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Sat Series: What are you not asking for?

What are you not asking for?

What do a primary school teacher, a government employee, and Steve Jobs have in common?

Well, the primary school teacher is my mum, the government employee is my dad, and I have no familial relation to Steve Jobs. They do, however, all happen to be in the same generation of baby boomers. Being boomers, they share a common trait that appears to be strongest in their generation: the ability to ask for what you want, not just what you think you can get.

As a kid, Dad would always respond with “If you don’t ask, you don’t get” to any of my problems. Whether it was getting better grades, more time on the hockey field, or dating advice, my father’s one-trick responses seemed rude, inappropriate, and at times, naive. But that was because I had one critical difference from my father, I cared about being rejected more than I cared about getting what I wanted.

“Steve who?”.

You may know the famous story about fifteen-year-old Steve Jobs who, working on his computer at home (i.e. building it from scratch) had the AUDACITY to call Bill Hewlett at his home address and ask him for a hard-to-get part. Bill Hewlett, of course, was the “Hewlett” in Hewlett Packard and the “H” in HP Sauce (only one of these statements is true).

But the audacity of the entitled little boomer didn’t stop there. After managing to get Hewlett to send him the part free of charge, he also had the nerve to ask Hewlett for a summer internship! Shocked, but undoubtedly impressed, Hewlett agreed and that is how Jobs landed his first job.

Who knows how formative that job was in the career of the man who changed the technology industry forever, but I’d say that if Jobs didn’t feel comfortable asking for what he wanted, the world today would be very different.

Why am I telling you this story?

Last week I interviewed Joseph Constable from the soon-to-be-listed H&G High Conviction Fund.

If you’re reading this and are a sub $200m listed company, connect with him now! This is a micro-cap-specific investor who is looking for stocks. He can be your conduit from retail to the larger funds.

It was clear that he not only loves investing but also loves to add value. As a fund, they will be active, use their network, sit on the board, help you find board members, and help you win work. They’re also long-term investors, with the goal to help you grow from $50m to $200m and get the big boys in.

Joseph is rare, but not unique. Whilst his cheque size is larger than most, it highlights that you have a whole pool of people (aka your investors) who can help you a lot… but only if you ask!

The other Steve.

The other interview I did recently was with Steve Orenstein from Zoom2U. He has two core offerings: a double-sided marketplace (retail companies on one side, drivers/delivery on the other) and a tech platform for enterprise deliveries (Bing Lee, Bunnings).

One thing we touched on was utilising the investor base for introductions, and he spoke about customers who become shareholders - and shareholders who refer customers. Just by becoming more aware of the specific problems his business solves, I have also since introduced him to a friend who runs a 3PL business.

To paraphrase Al Pacino, “The opportunities we need are everywhere around us.” Steve’s ability to tap into the connection powers of his drivers, his investors, and his vendors to facilitate new business and investment opportunities is a testament to this.

The opportunities we need are everywhere around us.

What this all highlights is that each of you has thousands of opportunities to engage and activate your shareholder base. Yes, you can ask them to buy more stock, but that is one of many opportunities.

In startup land, we are taught “Ask for advice and you might get money. Ask for money and you just get advice” and it holds pretty true. Diversification of your asks is important - if you remain one-track-minded in your asks then you’re limiting your potential to 1% of the pie.

At InvestorHub, we embrace this. Every monthly investor update Rhys and I send out has a section that asks - “We are raising soon - who should we talk to?” “We want to explore the UK, do you know people there?” or “Do you know a listed company who wants to grow their market cap?” You get the idea.

Whilst I used to think this was rude and naive, the naive thing to do is not to ask! You’re just leaving money on the table (and you can bet your bottom dollar that someone else is going to swoop up that money).

So what are some of the tasks that you might have?

  1. If you’re a mining company, you could ask your shareholders for Geo referrals, or run an internship program for people wanting to get into the Geo space;

  2. If you’re a tech company, you could ask for beta testers or customer referrals;

  3. If you’re a biotech company, you have a hard message (at times) to digest. Knowing what language sticks (and what doesn’t) is tricky. Getting some shareholders to proofread your comms can help you make sure that your comms are hitting the mark with your shareholders and investor community;

  4. Host an event and invite people in - if you cover catering, you can even use our office in Melbourne and have up to 200 people there!

  5. And you can always ask for business referrals - like “Do you know anyone who could benefit from what we are doing? Would love to chat and be introduced”

You might get nothing, but you won’t look stupid.

“If you don’t ask, you don’t get”. Thanks, Dad.

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