’s role is in terms of making sure your great plan will be executed upon successfully.
And, hey, you can also ask if they know who Gene Kranz is . . . and tell them why they should.
Key Takeaways: If you’re a Vision Master without an Execution Master you’re at a huge disadvantage in terms of carrying out your vision. Understand what an Execution Master does and find one to partner with or retain in a key leadership position. Investors can’t always evaluate what it is that makes for a strong team, but they can see it clearly when it’s lacking. This is your chance to evoke trust and stand out from the crowd by showing investors you understand the distinction between vision mastery and execution mastery and to bring execution mastery to your team. Read “Born to Star” and master your understanding of these two critical and complementary roles. Then find an Execution Master like Gene Kranz and take your company to the moon! But you don’t have to wait until you’ve achieved your moon-shot: Use this knowledge to get your investor candidates to sit up and notice.