Comm skills vital for successful entrepreneurs

Startup founders need to communicate their business vision and plans effectively to all stakeholders, and not be afraid to take risks to succeed in their fields.
Written by Ellyne Phneah, Contributor

SINGAPORE--The ability to communicate business ideas and vision clearly and effectively with external parties such as bankers and investors and internal stakeholders is fundamental in being a successful entrepreneur.

Seah Liang Cheng, managing director of software and engineering services company DSC Solutions, said entrepreneurs will have to pitch their businesses to different audiences as part of running their companies, and communication skills is a must-have.

The executive, speaking at the Failcon event held here Monday, said knowing how to pitch to different parties is important. For instance, to pitch for capital funding, an entrepreneur will need to present properly to "hook" investors. He or she will need to be confident about the business pitch and "play it cool" to attract interested parties instead of sounding desperate for money, Seah added.

When the business is not going as well as planned, entrepreneurs will also need to know what to say to keep negativity at bay, he said. With investors, founders should selectively show what problems the company is facing but emphasize on how they have a recovery plan in place.

With bankers, however, entrepreneurs will need to be "creative and play around" their concerns as this group of people hold the controls over interest rates of loans, which is crucial in determining whether a struggling startup sinks or swims, he said.

Engaging end-users and soliciting feedback is also important to refine and improve one's product as much as possible, noted Bernard Leong, technology manager at Vistaprint.

For example, it was through talking to customers over the phone that he realized uploading photos was difficult for his location-based mobile advertising network service Chalkboard and the company worked to eradicate this problem, he recounted. Chalkboard folded in April this year after Leong and co-founder Saumil Nanavati decided the company's progress had not been in line with its ambitions, according to The Next Web Asia.

Internal communication necessary, too
Communicating to staff and co-partners is also important to sustain one's business. Seah pointed out there must be complete transparency between co-founders and staff in order to foster trust, particularly when the business is not doing well.

As the boss, one must reassure the staff and show he is actively working to save the business and their jobs, he added.

Most startups founders are also bound to run into disagreements regularly regarding business directions, so good communication skills are needed to ensure conflicts are resolved and mutual respect is maintained, Leong advised.

"Go to a room--shout, scream or trash it out--but most importantly, at the end of the day, you must align your views and come to an agreement on where the business is headed," Andy Croll, co-founder and CTO of hotel sales platform Impulseflyer.com, added.

Transcend old business models
Ben Huh, founder and CEO of humor Web site Cheezburger, also said a lot of failures occur because people get stuck in old business models. This is because they are afraid of bending the rules and stick to following market trends, instead of taking risks and face the possibility of failing, he said during the event.

For example, there used to be a clear line between those who published content and those who read content, but the line has blurred as the Internet enabled people to participate and contribute to the culture they live in. Cheezburger became successful by taking advantage of this space and launched a site for Internet users to both create and read the content produced by the online community, Huh added.

When people fail, they also tend to be too hard on themselves and think everyone is watching and mocking their failures, he observed. However, this is the wrong mentality to have and entrepreneurs have to find a way to overcome their fear of failure for a second time, he explained.

"The truth is nobody cares about your failures. They only notice when you experience tremendous success," Huh stated.

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