If you’re an entrepreneur or small business owner, you probably want (and need) a little help financially. Angel investors are a great way to get the capital you can use to help your business idea take off. But making your pitch to potential investors can be a nerve-wracking experience. Angel investors, after all, typically use their own money to finance early-stage businesses that are high-risk. That’s a dicey proposition for just about anyone! So what are angel investors looking for in you that will set you apart from other entrepreneurs in need of funds?

Adriana Gardella of The New York Times small business blog “You’re the Boss” spoke with Catherine Mott, CEO and founder of BlueTree Allied Angels, an angel investing group in PA. Mott details what she looks for in an entrepreneur who is seeking an investment from her group. She mentions a desire for “coachable” entrepreneurs, and Gardella asks her to elaborate on what that actually means.

The bad news is, it’s difficult for investors to define “coachable.” Mott notes that it’s more of a gut feeling, a sense that the entrepreneur is willing to take advice on what they don’t know. The GOOD news is, Mott gave some examples of what she means by coachable, so keep these examples in mind when you’re meeting with your own potential angel investors, and you’ll be more likely to appear coachable yourself.

First, what NOT to do – Mott describes an entrepreneur who seemed coachable at first, but who quickly turned her off to the idea of investing in him. Here’s what she says:

“[The entrepreneur] had met with [another] very successful entrepreneur who told him to place an extremely high — and in our view unwarranted — value on his company. The founder assumed he should price his company similarly, just because this other guy did. I suggested that he talk to other people who might be able to offer different viewpoints, and he chose not to. I could see he wasn’t going to listen to, or take, advice. Another problem was that he had only one independent on his board. The rest were insiders. He’s still not funded.”

Clearly, having a closed mind and an inflated self-importance kept this entrepreneur from getting the capital he needed.

On the flipside, a truly coachable entrepreneur must have examined his or her own strengths and weaknesses, especially the weaknesses. Many entrepreneurs know their niche well and have great technical expertise, but when it comes to running a business, they are lacking in experience and knowledge. Recognizing this is a big part of being coachable. Mott says that having a strong management team at a start-up is a must; that team should help to cover the gaps in expertise that the founder is lacking.

“It scares the living dickens out of us when we’ve got all engineers in the room and they’ve made one the vice president of sales. It’s a human foible,” Mott says. By contrast, she loves it when a founder openly admits that he or she isn’t CEO material; she says that her investment group really wants to see entrepreneurs who know what they don’t know and are willing (and eager) to take whatever advice is needed to build a stable, strong company.

Are YOU coachable? As you pursue your business dream, keep in mind that, no matter how great your idea, you probably don’t have all of the knowledge and experience you need to start and run a business. You might have great engineering skills but no knowledge of marketing, for example. To be a coachable entrepreneur, be aware of these weaknesses and embrace them. Freely admit what you don’t know, and ask for help developing those areas of your business. Keep in mind that investors are taking a big chance on you, and they’ve been in business for a long while, watching companies succeed and fail. They probably have a very good idea of what works and what doesn’t, so put what they know to work for you. The capital is important, but so is the practical experience you might not have. And the more open are to what you DON’T know, the more likely you’ll be to get the angel investment you seek. Good luck!

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