Wednesday, February 2, 2011

How I Got People to Follow Me - Strategies All Entrepreneurs Should Know

Young people jumping

Getting people to work for free and to follow you with your idea is a difficult task but it is very possible. But, when you are a bootstrapping entrepreneur, funds are very scarce. This is a common problem for all start-ups. However, building a quality team with little or no funds is possible. Here are some suggestions:

1. Paint the Opportunity.

Nothing speaks better than having a compelling story. Having had the opportunity to meet with CEO’s, CFO’s, and Venture Capitalists, I’ve always heard the same advice across the board. Stories are more memorable. When I say “story,” I mean the story of how you came across the problem. All new businesses start with that “a-ha” moment. What lead up to that “a-ha” moment is your story.

When approaching friends or people in your network for recruiting purposes, you better have a compelling story. Choose your words wisely as people will want to be hooked within the first 20 seconds. Paint the idea by use of story. Give them facts about the market, the exact problem that’s going on, and your solution. How do you envision solving this problem?

Because stories touch us, they have the potential to foster empathy with an investor.

2. Be Confident.

Being confident has provided me with a strong backbone when it comes to decision making. As a leader, you must never show weakness. This may be a stretch, but it’s true. Think about it. If your leader breaks down, what do you think that does to the organization? Now, for a young entrepreneur, this is a difficult thing to grasp. But you must make this a priority. There will be times when you honestly don’t know the answer and that is ok. Be confident. Everything you do and say is being followed by your team.

3. Include Everyone in Decision Making.

By creating an open environment where everyone has an equal say fosters growth and promotes positive communication. It creates a sense of trust with your team. Everyone knows that they have a say in decisions and everyone will value that. Some of the best ideas come by way of brainstorming and with brainstorming, you need to be open. Everyone needs to be on the same playing field. I share our financial statements with our developers. I open the floor to comments and ask for opinions when confronted with a difficult decision. I believe it has brought our team closer together as we all have a mutual respect for everyone.

4. Applaud and Praise (More than you normally would).

People like to hear their name. We don’t like to hear about what you have to say, we want you to hear what I have to say. Give praise when praise is warranted, and do this more than you normally would. Praising someone may seem a bit embarrassing but the benefits far outweigh the little bit of embarrassment that you may receive. Also, when praising someone it builds a bond. Try it out sometime, I bet things will start changing.

5. Do Your Part.

When you are a small start-up, you cannot afford to waste time. You cannot afford to outsource any of your work. Take for instance a business plan. Writing a business plan is useless because it’s just that…a plan. Plans change. They continuously change as your company makes its way through its start-up life cycle. When you start approaching people with your idea, people bring up points that you may have never thought of. This changes the business concept which then changes the business plan.

However, the process of writing the plan is invaluable. It makes you think. It makes you research and makes you really focus on what you are trying to accomplish. When you are ready to present to investors, you will be more prepared. Some investors actually require this document and they do it because they want you focused. They understand the importance of the process of writing a business plan.

6. Pay it Forward.

Paying it forward stresses the importance of passing on the things you’ve learned, your connections, your talents, and your knowledge onto those who are willing to accept. It is important to keep the cycle of giving going. When I get the opportunity to meet with an executive, I feel honored but I also feel as if they are paying it forward. You must learn to pay it forward. Give back when you have the opportunity. Provide value for people to learn. This will not only gain credibility for yourself but people will look at you with more integrity. Just don’t take advantage of it. Paying it forward is about being honest and appreciative with all that everyone has given you.

Paying it forward has now given me the opportunity to slowly start sharing what I know with others, like on this blog.


Getting people to work for free and to follow you with your idea is a difficult task but it is very possible. It takes a lot of hard work and determination but people are willing to hop on board with someone who has a compelling story, who gets work done, who has integrity, and who values your opinion.

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