Published 5:00 AM EDT Sep 10, 2019
Look the part, be disruptive and keep things simple, say Barbara Corcoran, Bethenny Frankel, Grant Cardone and others.
You have a great idea. Now you need the money to make it happen. In this day and age when it seems like everybody is an entrepreneur, how do you convince investors your idea is worth their financial backing?
We asked “Shark Tank” judges Corcoran and Frankel and other decision-makers what it takes to woo them as investors. Here are their top tips, straight from the Sharks’ mouths.
Prove you can bounce back from failure
After 11 seasons investing in small businesses on ABC’s “Shark Tank,” I have a list of traits that I search for in entrepreneurs.
First, you need to look like whoever you claim to be. When Kim Daisy said she made the best-tasting cakes in America, I instinctively believed her because she looked the part, dressed in a starched apron with a million-dollar smile. When I tasted her cake, I gave her my cash.
Every small business is a brand: Make yours stand out
Ocean pollution: Your small business can right the ship, one plastic bag at a time
I never invest in anyone who throws around fancy terms to describe a simple business. I particularly dislike the fashionable terms “burn rate” and “pivot,” both clever ways to sugarcoat that they’ve lost other investors’ money.
However, I do like to see someone clearly demonstrate their ability to bounce back after failure. Can you overcome obstacles? Are you street smart enough to find solutions? That’s the most important quality shared by every successful entrepreneur I’ve invested in.
When I can see it, I know I’ll make my money back and more.
– Barbara Corcoran, founder of The Corcoran Group, podcast host of “Business Unusual” and Shark on “Shark Tank.”
Show, don’t tell
Investors want to see something that is innovative and unique. You need to be a little bit disruptive and creative to get someone’s attention. At the same time, as an investor, I need to be able to comprehend the business instantly so I can see any flaws in your idea or plan.
Social networking is also big. But most importantly, I look for entrepreneurs who can execute, get things done and get to the finish line. Investors don’t like talk – we like action. So show me; don’t tell me.
– Bethenny Frankel, founder of Skinnygirl, cast member of “The Real Housewives of New York City,” New York Times bestselling author, and Shark on “Shark Tank”; follow Bethenny on Twitter and Instagram.
Keep things simple
I have raised almost $225 million in 18 months. The key to winning over investors is to keep your message concise and simple and include the upside and the downside of your offer. The moment the offer becomes the least bit complicated, you lose the investor. No matter how sophisticated they are, they need certainty as much as anyone.
Surviving a recession as a small business: It may be rocky but it’s possible
Include the upside and downside of the investment by proactively addressing the best- and worst-case scenarios. This way, you appear transparent and control the narrative rather than letting the investor’s imagination take over. Finally, be overly fair. Don’t overreach with your expectations of them or start too high with your offer.
– Grant Cardone, sales expert, who has built a $750 million real estate empire, and New York Times bestselling author; follow Grant on Facebook, Instagram, or YouTube.
Mitigate your risks.
The most common mistake entrepreneurs make when pitching investors is thinking that the growth or income opportunity is most important. In fact, it’s the opposite. Investors are most concerned about preserving their capital and mitigating risks.
After all, what good is the promise of growth or high returns if you could lose your initial investment? Show them how you are de-risking the deal and that you have backup plans to mitigate losses if things don’t go as planned.
– Roland Frasier, principal of 30 businesses, including War Room Mastermind and Traffic & Conversion Summit; host of the “Business Lunch” podcast; connect with Roland on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram.
Start with the right business opportunity
I help entrepreneurs buy successful businesses using capital from financial institutions or my investment firm instead of their own money.
This is a much safer investment than an unproven tech startup. When you have an established, profitable business model, it’s easier to win over investors. You can demonstrate market growth, positive cash flow, opportunities to increase profitability and a reasonable business valuation. You don’t even need expertise; just someone with experience who will run the business for you.
No matter what kind of investment you’re looking for, find an investor who specializes in that specific opportunity. Build rapport with a company they have already invested in by inviting the business owner to lunch, then ask for a warm introduction.
Show the investor that the opportunity meets their unique interests, you appreciate their expertise, and you’re committed to returning their investment.
– Moran Pober, founder and CEO of Acquisitions.com, which buys and sells seven-figure businesses and helps others do the same; former partner at Wekix.com and ABD Assets; connect with Moran on LinkedIn, Facebook and Instagram.
Aside from the validation of your idea, product-market fit and margins, your most valuable standout factor is you. Investors want to partner with someone they’ll flow with throughout the investment and mentoring journey.
They’re looking for founders who capitalize on their strengths and learn from their weaknesses. As with any relationship, mutual respect and admiration are also key.
Investors are impressed by founders who have clarity on their personal brand (or at least the potential to develop into a distinguishable one). Can you be a strong brand ambassador? Can you lead a movement? Your ability to tell a story and build a strong community online and offline is vital to gain influence, which you can further leverage for free publicity.
Keep your “why” prominent and avoid becoming someone you’re not, just to impress investors. It’s a lot like dating: your best bet is authenticity, sincerity and, yes, vulnerability. Go all in or go home!
– Marina Mara, international media, brand and reputation adviser; connect with Marina on LinkedIn and Instagram.
Put yourself in their shoes
At the Gerry Spence Trial Lawyers College, we learned about role reversal, a deeper way of putting yourself in someone else’s shoes. Most people focus on themselves and getting what they want from a judge or investor rather than considering how what they’re selling or proposing helps advance the other person’s interests.
Reversing roles is a way to gain a deeper understanding of that. If you’re trying to win over an investor or a judge, put yourself in their shoes and think about how your mutual interests can align. In court, I always consider that the judge and prosecutor need to feel like justice has been served and ensure it aligns with the best outcome for my client.
– Nafisé Nina Hodjat, founder and managing attorney of the SLS Firm.
Want to share your insights in a future article? Join The Oracles, a mastermind group of the world’s leading entrepreneurs who share their success strategies to help others grow their businesses and build better lives. Apply here.
The Oracles is a content partner of USA TODAY, and its content is produced independently of USA TODAY. The views and opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect those of USA TODAY.