Lessons from tennis – The one rookie mistake every entrepreneur looking for funding makes

Admiring the shot instead of preparing for the return

Early this year I got a new tennis coach, since the one that was helping us left for Hyderabad. It was a big change for the entire family as we all got new coaches and the adjustments were tough. Most new coaches try to understand your game for a few weeks before they point out changes you need to make, but the new coach focused on only one aspect of my game.

Although the rest of my game is pretty average, I have a mean forehand cross court. I knew that it was good. So I’d never give up the chance to show how good it was. Play to my strengths has always been my motto. That still does not result in winning points, though. It just resulted in many people admiring my shot.

After about 15 minutes of playing with me, my coach stopped, asked me to come mid-court and said

The biggest reason you are losing more points, is because you are busy admiring your forehand cross court shot, instead of preparing for the return.

It took me a while to understand that. Having been told always I was good at that particular shot, I was expecting him to help me improve it. Instead, while he said it was good, he pointed out that I was too enamored by it to prepare for the return from opponent. That’s where I lost my points.

I see this also in many entrepreneurs who ask me to review their pitch deck before they seek funding from VC’s. Their pitch deck is awesome, super tight, glitzy and slick.

Their operating plan is an afterthought.

It’s almost as if they don’t expect the investor to take things forward, so they are unprepared.

Similar to my forehand cross court shot.

I expect most shots to be winners, so I am not prepared for the return, instead I am admiring the shot I just made. Trouble is over 50% of the shots were being returned.

Same with investors

In golf there’s an old saying.

Drive for show and putt for dough. (quote)

I am going to modify that for funding.

Pitch for show and plan for dough.

If you want to get funded, focus on getting your sales, marketing, hiring and financial plan in order, because that’s what investors value. Its showing them how you are going to use the money to create value for the company and a return on their investment.

Of course, without a good pitch deck you won’t get to the next step, but since most entrepreneurs do a fairly good job of focusing on the pitch deck, I’d recommend you spend enough time on the operating plan as well.

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