FIS Fintech Founder Feature | With Laura Kornhauser
Laura Kornhauser is the co-founder and CEO of Stratyfy, and is a proud member of the 2020 FIS Fintech Accelerator, in partnership with The Venture Center. She comes from a family of technology entrepreneurs and spent over a decade at JPMorgan before co-founding Stratyfy.
Stratyfy’s Platform helps financial institutions improve risk-based decision-making across their organization while mitigating unconscious bias and ensuring regulatory compliance. Decisions like which loans to approve or what to investigate for potential fraud.
Stratyfy’s platform delivers real transparency, bridging the gap between business and data science, and marrying business users’ subject matter expertise with data scientists’ data modeling abilities.
Want to learn more about Stratyfy? Please reach out to email@example.com to connect with anyone on our team.
The Importance of Getting to ‘NO’
As a firm believer in the first rule of improvisation (“Yes, and…”), my natural instinct has always been to chase down every opportunity possible and leave no stone unturned. Persistence and drive are essential skills for anyone to possess. Still, one of the most valuable and surprising lessons I have learned as an entrepreneur is that a quick “No,” accompanied by the rationale behind that “No,” is a valuable asset, especially in enterprise sales. Entrepreneurs can get to the “no” quickly through the rigorous qualification of every opportunity to conserve your most precious resources – time and focus – while staying true to your vision.
Shifting your mindset to focus on getting to a “No” as quickly as possible, instead of always trying to find a “Yes”, is essential. As is recognizing that “No” is not your enemy, though “Maybe” often is. This approach also shows respect for the person on the other side of the table and affords you the ability to go back to these individuals and earn them as customers if/when you are ready to address their needs (with a bonus being that the aggregation of this customer feedback can be invaluable in developing your longer-term product roadmap and customer pipeline).
After a decade on a trading floor and three years leading a fintech startup, I have certainly heard my fair share of “No.” Early in my career, this response felt like a rejection, felt like a failure. I had worked hard to get an opportunity, earn a seat at the table, and have a substantive discussion. I wanted to capitalize on every opportunity, to make every shot count. Over time, and through the advice and mentorship of great leaders, I learned that the actual failure comes from not being rigorous and selective about which opportunities to go after.
Why is this lesson a hard one to learn, especially as an entrepreneur?
In the earliest days of starting a business, opening doors and getting meetings, especially with decision-makers, is hard. When you get that opportunity, you want to do everything possible to convert it into a success, even if the path to that success is murky (or even unlikely). While it is essential to make the most out of every opportunity you have and push yourself and your team to have as many shots on goal as possible, you have to make sure you aim those shots at the right net.
As such, it is equally essential always to ask yourself: how will this customer help our team achieve our goals to grow the business? A qualification that aims at getting to a “No,” while slightly counter-intuitive at first, actually ensures that when you get to a “Yes,” it will be real and worth your team’s time and energy.
Why is it so important (and will make you a better entrepreneur and leader)?
Time. In the words of former FBI negotiator Christopher Voss, co-author of Never Split the Difference: Negotiating as if your life depended on it: “The sooner you cut off negotiations with someone you shouldn’t be dealing with, it gives you the chance to move on to a more profitable deal.” Time is your most precious commodity as an entrepreneur. Getting to “No” while understanding why you got there leaves you with the time and space to find a better fit, a more attractive opportunity.
Focus. Focus is one of the most important – and challenging – things as an entrepreneur, especially of a technology company (which is every company today). It is tempting to see your technology as the ideal hammer with nails everywhere around you. Rigorous lead qualification can help ensure you focus on the nails (aka problems) that truly matter to your customers, and your technology is uniquely suited to solve.
Vision. Know where you want to go. Even if you don’t always know exactly how you will get there, it is essential for keeping your team, customers, and investors aligned. “No,” and knowing when to stop can help you continue to make progress instead of getting caught in the pursuit of sales conversion perfection: an admirable but unattainable goal.
Trust your instincts, your “spidey senses,” and use them as your compass during those (frequent) moments where the information or decision is unclear: when you are not sure if a “Maybe” is an opportunity worth pursuing or if it’s really a “No.” Hone this sense through research, active engagement with your customers, and listening to what they need (instead of what you want to sell). Remember that while it is scary at times, getting to “No” and understanding the why behind that “No” could be one of the most powerful tools to drive your success as an entrepreneur.
Learn more about Stratyfy and the entire 2020 FIS Fintech Accelerator Cohort at www.venturecenter.co/fis-vip-visit.