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最烂的尽职调查结束语

Brad Feld 2011年06月29日

我们需要改变电话尽职调查的结束语。

    近年来我接受了很多电话尽职调查。有些是关于我目前参与的公司,有些涉及和共事过的创业家,有些则针对和我一起工作过的、目前正在募集新资金的风险投资人。我认为尽职调查不同于职业背景调查(我不会为任何人做“入职”推荐)因为这类调查涉及投资和长期工作关系。

    我接触过两类电话尽职调查:(1) 求证性电话询问 (2) 调查性电话询问。

    求证性电话询问往往是例行公事,人们在此之前显然已经做出决定。调查性电话询问涉及内容要多得多,一般在作出决定前进行。

    大多数电话尽职调查都会预先准备好问卷或一套标准问题。好的调查者会循循善诱,采用像“5个为什么”等方法,抓住他们感兴趣的核心问题发问。我特别喜欢那些能与受访者积极建立关系、而不是仅仅搜集信息的的人。

    但很多电话尽职调查的最后一个问题都很怪,类似于“还有什么我该问但没问的吗?”有段时间,我试图礼貌地回答这个问题。但后来我意识到这个愚蠢的问题从1961年起就被收入了“如何进行尽职调查”的表格。因此,现在我往往直截了当地回答“没有”。

    下面谈谈为何我认为这是一个愚蠢的问题。你是在给我打电话,对某人进行尽职调查。自然你会对某些事特别感兴趣。你可能已经对我们过去的关系进行了调查,或希望我为你提供此类信息。你基于此发问。如果你善于提问和思考,从我的答案可以衍生出更多问题。慢慢地你会获得足够的信息或得出结论。我的职责是集中精力回答你的问题,而不是要理清你的询问思路。

    在调查即将结束时,你问了一个开放式问题,期待有意外收获。可能最后我会告诉你一些之前未透露的、不为外人所知的、黑暗的、负面的秘密。也可能我会给出对调查对象的一些深入见解,而这些可能是你在此前提问中未涉及的。我估计这种情况时有发生,因此值得一问,万一会听到什么有意思的信息呢。但我认为以这种方式结束谈话令人不快,因此从今以后我的回答就是“没有”。

    Brad Feld (@bfeld)过去二十年里一直作为早期投资者和创业者。在共同创立Foundry Group铸造集团前,他共同创立了风险资金管理公司Mobius Venture Capital,在此之前创立了Intensity Ventures,帮助成立和经营软件公司。Brad还是创业公司孵化器TechStars的共同创始人,博客见http://www.feld.com/wp/

    Recently I've been on the receiving end of a bunch of due diligence calls. Some of them are for companies I'm involved in, some are for entrepreneurs I've worked with in the past and some are for other VCs I've worked with who are raising new funds. I view these differently than reference calls -- I won't do "employment" reference calls for anyone -- because they are about investment and a long-term working relationship.

    I experience two types of due diligence calls: (1) Confirmatory calls and (2) Investigative calls.

    The confirmatory calls result when someone has clearly made their decision and is just checking the box of "I've done my due diligence." The investigative calls tend to be much more substantive, often happening well before a decision has been made.

    In most cases there is either a script or standard set of questions. The interesting calls are the ones where the person on the other end clearly knows how to interview or uses a method like "five whys" to really get at the core of something they are interested in. I especially enjoy the ones where the person is actively developing a relationship with me, rather than just collecting data.

    But on many of the calls, there is a weird question at the end. It goes something like "Is there anything I didn't ask you that I should be asking?" For a while I used to try to be polite and engage with the question. But at some point I realized it was a stupid question that someone included on a "how to do due diligence" form from 1961. So now I answer it simply with "“nope."

    Here's why I think it's a stupid question. You are calling me for diligence on someone. Presumably you have specific things you are interested in. You've either done research on our previous relationship or you want me to fill you in on that. You then use this to pursue whatever line of questioning you have. If you are inquisitive and capable of reasoning, my answers will open up more questions. Eventually you will have enough information or will have reached a conclusion. If I've been doing my job, I've been concentrating on answering your questions, not trying to follow your path of inquiry.

    Now, when we are at the end of the inquiry, you ask me an open ended question in search of something magical. Maybe I'll finally tell you the deep, dark, negative secret about the person that I've been withholding. Or I'll come up with some incredible insight about the person that hadn't come out in your previous line of questioning. I suppose this happens occasionally, and maybe it's worth asking the question just on the off chance that something yummy will pop out. But I just find this an annoying way to end the conversion, so my answer from here on out is "nope."

    Brad Feld (@bfeld) has been an early stage investor and entrepreneur for over twenty years. Prior to co-founding Foundry Group, he co-founded Mobius Venture Capital and, prior to that, founded Intensity Ventures, a company that helped launch and operate software companies. Brad is also a co-founder of TechStars, and blogs at http://www.feld.com/wp/

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