Start-ups require the three Cs: courage, capital, and conviction. You need all three to succeed as an entrepreneur, but they all work in different ways. Courage is felt, and capital is earned, but conviction is the only one of the three that has to be communicated in order to be of any value whatsoever. And as any entrepreneur will tell you, your conviction will be tested, argued with, and dismissed. However, when you are committed to your vision and message, you are better able to turn the skepticism or criticism you may experience into something constructive.
Take Alec Guettel, a serial entrepreneur who cofounded Axiom. When it comes to dealing with investors, Guettel ascribes to a single golden rule: he never leaves a meeting without divulging—in one way or another—some of his own personal weaknesses. He’s up front about what he doesn’t know or has struggled to do well in the past. In fact, he makes it a priority to show people his vulnerabilities knowing that his honesty builds trust and long-term relationships. His transparency makes his conviction that much more powerful.
He created Axiom, like every other venture he’s launched, solely because he had an unwavering belief in his core mission. Axiom’s goal is to provide exceptional legal services at a fraction of the cost of conventional law firms.
In the beginning, Axiom was nothing more than two partners’ intent on shepherding novel ideas into action, but there was an undeniable air of conviction in that room as well. Their conviction bred more conviction in part because everyone they brought into the team was so brutally honest with each other.
“We give each other feedback with authentic, grown-up communication,” says Guettel. “If people can’t handle that, we don’t want them in our organization. This is a thing we call reflect, don’t deflect.” Go visit the Axiom offices in New York, and you’ll see that each conference room tells a story about a particular lesson the company has learned over the years. In their lobby, you’ll also find a small orange booklet that articulates the fond and not-so-fond memories of the Axiom adventure so far.
Conviction allows you to hold onto belief in the face of skepticism. Find the conviction in what you’re saying and you’ll be comfortable with the good and bad that comes as a result of what you have to say. When you have conviction, you won’t be threatened by questions, feedback and concerns, you’ll be strengthened by them.