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“Why you need to understand that numbers are not facts” With Author Judy Robinett

Numbers aren’t facts. Warren Buffet says the only numbers he trusts on the books are free cash flow because everything else can be cooked. A Fortune 200 Corp that I was a manager with had consistent large losses that appeared valid on my reports. When I started asking employees what the definitions were on the […]


Numbers aren’t facts. Warren Buffet says the only numbers he trusts on the books are free cash flow because everything else can be cooked. A Fortune 200 Corp that I was a manager with had consistent large losses that appeared valid on my reports. When I started asking employees what the definitions were on the report, who developed it and how were the numbers gathered, I learned no one had consistent answers. The report had been developed years before and everyone assumed it was valid. Get behind the numbers.


I had the pleasure of interviewing Judy Robinett, a business thought leader who, for more than 30 years, has helped entrepreneurs find needed capital by connecting them with venture capitalists, angel investors, and other sources of funding. Known as “the woman with the titanium digital Rolodex,” Robinett has served as a founder, investor and advisor, and have given speeches worldwide to audiences at MIT, AT&T, Walmart and The Department of Energy. She blends her networking and funding knowledge in her newest book, Crack the Funding Code: How Investors Think and What They Need to Hear to Fund Your Startup.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

After giving a speech to women engineers at MIT, someone handed me a WSJ which had an article explaining that in the United States, there were five ways to be financially successful. The first four were — inherit it, marry it, become a doctor or a lawyer — all no go’s for me. But number five was start a business. I immediately thought how hard can it be and became a restaurant franchiser. A few short years later, I had financials in hand meeting with a bankruptcy attorney. I was terrified. He reviewed my docs then said, “You aren’t even close,” and I countered with “I’m broke.” I felt ashamed and was sure my future was bleak. Then he said something that would forever change my life, “Judy, they can break you but not eat you.” I turned around the company, sold it then was asked to help troubled companies. One was a public biotechnology corporation that was broke, in litigation and had been delisted. I thought how hard can it be? This is where I learned how the funding ecosystem worked. Einstein once said if you’re going to play the game, you’d better learn the rules.”

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?

Last year, I was invited on a diplomatic mission to Serbia to help startups focused on environmental issues. I initially thought I had little expertise in that sector and shouldn’t waste my time or theirs but said yes. Kevin Harrington, the first shark on Shark Tank asked me to vet Ivan Dimov the founder of Easygoing who lives in Belgrade. Kevin asked that I determine Ivan’s character and the viability of his business model. Both were stellar and I’m now part of one of the most dynamic companies I’ve vetted since Skullcandy. Saying yes, being generous, rethinking assumptions can get you into amazing opportunities you could not plan. You can create luck.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

My first business was a franchise restaurant. The weekend we opened we learned our safe was stuck in transit, so I piled money into brown paper bags and put it in my trunk. By Sunday I had nearly $50K in cash in the truck of my car. On Sunday evening, my banker came in for dinner and I told him I was having trouble with the deposit key. He asked where I was keeping the excess money I couldn’t deposit, and I told him that I had it in the truck of my car? He left his family at the restaurant and immediately followed me to the bank to make the deposits.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

A few years ago, I was introduced to Joseph Kohen founder of Daniel K Jewelers in NY. Joseph sells to high net worth clients globally and once placed a diamond the size of an egg in my hand which sold for $35m. He called me and asked if I would help him get into China. I agreed but wondered with his amazing Rolodex why he needed me. I made one phone call and setup a meeting within a week. I love a challenge making opportunities happen quickly by realizing there is no lack of resources — $279 trillion in global private wealth, countless ideas, information doubling quicker and quicker and 7.4 billion people. But most people are in the wrong room.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

My new book, “Crack the Funding Code: How Investors Think and What They Need to Hear to Fund Your Startup,” is a work of love. It is available now for pre-order on Amazon. My goal is to help founders get funded faster by understanding who has the money and how to get it. I meet so many people with solid business ideas who feel like rats running a maze trying to get a lucky break. I’ve worked with entrepreneurs globally and hope my life lessons — bricks to the head will help them avoid what I went through.

What advice would you give to other female leaders to help their team to thrive?

