Friday, April 17, 2009

Entrepreneurs: Credible and Incredible

As an entrepreneur, your credibility is more valuable than money – with investors, your team, and your customers. If you don’t have it, you won’t succeed with any of these. If you have it, don’t let it slip away from you.

What is credibility?

The word is derived from the Latin "Credo", which means "I believe," "I trust you." It is also closely related to the word "credit."

Are you credible?

Do people trust you? Do they believe in you? I was talking to Marty Zwilling, founder and CEO of Startup Professionals about credibility. He noted that it is difficult to ask someone that question. "How would they know?" he asked.

Sometimes the answer is dramatic. Apple Computer's board threw out Steve Jobs in 1985 and brought in John Sculley, a marketing executive from Pepsi. The message he sent was that we have a great product here - all we need is to sell it as we sell soft drinks. After eleven years of that kind of management and the much-ridiculed Newton, Steve Jobs came back and the company has soared.

What has made Jobs credible? Vision; innovation; evangelistic passion and legendary presentation skills.

Sculley was a very successful marketer at Pepsi but many critics claimed he simply did not understand the special culture that was and is Apple.

What is credible in one context may not work in another. Al Gore ran a campaign that some people found somewhat aloof and didactic - perhaps a tad too knowledgeable. Now watch him talk about global warming: he is passionate, intense, and caring. His work is now familiar to millions and he won the Nobel Prize

What makes you credible?

Whether you are looking for a job or an investment that question is key. Ask yourself that question. We often take it for granted - and ignore the answer if it doesn't please us. Ask yourself:
  • What are the elements of my credibility: hard skills?; soft skills? a combination?

  • Do I really understand my constituencies? Do I care about them?

  • What is my reputation with them? Can I improve it?

  • Do I ask for feedback? Do I act on it?

  • Do I speak with people, or at them?

  • What did I intend? What was the effect?
As entrepreneurs and entreprenettes (Sarah Shaw's word!) in good economies and bad, focus on credibility. Brin and Page, co-founders of Google, pitched their ideas at a time when there were already many search engines in the market. Dale Carnegie published his great work in the midst of the Great Depression.

The credible can sometimes be incredible, or as Steve Jobs would put it “Insanely great!”

Give us some feedback on elements you believe go into making a credible person.

Mike Barr

Today’s article is presented by the newest member of our Startup Professionals team, Michael A. Barr. His credibility is just one of a long list of business and academic credentials he brings to the table. Check him out on our website. You will be hearing more from him. We have a lot to learn.

Marty Zwilling



  1. Your credibility also depends on the country in which you are trying to find capital. If you are in some brickminded ones your credibility for a technological based project will be near to null..

  2. I have found that my perception of credibility in others comes from consistency and small acts. It's easy for someone to "take one for the team" when all eyes are on them, but if that's not really who they are they're not likely to do small and unconscious gestures of kindness, like bring you something they found on the fax machine with your name on it.

  3. Fernando - tell us more. Can you find capital via the net? How would you pitch the world community? Linked In? Thank you for your insight.

    Lucas - that is well written and moving. And so true!

  4. Marty, I enjoyed the post. Too often we work hard throughout our careers, building up our credit, as it were, and forget that it is much easier to lose than to earn.

    As leaders, and as individuals, we must always seek to be at our best and encourage others to do the same. It is not easy, and I know we all fail (I know I do), but it is the only way to build that credit line which you will need as you progress throughout life and through your career.


  5. Good points, all; however, I'm not sure your points address credibility as much as persuasive powers - which I see as something completely different. People want to be sold and having those skills helps a great deal.

    Personally, I believe credibility leads into trust and is a key component of it - as Steven Covey states in his book, The Speed of Trust.

    I sometimes question if I'm perceived as being credible - until I surprise them with a few snippets of wisdom that they can identify with or out and out actions in combination with my track record.

    Crediblity comes as the result of the selling process but can be achieved in a limited way by asking a very direct question: How do people build trust with you? Define what it is that you need me to achieve for you, etc. I don't profess to know everything so I'll tell you if I can do it or if I need to bring someone in who can. These create the basis under which you perform and clearly establishes that you are intent on being credible and earning their trust.

    Baby steps - credibility will not come with a snap of your fingers or a couple of actions combined with your background.


  6. Hello Mike, I am trying now via Linkedin ( but I am on a point that I never imagined to be due to the country in which I live. I think that in Internet I am credible but not at all in my country..

    Best regards

  7. John Stack: You are a thoughtful, perceptive man and a provoking writer. Your site is rich with value. I trust you. Keep us honest and relevant.

  8. John Moore - building a credit line. I like that.
    How relevant to our times when credibility is rare and credit is frozen. I like your writing a lot.

  9. Fernando,

    Keep building your Net presence. Let's strengthen it and keep you moving forward.
    One day someone will shout: "EUREKA!"