You might wonder what similarities there can be between a Russian oligarch and an entrepreneur. When it comes to persuading people to invest, there are plenty, according to Roly Grimshaw.
I was recently working with a wealthy Russian who had been advised that if he wanted to expand into the Western world, he should float off part of his business so that he could demonstrate the strength of investors in him and his business. Doing this involved a road show around European and US capitals, talking to potential investors, perhaps on a larger scale than an entrepreneur looking for backers, but a similar task to complete.
When I was introduced as an advisor who could help him attract investors through these meetings, he looked at me incredulously and said, through his interpreter: “I will tell people about my wonderful business. If they want to invest, it is up to them. I know my business backwards and so I see the task as easy. Why should I need your help?”
To which I replied, “No, your job in these meetings is not so much to tell people about your business as to persuade them that it would be a good investment for them.” Working with entrepreneurs, who have the same task of attracting investment, albeit on a smaller scale than my Russian oligarch, I often find the same attitude. “Just tell people about the business, and the money will come,” they think. Indeed, very often they know their businesses better than anyone else, but that is precisely where the problems lie.
Successful investor presentations are all about key messages and evidence. If you draw a line down a page, and write key messages on the left side and evidence on the right side, there is not much communication that lies on both sides of the line. You either have a point to make or some evidence of that point. The evidence might take the form of an example, a success story or data. Any data might best be displayed in the form of a graphic, a slide or a page from a document.
And yet, when faced with what will probably be the most important presentation of their lives, entrepreneurs (and the occasional oligarch) are too often inclined to turn to a PowerPoint template for their preparation. They pack a wealth of information about their business on each slide, almost always divided into logical sections, such as a description of the business sector in which they operate, the market, competitors and so on.
Very often these slides are a simplified version of the information memorandum in their business plan. With this pile of evidence on slides, they make the final preparations for an investor meeting by thinking what can be said aloud “to the slide” to justify a live presentation. Result: data Best practice abounds; evidence stacked on evidence – with the story, the investment case, being left for the investor to discover.
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