How to be a Better: Investor – Part 3

This is the 3rd of a 3 part series on How to be a Better: Recruiter (Pt. 1); Boss (Pt. 2); Investor (Pt. 3)

My message is simple:

Invest in the guy (or girl) who offends you.

But please, allow me to “phone a friend” (I wish) and let him explain it to you … don’t mind the first 30 seconds or so which seems to be in another language.

John Cleese Rose d’Or Lifetime Achievement Speech.

So in summary:

  • You as an investor have money … yes this is true;
  • Your money ISN’T what makes a project a success;
  • Your money is ONLY a circumstantial requirement of THIS economic paradigm, which is used to access resources that allows creative & technical talent to attempt success;
  • IF you do not contribute any skill or talent to the actual project itself … THEN the only thing you are, is a gate keeper … that’s it.

You’ve heard John Speak, so you basically know what I want to say already … but let me just provide you a personal example of my own (one of many).

Many years ago I was hired by one of the founding directors of a company that sold 3D CAD/CAM/CAE software, where I inherited a database of existing clients from prior sales people, and over a period of weeks then months I went about the process of repairing broken relationships, solving other problems, servicing clients & making sales.

Now … I won’t go into the huge list of internal problems that existed at this company … but this company was at the time turning over somewhere around the $AU10-15M mark, but was looking to increase its gross revenue to around $AU30M so that it could go public & float itself, with those founding directors then retiring.

As I was driving along the road one day, with the very same director whom had hired me, he told me about this plan to sell (quoting those numbers), and my first thought was:

“$30M? That’s it? That’s your goal?”

I couldn’t believe a person whom had actually founded the company, could be so totally clueless as to its true potential.

We kept driving, and I didn’t want to spill the beans on my ideas, because I thought:

” … if I can increase the potential of this company by 100 times more than what you hope to do by doubling it, then I’ll be damned if I won’t get paid a hell of a lot of money to tell you how to do that, since you appear to be utterly unaware of it … ”

You heard me right … he was thinking of doubling to tripling revenue up to $30M, and I could see how to take it to $3B.

So what did I do? I tested him … I threw out some statements to test the waters & see if it would be possible to negotiate an arrangement … he failed the test.

The next thing I knew, the founders were selling out, a new owner (utterly clueless) came in, there was a mass exodus of staff, and things gradually got worse, with extremely poor decisions being made, thus more of the original staff left (until I was actually considered one of the older members of staff despite being there only about a year) … and then finally I managed to get myself sacked by failing to be the zombie they wanted me to be (so no particular loss to me, but a great loss to them). One of my colleagues on hearing I’d been sacked said:

“What?!?! But you were the hardest working guy here??”

Yup, the new boss sacked one of the best people he had … and what’s more, he did it only a matter of months before I would have succeeded in bringing in several long term opportunities I’d been working on, which would have amounted to millions of dollars in revenue.

The point of the story being:

What John Cleese says isn’t only true about management versus creatives, it happens elsewhere also.

Shortly after that, the company lost its exclusive software distributorship arrangement … needless to say, there’s no way in hell they reached their $30M target & they certainly didn’t go public.

The Mistake Bosses & Investors Make:

Whether you’re hiring people or investing in a business idea, you must recognise that it is the PEOPLE that are your most important investment.

Now … what cognitive bias does every single human being on the planet tend to have about the things they do? Think about it …

The cognitive bias we all have, is that we know what we’re doing.

Now you’ll remember in John’s speech he mentions the Dunning-Krueger Effect, and if you have a look through my posts, you’ll find that a number of weeks or months ago, I wrote an article about what I call an “Extended Dunning-Krueger Effect & Hanlon’s Razor” … but there’s another vital point to be made here:

  • Not only are you unqualified to know whether you’re qualified to judge someone else’s speciality … but also;
  • You shouldn’t want a company that just agrees with you, because that company will also probably be blind to all the same things you’re blind to yourself.

Think about that.

You’re investing on the basis of your judgement of stuff that other people understand better than you … AND … you’re staffing that company with people who will have identical or similar blind spots to your own.

Hence the title: invest in the guy who offends you.

Another Mistake:

Another big mistake that often arises from this one, is that your blind spot allows you to justify actions that shit all over the relationship you have with the kind of staff who are less aligned to your blind spot … but you don’t realise you’ve done it, because it’s early days, they need the money, and the last thing they want to do is get the boss off-side on day one.

Later down the track, they leave or you sack them, because they failed to live up to the potential that you sabotaged when you sabotaged that relationship … and the only person wise enough to figure it out for you, was either the very same person you hired, or someone you never even hired in the first place because you found them too offensive or threatening, because their entire world view contradicts your own.

… any way … enough has been said, I hope you get the point.

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