Investing in the perfect Entrepreneur? Look out for these six traits

“The most important skill for any entrepreneur is selling,” says Clive Butkow, CEO of Kalon Venture Partners, reflecting on his youth working in clothing stores and on his successful career that followed.

“Someone has to make the stuff and someone has to sell the stuff. If you can’t sell what you make, you can’t build a sustainable business. Nothing happens until the cash register rings. That is the advice I give to any startup. A founding team needs to have a founder that is the best sales person on the planet.”

After three decades on the cutting edge of the corporate environment, Clive has finally returned to his entrepreneurial dream – in his case as a venture capitalist.

“It is incredibly exciting. I don’t work an hour in my life, I rather have fun 14 hours a day. I enjoy helping build companies and mentoring people. That is what we need in this country.”

What is Clive looking for in entrepreneurs, especially when considering investing in their firms? Clive calls it his six Cs to investing: coachability, charisma, courage, conviction, curiosity, and communication.

  1. Coachability: “One of big problems with entrepreneurs is coachability. How do you grow if you are not coachable? This is not age-dependent. Many entrepreneurs have a DYI attitude. They believe they know everything. They don’t listen to anyone. They fall in love with their product. If I invest money, I want to know that I work with entrepreneurs who become leaders and start listening. A lot of people don’t raise capital because they don’t want to listen to anyone. Trial and error is a very expensive business strategy.”
  2. Charisma: “You need to have charm and charisma to sell your idea, first of all to customers, but also to the press and your own employees and investors. You need to get the best talent and to attract them you need to convince them, so you are always selling.”
  3. Courage: “People don’t understand how hard it is to build a business from startup to scale up. It is easy to say you had enough and get a corporate job. They need to have the courage to terminate under-performing staff, which is never easy.”
  4. Conviction: “Related to courage is the conviction to never give up. If you get told no, it means maybe. An entrepreneur is like a bulldog. The trick is finding the balance between stubbornness and conviction.”
  5. Curiosity: “What are the trends happening in the market place? How many mobile phones do people have in Africa? To be a successful entrepreneur, you need to be a learner. If some development is happening further up the road and you don’t pivot, you might be swallowed up alive. You need to be curious to stay future-focused.”
  6. Communication: “Founders and specifically founding CEOs need to have great communication skills. They need to be able to articulate their vision to their employees, investors, partners, and other involved parties.”