On the weekend just gone I was fortunate enough to have one of the most valuable single meetings since moving to the US to progress my new startup.
In a nutshell I was able to get a meeting with an individual who had a huge amount of hands-on exposure to a variety of businesses playing in the same space as planwise, Consumer Internet. I expected a 30 min coffee so was stoked with the 2 hours afforded to me. In terms of how to get meetings like this and how to get value out of them I can only offer my experience which was
> Don’t reach out too early, discover early on the people you think might be interested in what you’re doing (firstly & most importantly!) and might be able to help you (secondly, and a byproduct of the first thing!). Follow them on twitter, read their blog & interaction, understand their character as much as possible. They will likely qualify giving any time to you based on what they can determine about your character from a quick skim of your twitter, linkedin & blog etc as well as your opportunity so have that stuff at least up to date
> Have progress – progress involves overcoming challenges, if you’ve not made any then you’ve not worked some things out for yourself. If you can show in a concise and under-sold manner what you have been able to achieve then you provide comfort that you will get value from the advice/insight to be provided. Nothing erks more than providing advice knowing that it wont be understood or contribute to adding value.
> be flexible & responsive; people who are any good usually have a lot going on so are often opportunistic with their time. You might get a days notice for the 20 min catch up that will change your thinking
> listen! … If you’re talking, you’re pitching (probably) – anyone of any calibre will get very quickly what you’re doing, it doesnt need to be sold, get to the crux of your challenge or opportunity then start listening again
> no set plays – I went for an intended chat on UX design and we didn’t even get to the laptop in 2 hours. These people can get where you’re at with your venture very quickly and accordingly will bring the dialogue to the point of maximum value. In my case we had some fundamental questions around strategy & positioning that were obviously open and our discussion in these areas was far more valuable than diving into a dissection of my prototype.
> Watch out for the ‘why’ – the most refreshing & useful thing to be got from meeting someone who really has depth of experience is they will provide substantiated opinion, not simply a point of view. Understanding why they are suggesting something is where the real lesson is.
> Capture the moment; as soon as you finish up get your notes down as quickly as possible and add your own thoughts (clearly marked!) alongside these. If amazing insight has been provided it will all make sense at the time but you need time (days or weeks) to properly process it and potentially apply relevant parts to your previous approach/strategy which means being able to revisit the new ideas or input with clarity. Your mind is good, but it’s not that good.
In terms of process, getting the ear of one such individual will likely require reaching out to a few. If you’re fortunate enough to be in the valley there are numerous people who can help you and will likely find your venture interesting enough to give up 30 mins of their time in exchange for a coffee or some such. The quality of your planning & thought to reach out to the right person, in the right way, at the right time should not be reduced just because you have a few people in mind.
Exercise patience, connect every 2 – 3 months and leave it after 3 attempts unless things have changed SIGNIFICANTLY for you.
Good luck, be humble and persevere
(originally published on http://blog.planwise.com)