Startup life is a lot like dating. You and your investors meet over coffee, over dinner, get to know each other better, all with the goal of seeing if there is a spark and a good fit for partnership.
All entrepreneurs need to learn how and who to approach, how to sell themselves, and how to handle rejection and keep going. Men usually pick up these crucial social skills as they navigate the singles scene, but women, more commonly the pursued, may need to put some extra effort into learning how to promote themselves and their companies. Whether the goal is funding, finding a co-founder, or hiring that first engineer, the tips below can help.
Don't Put People Into The "Friend Zone"
Men don't overlook their friends when it comes to dating, and women shouldn't overlook their friends when hiring. Most of the best "talent" (engineers, business people, investors) come from your own networks. Look first to the people you already know and then branch out. You already get along and respect each other, so don't be afraid of ruining friendships by working with the people you already have a good relationship with.
Put Yourself Out There
"Men will hit on anything that moves." Maybe exaggerated, but there is some truth to it. Don't be afraid to meet with as many people as possible who can help your business grow. And please, don't turn down speaking events because you're afraid of public speaking. The more people know about you and your business, the better. If you're just starting out, attend networking events and parties to get more comfortable.
Make The First Move
Men learn to make the first move--arm over the shoulder in a movie, a brief touch on the leg, and the whole asking out part. Women, on the other hand, still have great strides to make in this area. Don't let your competition get a leg up (no pun intended) on you. For every person that's afraid to ask, there are hundreds of others who aren't. So make sure that you have first-mover's advantage, and ask first.
Let Them Know Why They Should Be With You
Within minutes of meeting a man, you probably already know his name and what he does for a living; that's because men don't have a problem boasting about their achievements. Many women, even high profile women, don't lead with what they've done; they fear sounding arrogant or like they're bragging, and wait to be asked. First impressions matter, so tell potentials upfront and quickly why they should work with you or your business.
Offer to take them out, and don't forget to pay
Right or wrong, it seems like society has put men in the position of asking women out for dinner. And whether you believe in going Dutch or not, you are the pursuer here. Strategically map out the people you want to talk to, and get in touch. Offer to take them out for coffee, drinks, or dinner and pick up the bill. Chances are you will find that most are willing to meet and give you advice.
The rule here is simple: compliment, compliment, compliment. Flirting is all about having a good time with another person, and making them feel special. Everyone likes to know that they're admired, so don't be afraid to tell them that you respect what they've done in business, on a project, or even the way they write in their blog.
Learn How To Take A Compliment
How often have you given a man a compliment, and then heard him deny it? Probably not often. Let's make it a goal for all womankind to be able to properly take a compliment. None of this "Ah-- it's nothing" stuff. You did it--what you really should be saying is "thanks" (and then do a little happy dance jig in your head).
Hide The Crazy
That's right -- don't let your inner psycho come out until later ... after you've closed the deal. When pitching your product to investors and potential partners, don't tell them about everything you haven't done yet, or the flaws that still exist. Instead, tell them about the amazing things your product does, and the cool new features that are on your roadmap.
Know what you're getting into before you get into it. Before any business meeting, Google, Facebook, and Twitter who you will be seeing. This way you'll be up-to-date, and it might even give you some hints for possible conversation starters.
Sleep With The Arm Candy And Marry The Wife
"There's the one you date, and there's the one you marry." In business, the arm candy is the influencer, and the wife is the long-term value to your users. You need both to succeed. Try hard to get celebrities and people important in your field to endorse your product; they can help provide the splash you need to make people take notice. Then follow up by ensuring that you provide real value to your core user base -- your longest lasting and most important relationship.
Be Genuine And Offer Them Something
This is the golden rule -- be genuine. Never leave a business meeting with the other person feeling like you just took and didn't give. Never leave the other person feeling like you weren't listening or didn't mean things you said. The most beneficial business relationships come from real connections that started out as sparks and were nurtured into flames, just like the best relationships.
Christina A. Brodbeck is the CEO of theicebreak.com, a fun and new service that helps couples to create more rewarding relationships with snack-sized activities that that no more than two minutes a day. Follow her on twitter at @jellyfishbloom and @theicebreak.