The Neglected 97% Entrepreneurs Boot Camp – Interview #6
The familiar saying is that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.
Fortunately, that adage doesn’t apply to people. At least some people. Take the case of experienced, successful entrepreneur Bill Haynor. After a successful career in banking and finance, Bill formed, grew and ultimately sold the massively successful Select Quote, a company that helped millions of people find quality, affordable health insurance.
I spent some time recently talking with Bill about his experiences in working with George Kenney and completing the Entrepreneur’$ Boot Camp.
Bill, you were already incredibly successful in business. You’d just sold Select Quote. Why jump into another startup?
Well, I didn’t jump right in. I spent several years working in finance with a group that specialized in turnarounds. But, even though I’d left the insurance business after selling Select Quote, I’d been sitting on another idea for several years. I knew that 10,000 Baby Boomers a day were (and still are) turning 65 every day. I knew that most of these people would need to deal with the complexity of standard health insurance, Obama Care, Medicaid and Medicare as they aged and grappled with various health issues. And I knew that many people simply weren’t prepared to deal with the health issues of aging.
Something we all really do have to deal with at some point . . .
Exactly. When we’re younger we might go years without even seeing a doctor. It’s something we’ll deal with later. Unfortunately, you never know when life will bring an emergency and that’s not the time to be unprepared. It can be financially devastating. But there is a lot of confusion and complexity in health insurance and I felt we could really help people navigate all of that.
In fact, I experienced all of this first hand when I was faced with an emergency need for open heart surgery, watched my wife struggle with all of the paperwork and then, shortly after the surgery, received a bill from the hospital for $450,000!
Wow! That was an eye-opener I’m sure.
Yes, it was! In fact, today I use a copy of that bill on the Senior Quote website as a reminder of what these kinds of things can cost if you aren’t properly covered.
So that experience was a lynchpin in starting Senior Quote?
Yes, I really saw the opportunity clearly and decided to “dust off” the idea for a business that could help people easily find affordable Medicare insurance with the best coverage possible and Senior Quote was born.
How did you meet George Kenney?
One of the first things I needed was office space. Through a mutual acquaintance, I was introduced to Shepherd Ventures, because Shepherd had available office space. After a few meetings, I decided to rent an office at Shepherd and began getting to know George Kenney. The two of us hit it off from the outset. I had a significant background in finance, having most recently served as CEO of a turnaround company that was sold for a profit. I could speak George’s language . . . at least to a point. And George recognized that I had been a successful company-builder and leader. It was the perfect time for a friendship to form since I was just launching Senior Quote and George was beginning to share his knowledge of how to get companies funded through the Entrepreneur’$ Boot Camp.
So, even though you were a highly successful entrepreneur, you decided George might be able to teach you a thing or two about funding companies and decided to do the Boot Camp?
Exactly. We worked closely together on the pitch. I’d raised millions of dollars but never in a large group format where I needed to effectively pitch to the group with the goal of getting some follow-up one-to-one meetings. This was a new context for me and the large group dynamic was new for me as well. The pitch was too long, too informal and lacked a “hook” that would make an impact in a group presentation — something to make people stand up and listen. George helped identify that “hook” which was also a very personal story that linked me in a powerful way to audiences. Then we practiced and practiced, often with a stopwatch, until I had committed the pitch to memory and could deliver it anytime, anywhere to anyone with confidence.
How did you do with the new pitch?
We determined that Senior Quote would need to raise $4.2 million to hit the growth objectives we had. We took the show on the road, pitching to large groups of the Tech Coast Angels in several southern California cities. I opened those pitches by saying, “I’m standing here, 65+, recently recovered from an emergency surgery that cost $450,000 and if I hadn’t been properly covered at least 20% of that would have come from my own pocket.” With that compelling and personal opening, I went on to pitch the market, the challenge, and solution and generated many follow-up meetings with investors. George sometimes assisted in the one-to-one meetings and always helped me refine the pitch to specific audiences. Together, we raised $1.5 million dollars from various angel investors.
But the goal was $4.2 million?
Yes, we still had a long way to go. George and I went back to work and generated meetings with larger investors, including family offices and funds. George continued to work with me to focus on making that early impact in the pitches, though the presentation itself was now different, a bit longer, with more give and take between the investors and me. George was now a member of the board of Directors of Senior Quote. He sometimes helped with those one-on-one conversations as well. We worked on the personal parts of my story, to make sure we made that personal connection with investors but didn’t get lost in the personal stories and lose track. We also prepared for each meeting together and tailored the pitch for each audience.
In the end, the balance of the $4.2 million was raised, Senior Quote grew quickly and today remains a highly successful and profitable venture.
Do you have any advice for entrepreneurs, whether experienced or not, with regard to making a great pitch?
I highly recommend going through the Boot Camp. If you have a business partner or someone on your senior management team that can also learn the pitch and participate at times with you, the CEO, it can be really beneficial. Each of you will have your own way of doing the pitch and you’ll practice together and get better and better. So, I recommend having a second person do the Entrepreneur’$ Boot Camp with you.
Also, credibility is so valuable. The CEO is likely going to have great knowledge in his or her field of expertise, but few will also have that kind of expertise in the financial realm. Even if you do have some finance experience, as I certainly did, you’ll benefit immensely from a mentor like George who knows so much about what investors really want. And, you’ll gain credibility with investors because you went through that Boot Camp process with George. George can help you communicate exactly what they want to hear in the way that they want to hear it but in your own authentic voice.
Key Takeaway: Even if you have some experience in pitching investors, you can benefit from mastering the art of pitching. Each type of investor is very different and even a great pitch often needs to be refined for different audiences and for different purposes. Practice, practice, practice with a team of professional pitchmasters, as provided by Entrepreneur’$ Bootcamp, and your pitch will be natural and confident, and most important, investors will personally trust you, open to private meetings toward funding.