I remember when I first heard Richard Turner speak and I was enamoured by his ZEN Energy founder’s story. Richard is a serial entrepreneur and has founded multiple successful companies and organisations across four different industry sectors.
When I heard his book, The Essential Entrepreneur will be launched this month by Wiley, I decided to bribe him with a coffee and ask a few questions around pitching. After we chatted about our kids and their penchant for planes, I jumped in with ‘So, Richard, what do you think about pitching?’
His answer – ‘I don’t pitch.’
‘Well,’ I thought, ‘This is going to be a short blog!’ But of course, he had stoked my curiosity and I asked him why.
Richard told me he focuses more on presentations than pitching. Pitching he feels is very one-sided. He explained that he hated the ‘Shark Tank’ type pitch: first, because it’s telling more than selling and, secondly, it puts the balance of power with the investor rather than the business.
I also feel the pitch is overrated and I wrote about it on my blog Is it Time to Ditch the Pitch? But business is all about communication, so what should we be focusing on?
Here are Richard Turner’s thoughts on business communication.
Richard believes confidence does not come naturally and we need to learn how to be confident and work at it. He shared with me that he was a shy child, the youngest of three siblings and rarely spoke. He cut his teeth when he fronted a band in the 80’s. By pushing himself out of his comfort zone, he was able to ‘Move outside of myself and get into performance mode.’
Richard feels we can all learn to be confident and says he practises ‘a lot in my head’ as well as aloud to perfect his presentations.
Present your story a million times
Not surprisingly, Richard believes in the power of a story well told. He believes you need to sell the reason why you exist and take people on the journey with you.
These are not pitches, but presentations. You will be presenting constantly to win over suppliers, customers, and backers, so it’s important to continue to craft your narrative.
Enlist others to amplify your story
Early on, Richard discovered that visibility is essential and that it helps when somebody else is talking about you. Because of this 50% of his marketing budget is spent on PR.
The foundation will always be good people and a good business, but you can amplify this and stake your position in the market. In Richard’s experience, if you do this successfully, you will not need to pitch, as investors will come to you.
It is all about communication
As the founder of EO South Australia and entrepreneur in residence at the University of South Australia, Richard has mentored and nurtured hundreds of businesses. One of the things that frustrated him was business owners’ reticence to pick up the phone and talk to people. He shared with me that he has seen products launched where they have never actually talked to the customer.
It is important to validate your idea, product, or service. Richard recommends starting with your family, getting curious and ask open-ended questions. An email survey will not do it, you need to speak with real people. You set the standard in your organisation. Your presentation needs to engage and excite so that people want to come with you on the journey.
The Essential Entrepreneur is a great read, not just for entrepreneurs, but for anyone in business who wants to stay current and do things differently. And yes, there is a section dedicated to perfecting your pitch. On page 99 Richard shares the importance of being able to talk about yourself and your business in an engaging way. He suggests that ‘doing a short course in public speaking is a good idea.’
Thanks Richard I could not agree more!