I have always advocated in the past that mentors, advisors, and investors should be friends with founders. Especially investors. I have also seen how that friendship can be abused with people taking things for granted. Friendship doesn’t mean entitlement.
I had a chat with two competing founders recently. One of them is closer to me than the other one. I had to be harder on the one closer to me because he was dropping his guard and expected magic to happen because “he knows people.” The other is hungrier and doesn’t know anyone.
The hungrier founder had done a lot more homework and seemed to know the business better. His vision was also greater. It is only a matter of time before his performance also allows him to have the people on his side who can be helpful.
Even when you know people, always assume that you don’t. Even when you have customers, always act like they can all leave you tomorrow. I have always seen the expectations from those I know and who can help to be what drives me and not what makes me relaxed. I have a short story.
I am very good friends with the Oando founders and when they were all still Ocean & Oil, I used their guest house in Abuja when visiting. It saved me a ton on hotel costs and I was always grateful to them. Another friend also used the place too and he partied with them. I didn’t.
I had to respect the boundaries as they were older and I was a beneficiary of their generosity. I always admired their work ethic as well. They would party all night and still be up early and sharp for their meetings. Our other friend would still be sleeping as we left to hustle.
One day, he got a deal that needed financing. He asked the guys to help him and they were all laughing that he would use their money to party. They said “if it is Victor that was asking, we will take him seriously as he is a serious person”. He came to meet me to beg them.
I couldn’t take the risk too as I didn’t know him as a business person. I knew him as a “groove guy.” He eventually got the money but he learned his lesson and decided that his relationships were going to be different. He decided to learn more rather than just party.
These relationships are best for learning more than anything else. That is the most valuable thing you can get from relatively successful people. Opening doors is a consequence of that learning and not automatic because you “know people.” Successful people are not foolish.
Each minute I spend with Jite Okoloko, @kidehen and my other mentors is for learning and I don’t take those relationships for granted. They are my greatest privilege.