I was at an event last week where I had the opportunity to hear a good friend of mine, Jeff Haanen, speak to a group of about 50 startup entrepreneurs.
As he was talking, he quickly noted to the group, “And just make sure that, along the way, you don’t treat your investors like commodities.”
When I heard it, my brain started down a path of questioning… Are people treating me like a commodity? Who would ever treat me like a commodity?
Are people really just using me for the investment capital we’re managing?
But as I stopped and reflected on these questions over the weekend, I realized this: I think people actually are thinking of me and Reilly as commodities, but I shouldn’t be that surprised. Because as much as I want to see the people I’m talking to as humans, it’s so, so easy to engage with people as transactions instead. We’re so busy these days, it can be really difficult to step back and take the time to see every person as someone who has feelings, a family, bills to pay, a dog to feed, etc.
I barely have enough time to do my job, how can I find the time to care about the person on the other side of the call?
An Issue with Doing Things Faster
One of the best things about the startup world is the incredible efficiency involved with its culture. If something gets in our way, we find a solution. And it’s why great ideas continue to pour out of founders across the globe.
Unfortunately, the human component of this work just doesn’t scale very well.
I’m on calls with startup founders who are asking us for investment capital a few times a day. And, just how long do those calls last? A short 15 minutes.
And lately, while on these calls, I’ve realized that I’m immediately jumping into asking about each person’s company. I usually do a (very) quick intro and overview of the agenda for the call and then start off asking questions about their pitch, market, product, etc.
I haven’t been asking any questions about one thing: The person on the other side of the call.
So I’ve started to change this.
Just the Beginning
What I’ve been trying to do every day, on all of my calls — whether they be with a client, partner, potential investment, potential client, or a GAN team member — is realize that they are first and foremost a human being who isn’t just there for me and my own agenda.
That potential investment opportunity isn’t there just to make me money.
That GAN team member isn’t there just to make GAN run efficiently and effectively.
That client isn’t there just to give us a check.
Saying it again: These people aren’t here solely to serve my own (selfish) purposes. (Novel idea, right?)
What I’m Doing
I’ve found one way that really helps keep me in check around this:
After I get off calls, I’m asking myself:
What did I care about most on that call?
Did I only care about getting a deal done? Was I only interested in making those people like me?
Did I only want to prove what a great business we are?
If so, I’ve made it all about me. I didn’t care at all about the other person on the line.
But if I get off a call and realize that I truly wanted to know how the other person has been doing, and deeply cared about their business, and wanted to find a solution that works for both them and me, I’m truly caring about them.
When I treat people like humans and show a genuine interest in what I can give rather than what I can get, I’m so much better at my job. Why? Because it means I care. I actually want what is best for them. I’ll ask questions about what they want their future to look like. And what they’re worried about. And how they’re actually doing, today. From there, I can find ways to help them. I can connect them to services or support that we offer through GAN or GAN Ventures. Or, I can point them to another option that’s even better than what we provide.
And when people feel that, there is this immediate trust that’s built because the other person knows they’re not being used. They know that I’m here to support them and what they’re up to.
But the really amazing secret here?
When you genuinely operate in a way that’s supporting others, rather than only being interested in what you can receive, both sides tend to want to work together even more. People show up, work hard, invest in you, and create a rising tide that lifts all boats. Because there’s this sense that we’re collaborating, rather than competing. It’s creating an additive economy — one where we’re not all fighting for resources, but somehow (and this is the magic) the more we give, the more there is to give.
Originally published at www.gan.co on July 31, 2018.