Protect, care and provide the tools for success to your team. If you have their back they will have yours. Always give folks the benefit of the doubt and understand how important saving face can be. Establish trust and make sure in team meetings everyone has a voice. Ask for feedback and adopt if appropriate.

What advice would you give to other female leaders about the best way to manage a large team?

Communication is critical along with your example in handling conflict. You’ve already got a big stick so focus on the carrot. When bad news arrives and it always will, have a standard phrase to keep your wits. I once had a CFO who taught me to turn my head slightly, smile and say, “Help me understand” instead of what the F**** are you thinking! Have an open door policy and be clear about values, culture and success.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

While in graduate school my advisory professor in Economics, Dr. Ross Robson called me in his office and informed me that the people on my teams didn’t want to work with me because I was too aggressive. I was stunned and jumped up and hit my fist on his desk and demanded to know who said that. Then I held back tears as I drove home. He later told me I was a bull in a China closet and needed to learn about my team’s feeling. I thought feelings? Who cares about feelings we’ve got work to do! This was my first step understanding emotional IQ and that others can help us with our blind spots.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

I frequently reduce my speaking rate or go if my expenses are covered in an effort to have a greater impact on more people. And I give copies my first book, “How to Be a Power Connector,” to individuals to help them achieve success. When people reach out to me on LinkedIn or Twitter, I will respond and if needed get on a call to plan and plot.

What are your “5 Leadership Lessons I Learned From My Experience” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)

Listen to everyone in the organization. Once when on the board of directors of a hospital, I learned from a housekeeper that nurses and doctors were hiding catheters and other supplies that were routinely not available in life threatening situations. By unraveling this with finance we discovered a $4M hole and fixed it by changing the inventory policy benefiting staff and patients.

You will often be wrong. Don’t diss information that you disagree with or assume you know better. While trying to figure out why a company consistently was losing $225K annually, Dee Burgess who analyzed the books for me told me we had an embezzler. I spent hours explaining how this couldn’t be only to learn she was right.

Numbers aren’t facts. Warren Buffet says the only numbers he trusts on the books are free cash flow because everything else can be cooked. A Fortune 200 Corp that I was a manager with had consistent large losses that appeared valid on my reports. When I started asking employees what the definitions were on the report, who developed it and how were the numbers gathered, I learned no one had consistent answers. The report had been developed years before and everyone assumed it was valid. Get behind the numbers.

Avoid bad actors. While most people are good, just under 5% are bad actors — narcissistic, Machiavellian and sociopaths. Once I was asked by a large shareholder of a startup if I might quickly raise $10m. This man was charming and had all the outward trappings of success but I soon learned he not only lacked empathy for others but was cunning and manipulate. Needless to say though I raised the $10M in less than two weeks, I did not get the promised compensation. When I brought it up he said we had never discussed it. I later learned he had a litigious history. These traits along with lying are in Dr. Ronald Schouten’s book, “Almost a Psychopath.”

Take care of yourself. After looking out the back doors of an ambulance at my Christmas lights and thinking this must be what it feels like to die, the ER doctor suggested I work less. A friend gave me a copy of Dan Sullivan’s book, “The Question,” which I have found powerful. Here it is. If we were having this discussion three years from today, what has to have happened in your life, for both personally and professionally, for you to feel happy with your progress? Specifically, what dangers do you have now that need to be eliminated, what opportunities need to be captured, and what strengths need to be maximized?”

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

I would teach everyone on the planet how to use my three golden questions; How may I help you? What other ideas you have for me? And who else do you know I should talk to? Nothing happens without people, everyone needs help and most will help you if you ask. Strategic networking is one of those unwritten rules of business success.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

Logic will get you from point A to B, but imagination will get you everywhere. Einstein

There is never a perfect time or day when obstacles disappear or a vision without Goliath shows up. Always have a plan B. I’ve learned there is always a way over, under, around, or through almost anything. And the process is a great teacher preparing you for success. Imagine where you would be if the worst possible things that happened to you didn’t? I bet you would be worse off.

Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

Oprah. I use to say I only let people in my network who had a good head, good heart or good gut. I finally boiled it down to a simple litmus test. Is the person in front of me an Oprah or Martha Stewart? Both billionaires who are excellent at what they do, but if I had to pick one to have my back and future, it’s Oprah. I’ve got ideas I’d love to share with you, Oprah.

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