Jerk avoidance Featured

8:41am EDT January 31, 2003
When I first meet prospective clients, I interview them, just as they interview me.

Beyond discussing their technology, service or product, and their potential for success in the marketplace, I also try to determine if I find the prospective client to be a jerk. Likewise, I try to make certain the potential client does the same jerk evaluation of me.

The jerk determination is important, for if we decide to work together, there will be times of frustration and aggravation which can be difficult even when working with a compatible person, but which become insufferable when working with a jerk.

Part of my mandate when working with an early stage company is to model and produce as bulletproof a business plan as possible, so we can present a very attractive deal to capital. This is exciting and rewarding, but it entails a discovery and construction process in which I must challenge and question all assumptions and data.

The entrepreneur generally has spent time and effort, and is emotionally invested in the work, and I have to challenge all of it. Few people enjoy this due diligence process, yet it is part of the planning and funding effort. The process is never confrontational, but it is also rarely diplomatic.

The path to funding is an emotional roller coaster. You can be exhilarated and excited one day, crushed the next, then rise again. The business plans you have in mind might have to be modified to reflect new data and constantly changing markets.

Unknown competition can emerge, beta technology can fail and key personnel can leave. Add in time pressure and the demand for more data, more research, more of everything, and nerves can become frayed.

Putting together an early stage company is thrilling, and if your professionals are doing their jobs, they're not just telling you what you already know or want to hear. This candor is bound to cause bumps, but by avoiding engaging jerks, you'll be able to work through the rough spots. Erwin Bruder (ebruder@primcapital.com) is chief economist & managing director of emerging enterprises at Prim Capital Corp. Reach him at (216) 830-1111, ext.2220.