Patience

While reviewing a co-investor’s bio on his fund’s website, I came across his list of “20 Words That Describe Me.” Topping that list was the word “patient.” I read this and paused, contemplating patience in the context of an early-stage venture investor. People often assume that patience suggests taking things slow. Rather, patience is “the ability to remain calm when dealing with a difficult or annoying situation, task, or person.” (Merriam Webster)

In recent years, as a parent, I have become quite familiar with the quality of patience. Prior to having children, “patient” probably would not have made my list of “20 Words That Describe Me.” “Persistent,” absolutely, but patient? Patience is a skill I have had to develop, a skill that my children have taught me and push me to practice every day. Patience is waiting while they put on their own shoes, explaining, yet again, why they should not eat the sand in the sandbox, or reading that one more story at bedtime. Motherhood has quickly forced me to learn the skill of patience, one that I practice every day at home and now intentionally as an investor.

Venture investors need to exercise patience on a regular basis. Every day, we are presented with opportunities where we need to take the time to calmly understand, analyze, and respond to the situation at hand. Being patient is critical while sourcing deals, cultivating relationships, throughout the diligence processes, and during the investment. It is easy to be impatient when you’re putting money to work or engaging with portfolio companies. However, knowing when and how to be patient as an investor is crucial to success. As Series A/B investors at Lewis & Clark Ventures, we’ve found that being patient often delivers a better outcome.

One of my favorite examples of continued patience in business is Phil Knight and the success of Nike. In his book Shoe Dog, Phil Knight details the early days of Nike (or rather, Blue Ribbon Sports), when he had to exercise patience with critical suppliers, competitors, creditors, business partners, and the limitations of bootstrapping a business. Phil Knight’s continued patience in the early days was rewarded in the long term, with Nike creating an entirely new consumer category, becoming one of the most recognized brands in the world, and generating over $30B in revenue in 2017. To me, Nike embodies the true benefits and ongoing value of practicing patience. As both a venture investor and a parent, I’m learning that patience pays off.

By Helen Ciesielski