Over the past couple of months I’ve been trying to get my supply chain in order, look for reliable factories, raise funds for production and so on. Generally it’s not been easy because nobody wants to work with a start up. To alot of people, start-ups mean high likelihood of delayed payments, high risk of folding, danger, danger DANGER. Though this may be true for many who fail due to whatever reason, it does not mean that you will not eventually find success.
So yesterday I met this guy whom I was hoping I could collaborate with as my insole supplier. Everything about the meeting was just terrible. First, he was late. And then when he arrived, he judged my corporate experience background without even knowing what exactly I did in the past. He insinuated throughout the whole conversation that I wasn’t serious (mind you, this is the first meeting we ever had) and warned me that this is not child’s play and that I’m gonna get myself burnt. And at the end of the entire meeting after insulting me throughout, he still asked me to be his orthotic insole and slipper reseller.
ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!?
When I got up to leave, I stretched out to shake his hand but this guy didn’t even have the basic courtesy to get up from his seat. He gave me a filmsy handshake and continued sipping his coffee.
I was absolutely appalled at his unbelievably rude behaviour.
I remembered my days in the corporate world when I attended a Private Equity Conference which my company sent me to. There were participants from all over – PE investors, start ups and service providers to the investors. Of course at these events, there would be the networking sessions during the breaks. I remember very clearly how some people came up to me and starting chatting but the minute they realized I was of no “use” to them, they just turned their backs and left. Honestly, I was more shocked at how they didn’t even bother to end the conversation politely than the fact that they weren’t interested in talking to me any further.
So back to the insole supplier. The whole conversation we had was just absurd. I can handle rejection but I cannot handle rudeness. Initially, I was seething when I left but after a couple of hours, I realized that there was something I learnt from this episode.
*what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger – kelly clarkson’s Stronger line playing continuously in my head*.
So here’s what I learnt –
1. Just because somebody said “no” or said something nasty to you, doesn’t mean that they are right.
I asked him what were his product’s competitive advantages and how they compared to what was already available in the market. He didn’t even know brands like Ecco, Rockport and Aerosoles which are sold quite ubiquitously in the departmental stores here in Singapore.
Firstly, if you don’t even know your competitors in the market where you’re playing, you’re not fit to do business. And he had the cheek to say that I’m not a business person (how did he even assume this without knowing anything about me?).
And then, he thought Melissa was a local Singapore brand. … I have nothing to say.
And, he also thought that a Stiletto was a strappy sandal.
OMG. I cannot believe this. Is this person even in the footwear industry?!
I realized how ignorant he was. And why was he so nasty on a first meeting with a stranger? Maybe he just had to do this to make himself feel better. I realized that I didn’t have to be angry with him because he was a fool and getting upset would just be a waste of my emotions.
I am not saying that as an entrepreneur, you are always in the right. We have to always remember to stay humble and reflect on why the person we spoke to said “No” – be it an investors, a co-founder, an employee and so on. And we have to continually improve our pitch and our product to get more Yeses.
However sometimes, there are some people who say things intentionally just to hurt you, to test you or to stop you. And these are the people you need to ignore.
2. It sounds cliche but what doesn’t kill really you makes you stronger.
Every time I hear a “no”, I am more determined to prove that person wrong. Because I know my target market and I know my stuff. I just don’t have a track record at the moment because I haven’t been given the chance to even begin.
Jack Ma, one of the richest and most powerful people in the world, had 23 out of 24 people who rejected his idea when he tried to set up Alibaba. He said “I decided I would do it anyway, even if all of the 24 people opposed the idea”
Katy Perry started off as a gospel singer and was dropped by 3 labels before eventually getting signed by Capitol Music which helped rocket her to fame.
JK Rowling, author of Harry Potter, was jobless, divorced, penniless, and with a dependent child and had 12 major publishers reject her Harry Potter script before she found success
And the list of famous people now who faced failure before their success goes on..
One thing they all had in common was that they never gave up.
3. There are still people around who believe in you and encourage you to work towards your dreams
Despite the world being seemingly cruel to an entrepreneur, there are still pockets of people out there who would support you – so don’t lose hope.
For every “No” I’ve heard, I’ve heard about another 5 “yeses” and these yeses come from people who love you, believe in you or those who share the same vision. I cannot emphasize enough on how important a solid support system is – you can find this in a support spouse or family or even in a local entrepreneurial community in your area.
What’s important is you have a firm conviction on the “why” and surround yourself with positive people.
I remember one of my instructors in school told me – “As a startup, you’re gonna hit lots of road blocks and you’re gonna cry a lot of tears. I have never seen a start up that has not broken down in tears before. But when that happens, just keep going. Because one day, you’re going to make it.”
There are only 2 types of people in this world – the naysayers and those who actually make it. I want to be in the latter.
In the meantime, I’ll let rejection fuel me. I’ll perfect my craft. And I’ll keep moving forward.
What kind of lessons have you learned from facing rejection?