People have responded to my last column on what CEOs want from their investors and seem to view the notion of replying to their emails as pretty radical. Worlds have been shaken.
Now, let’s look at the other side of the equation—what investors want from their CEOs. Here are 10 things to consider.
1. Keep Your Investors Excited. They invested in you because of your vision (Or they invested in you because of FOMO), then you took their money and went off to work. Are you sending updates about customer wins and product updates as they happen? Or are you saving them for the sanitized board meeting boredom? Just like you motivate your team, invest time in energizing your investors.
2. No Surprises. Way too many CEOs let the bad customer experience, lost key employee or disputed option issue “come up” at board meetings. When that happens, it feels like the bad news was being buried. When you get tough news, digest it and give your board members a call – talk them through it and share your game plan.
3. Take Feedback. You want your board to give honest feedback? Then take it. Don’t argue every point when your investor says your product vision is too narrow or your sales execution is weak. If you do, they’ll stop telling you. They might not always be right, but listen and incorporate what makes sense.
4. Give It Back. Every CEO is a little different. Tell your investors what you want. Do you want input after each board meeting? Do you want a board member to play a specific role (e.g., deep-dive on people issues)? Help them get better, just like you help your team.
5. Focus Them. If you ask for their input on your logo or website, they’ll give it to you. Ask for input only when you need their help. Begin every board interaction with a list of the key areas where you need assistance and guidance. Keep the content focused on those areas.
You’re Not Their Only Investment. While you might have one company to deal with, they have many. As such, remember to catch them up to speed every time you see them, rather than jumping into details right away.
6. You’re Not Their Only Investment. While you might have one company to deal with, they have many. As such, remember to catch them up to speed every time you see them, rather than jumping into details right away.
7. Understand Their Business Model. Similarly, remember they’re managing a portfolio and are optimizing for returns. If their model depends on home runs, they will try to make you Barry Bonds. If their model depends on single and doubles, don’t expect them to bust out the HGH. If you disagree on the play, call the issue out rather than letting it fester.
8. Don’t Stereotype. It’s fun and sometimes therapeutic to play the “VCs are so…” game, but does it make sense to put them in one category? Some are good – some aren’t. Some are risk takers and some are lemmings. Some might think your vision is too broad, others might say it’s too narrow. If you’re looking for everyone to agree with you, you’re in the wrong business.
9. Make Them A Lot of Money. While all of the above is important, at the end of the day, you’re an investment to them. Make them money – very little else matters.
10. They Envy You. Many VCs were in, or had thought of being in, your line of work. They likely make a lot of money and have great lifestyles, but they miss what you have. They don’t get the highs of winning a customer or shipping a product. They don’t experience the thrill of a late night team session or the agony of losing to a competitor. You’re lucky. Appreciate it.
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Correction: Due to an editing error, an earlier version of this column did not include the full list above.