Nobody Cares About You or Your Fund
For an industry that prides itself on the ability to invest dispassionately, fund managers are surprisingly emotional about their own perceived value in the marketplace. Perhaps even more surprisingly, they expect allocators to behave like predictable robots rather than the fallible human beings they actually are.
First, the bad news
I hate to be the one to tell you this, but you and your team are the only people with an emotional investment in your firm and your fund.
Don’t believe me? Quick, name 5 things you care about right now. My guess is that none of them is someone else’s presentation you saw last Tuesday. It’s not the presenters’ fault, really – you just have other stuff going on that is nearer and dearer to your heart. And so does everybody else.
When you’re working really hard on something – building a solid track record, assembling an all-star team with impeccable pedigree, launching a killer website – it’s easy to forget that everybody else is working really hard on their own thing and not giving you or your thing much thought at all.
We forget that we are only the protagonists of our own story, and that no one is paying nearly as much attention to us as we think they are. I promise you that nobody is staying awake at night obsessing over your numbers or wishing you’d put those extra slides in your deck.
Now this is both terrifying and liberating, for a few reasons:
- You don’t have to take yourself so seriously. Nobody else is.
- You can try different things to see what works. Making mistakes is a lot less scary when you realize that nobody cares.
That said, there are things that will make you stand out among a sea of other managers pitching for capital, and they’re probably not what you think.
Things that actually affect how your pitch is perceived:
- How tall and physically attractive you are. It sounds shallow, and it is. But it’s why CEOs skew tall and attractive people are seen as more competent than their less-attractive counterparts. And why superficial status in general is perceived as transferable to all sorts of unrelated areas.
- The day and time of your presentation. Right before noon, and you’re competing with preoccupying thoughts of lunch. Right after, and your audience would rather be napping. Last meeting of the day and they’re already mentally out the door.
- The limitations of human memory. Of your overall presentation, your audience may remember the highlight (or “peak”) and the very end. And if you give them a list of stats, they’ll likely remember the first and the last items, and nothing in the middle.
Now for the good news.
When you’ve come to accept the above as true, you have two options:
- Take your ball and go home, or
- Find a way to make people care.
If you can make people care about what you’re doing, you can take advantage of what’s called the affect heuristic, or the mental shortcuts that people (investors included) use to make decisions based on how they feel. I’m not suggesting that institutional investors make whimsical decisions based on nothing but feeling. But even at the end of the rigorous, calculated evaluation process, there’s more than one good option available.
Think about it. Let’s say you’re hiring a new employee for your firm, and you’re down to the final two candidates. Both are qualified and either would be a good choice. All else being equal, you’re going to pick the one you like.
If you have the self-awareness to realize that people don’t care about you, they care about what you can do for them, then you’re already ahead of the game. Think about your audience. If you can surprise them in a positive way – make them like you – you win. After all, nobody cares about your competition either.