Why Entrepreneurs Should Get Used To Rejection: Coping when others say “no”

Rather than blaming others when your business experiences a setback or doesn’t impress investors, look inward to assess the problem, advises Erik Severinghaus, founder and CEO of SimpleRelevance. Rejection is a natural part of the entrepreneurial process, so you might as well prepare for it and learn what you can

Why Entrepreneurs Should Get Used To Rejection: Coping when others say “no”

The first point in an entrepreneur’s job description should be “handles rejection well.” I keep hearing stories of entrepreneurs who are convinced they aren’t being taken seriously enough. Truth be told, I probably did some of that complaining at the beginning too.

Don’t think that investors just aren’t smart enough to appreciate the value of your business, that they don’t take people with MBAs seriously, or that they just don’t like you because you aren’t from a certain area. It’s too easy to blame others for being ignorant, dumb or lazy than to be introspective about what it is about your business or presentation that isn’t resonating. But if you want to succeed and learn from your mistakes, introspection (and coping) is key. Here are a few points that hopefully serve as a reality check:

1. Prepare for rejection.

Unless you have major traction or a resume replete with huge successes, raising money (especially your first round) is a miserable experience. Almost every meeting will be some form of rejection, and you’re likely to meet with duplicity and condescension at every turn. This is happening not due to some external reason, but because there is a power dynamic between investor (has money) and entrepreneur (desperately needs money). The only way to change that is to change the power dynamic. Show enough traction or successes so that multiple investors will come to you. Absent those things, just grind through the process without giving up when you’re rejected 99 percent of the time.

2. Remember that no one owes you his or her money or time.

You earn the right to those things by amassing social and reputational capital. Give before you ask. Find ways to help and impress people, and then ask for their time and introductions. If someone doesn’t want to help you, don’t write them off as a jerk, instead figure out how you can earn their attention. (Think Bud Fox in “Wall Street” or Chris Gardner in “The Pursuit of Happyness.”)

3. Get used to people rejecting you.

Grow thick skin and learn to work through it. When you get rejected, use it as fuel to figure out how to win the next time. Figure out how to be more convincing and smarter the next time around.

4. Take rejection with grace.

Be humble enough to recognize that there is probably something to learn from the rejection. Believe it or not, those rejections are actually what sharpen you (and your pitch) for eventual success.

I take part in pitch competitions any chance I get because they provide an opportunity to refine my presentation skills and get candid feedback about my company. I don’t participate in these activities to pander to my ego. They exist to make early-stage companies better. It would be really easy for a new entrepreneur to pitch, get rejected and pout about the competition being rigged. But was it really? No. Instead of blaming the judges for being partial to others, take it as a learning experience. Be introspective and work hard to dominate next time.
Almost no one succeeds in doing something great without going through valleys of despair and feeling alone. That’s the nature of this game. But for entrepreneurs, it’s a life we choose. Those who succeed use the rejections of others to drive them to further heights. Those who blame everyone but themselves when they fail miss valuable learning experiences and rarely make it to the top.

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