Ambition and success – learning in the field
Rony Zarom has a track record of business success not only in America but in Israel, from his current company, HD video conferencing company, Watchitoo to his smartphone communication company that sold for $550 million and helped bring Internet service to Israel. He also founded Decima Ventures, a venture capital company that invests in US tech companies with an R&D center in Israel, and Unistream, a successful non-profit junior MBA program in Israel.
When you ask Zarom about the secret to his success as an entrepreneur, he doesn’t talk about the companies he built, but the lessons he learned during his time as a paratrooper in the Israeli Armed Forces.
Zarom offers his top tips for aspiring entrepreneurs, in his own words below:
Take hold of your fear, and use the strengths you have to be a little crazy. Serial entrepreneur and author Steve Banks thinks entrepreneurs are crazy and that’s a good thing because they “are actually hallucinating, and every once in a while they’re actually visionaries. They are insanely driven to bring that thing they see to fruition. And they need to be because of the amount of travails they go through in making something out of nothing.” Whether you’re thinking about pursuing a new startup or reinventing your business, let your passion for creating your vision consume you.
However, before you make the big leap into any new business venture, get just as crazy – or diligent – when identifying the pros and cons of your decision. Do this by smartly assessing the financial risks involved, forecasting trends driving the market and anticipating all potential challenges such as building infrastructure, creating sustainable operations and processes and besting competition.
Lace up your own boots
As the leader of your company, you should be its best salesman. Becoming a persuasive advocate for your company starts with clearly defining its value proposition and differentiators that set you apart from the competition. Crafting the right sales pitch takes time and more importantly, will often be met with rejection. Some of the most successful entrepreneurs have heard “no” more times than “yes.”
When jumping into my latest venture, I was rejected by 20 investors before securing funding. The honest, objective feedback from investors who rejected my idea, although painful to hear, was a necessary part of improving my sales pitch. A few tips to improving your pitch:
- Keep it conversational. Ask questions from your audience, present challenges and offer solutions.
- Never make the same pitch twice. Each sales pitch should be tailored specifically to each audience.
- Everyone loves stories. Telling good stories in your sales pitch requires gathering as much intelligence about your audience as possible. Find out what the buyer or investor is interested in and paint a creative picture of how your product or idea aligns with those interests.
- Explore potential objections candidly. Before your pitch, think through all potential objections, like budget, demand, time, etc., from your audience and be prepared to fully address those objections with solutions.
- Be proactive in next steps. The buyer or investor should never be the first one to follow up. Send a thank you letter, have lunch scheduled to be brought in when you leave, deliver something personal to each member of the audience – do whatever it takes to stand out and make it clear that you’re listening.
- When you feel ready, present your pitch at a local business pitch event or to peers who’ve been successful with business pitches.
Trust your co-pilot
Your business could run into turbulence along the way, which is why it’s important to not only have a great co-pilot but also surround yourself with smart people who have “been there and done it all” to buffer against any potential company blowbacks. Identifying a network of advisors, partners or board of directors to serve as a sounding board is one of the most important things you can do when starting a company. I recommend finding at least two other advisors to have bi-monthly discussions that develop solutions to intercept “worst case scenarios,” forecast budgets and explore new ways to streamline business processes.
Know the terrain
Sun Tzu’s adage holds. Though focused on the vision, the real work is done on the ground. Your startup may be very financially lean in the beginning, requiring you to fill multiple roles to move it forward. Experiencing various roles from the ground up is one of the best things you can do to perfect your hiring process.
Learning the needs and what drives each position in the company will help you find the right employees to deliver results. A good leader knows the terrain, from the ground up, and uses that knowledge to find great people and remain engaged with each employee’s professional progress and needs.
At the end of the day, a successful entrepreneur must be a chameleon – a strategic business leader and also a dreamer who is not afraid to just jump and take the plunge. Whether in the board room or the back of an airplane, these are the lessons will always hold true and will guide us when aspiring for greatness.