Paperwork

Also known as filling out forms, what used to be called paperwork is now largely on computers in forms. But it's still paperwork. Mindless, meaningless, sequences of bytes required by some 3rd party for reasons we don't understand. Why don't they just look it up? They already have that information! Can't computers just automate this?

Why do we do this? Because we want something. If you don't want it, you don't have to do the paperwork. If you want my money, you will fill out my form. If you want to enter the building, you will fill out the form. If you want to use this Web site, you will provide us with the things we ask for. If you want to use your computer, you will have to register it with us.

You are guaranteed to fail if you don't do it

Every person I have spoken to about this has wanted something and ended up delaying filling out the form or not filling it out at all. Every single one of us. Including me. Here are some of my excuses:

To which I robotically reply... "You are guaranteed to fail if you don't do it."

Stand up to it

In my dreams, I imagine starting a revolution against paperwork. First the refusnicks, then everyone else refuses to fill out paperwork and those asking for it are forced to go without it. But then I remember the golden rule: "Those with the gold make the rules". It's a competitive world, and those willing to do the paperwork will win over those not willing.

Automatic form filling has largely reduced the stupidest of the online form filling. And that is indeed a benefit. The thousands of passwords accumulated over the years are stored and auto-filled for me. This eliminates the security of those passwords, but I don't really care about the security of the account that allows me to access information I don't pay for and shouldn't have a password in the first place. One man's garbage is another man's gold.

There is the deception defense. In this approach, I just lie. I am a 12 year old girl from Zimbabwe. Although actually I am more likely to be a 20-year old from Argentina (near the top of the list) to save scrolling down. But as much as this may please me and screw up their demographics, it doesn't work (e.g., Microsoft won't let you administer your own system if you are a minor and tell the truth about it) and is dishonest.

Get good at it

The best solution I found was to simply get good at it. When I was at Sandia National Laboratories, I took the approach of filling out the forms as fast as I could with truthful information.

At the end of the day, this worked better than anything else I tried. It wasted less of my time, took less worry, and I got most things I wanted done. Perhaps foolishly, I also decided to not worry about the losses. If I filled out the paperwork and got rejected, I just moved on to the next set of paperwork. It's a numbers game, like any other sales approach. More leads (of the same quality) makes more sales (if you can get any). I never ran out of opportunities, and I am not running out of them today. Neither are you. Just keep trying.

You don't have to go home, but you can't stay here

How does a startup apply for funding? Of course you can go to a free live pitch session - kind of like open mic night at the comedy club. And someone there could simply hand you a pile of cash and trust you for the percentage of your company they just bought. And you could run a cash business and slip them their share every weekend. But this is not how the world I am used to works.

There are some common forms and form content used in various forums for angel investing, but for the most part, you will have to answer every question asked to the satisfaction of the investors or not get into the pitch session or funded thereafter.

Like the bar at closing time, you don't have to fill in the forms yourself, but someone has to. Either you get someone else to do it or you do it. But if the form isn't filled in in a meaningful way, you won't be getting into my pitch session or any other one I am aware of.

To do this well, it's effective to create an internal version of due diligence that answers the common questions. You can then copy and paste the answers. It's like a resume when applying for a job. If you answer each question asked once and record is in your resume, you will not have to rethink and retype each answer in each job application. Of course when applying for jobs you might want to take the time to individualize your answers, but that's another issue.

In summary

Give it up. You will have to put your mind and fingers into filling out form after form after form with the same sorts of information again and again. You might try doing internal diligence to answer the questions for yourself and keep it up to date so you don't have to retype or rephrase the answers to common questions every time. But other than that, if you want my money, you will have to answer my questions.

Copyright(c) Fred Cohen, 2017 - All Rights Reserved