24 October 2016
There's a fine line between success and failure and it could be down to attitude. Photo: create-learning, CC License
There's a fine line between success and failure and it could be down to attitude. Photo: create-learning, CC License

Thin-skinned? Start-ups might not be for you

It pays to be thick-skinned if you’re a start-up entrepreneur.

Typically, they’re the kind of people who win the all-important first funding for their ideas because they have the right attitude.

It’s a mix of aggressiveness, confidence and eloquence. Also, it helps if the person is a skilled negotiator. 

Their antithesis — the thin-skinned entrepreneur — possesses the exact opposite of these traits.

I would say I’m leaning toward the thick-skinned camp, although I don’t like to brag or bluff.

But a lot of times, being persistent and having the hide of an elephant actually help solve problems in the start-up phase.

When looking for co-founders, this type of entrepreneur might say: “What I want to do is truly meaningful. I’m looking for people who share my vision and are ready to join me and make their lives even more fruitful.”

On the other hand, the shy entrepreneur might think the idea is not that great. “I can’t afford to hire anyone. Besides, my friends already have jobs and have their own plans”.

The contrast is equally stark in other aspects.

For instance, when promoting a product, the thick-skinned mentality might inspire something like this: “I have no money for advertising but the prototype is ready. I have to try and market it. I’ll promote it first and worry about the market reaction later.”

The shy entrepreneur might say the “product is still rough and it’s too embarrassing to promote it to friends. They might look down on me. Posting it on social forums might annoy people. If I give out flyers, I’ll only be ignored.”

These two types of entrepreneurs also display very distinct approaches to soliciting feedbacks.

Proactive entrepreneurs would ask a barrage of questions: Do you like this product? What makes you like it in particular? How do you make use of this function? How does it suit your needs? Why don’t you like it? What if the design comes like this, will you consider it now? If the product can do this, would that satisfy you?

Reactive entrepreneurs would be glad if people like their products. If people don’t like them, they are simply too shy to ask why and how these can be improved.

Proactive entrepreneurs have a bigger chance of winning customers.

Thin-skinned ones would ask people if they are interested in buying their products. If turned down, that’s the end of it.

But the thick-skinned person would ask all kinds of probing questions to improve the chances of a sale such as “have you encountered this problem? What sort of product do you use to solve the problem?

And these: “Would you be interested if I told you I have a product that can more effectively solve the problem you mentioned? How can I win your business?  Who else do you think I should talk to?

In securing funding, the reactive entrepreneur hopes investors will come as long the service or product is good, but the proactive one will take the initiative to find out.

“Hi, Alex, can you tell me anything I have to pay attention to during financing?”

“Hello, Steven, I know your shareholders are from venture capital A and B. How do they interact with you?”

“Hey, David, do you think it will work out between me and your investor from venture capital C? Which partner in Capital C would suit me more? Can you hook us up?”

Experience tells us there’s a fine line between success and failure.

It could be down to attitude. 

This article appeared in the writer’s blog.

Translation by Darlie Yiu

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