The Most Powerful Skill You Need to Succeed in the C-Suite

(As featured in Huffington Post- April 22, 2017)

Written by: Nicole Sawyer


Demetri Argyropoulos Avant Global CEO and Founder

Whether you’re CEO of a multi-billion-dollar brand, or a start-up working towards Series A, there is one thing every executive has in common; you want to get to the next level and expand your customer base. Unfortunately, for most companies, it can be extremely challenging to keep up with change.

At the speed of light, corporate cultures are transforming and innovative technologies call for new leadership skills.

The upside is, regardless of how fast the world moves around you there’s one thing that will always stay the same, the most important skill you need to master to prosper in business.

Visionary entrepreneur Demetri Argyropoulos is well-known from New York to Silicon Valley as the king of connections.

His investment firm, Avant Global, has generated over $10 billion in revenue for clients and created strategic relationships for the world’s wealthiest, including Bill and Melinda Gates, Lady Gaga and Bill Clinton.

Argyropoulos was an early investor in Twitter, RedBull and DocuSign, and his Venture Capital fund, AG Venture Capital & Investments, has seeded over 50 diverse start-ups.

Argyropoulos credits his success to one invaluable skill…Networking.

C-Suite TV Correspondent Nicole Sawyer caught up with Demetri to talk about the most powerful skill you need to master to succeed in the C-Suite, and the biggest mistakes executives make when trying to build a strategic relationship.

Nicole Sawyer: What is the most powerful skill to have at the C-Suite Level?
Demetri Argyropoulos: The ability to bring value to your clients and your team. Typically, this value is brought forth through introducing and fostering unique relationships. All businesses and CEOs, despite how powerful they may be, depend on access to strategic relationships. These strategic relationships should monetize the company’s ecosystem, strengthen its platform and give a competitive edge over others with sustainable differentiation in the marketplace.

Sawyer: What personality traits do successful C-Suite Leaders have in common?
Argyropoulos: The most important trait we all have in common is the ability to know what the market wants before it actually happens. This comes from an innate understanding of one’s customers or clients. From there, you must be able to make decisions quickly, execute that vision, while staying one step ahead of the rest. All great CEOs are forecasters and firefighters.

Sawyer: When it comes to managing your own career, how do you prepare yourself to reach the next level?
Argyropoulos: I always have my ultimate end goal in mind. If you understand your end-game, you are able to manifest that into a reality. I always measure progress against this end goal and quantify it along the way with revenue, timelines and objectives.

Sawyer: How do you know who the right connections are for different types businesses?
Argyropoulos: The key here is to understand the objective at hand – what are you trying to accomplish? What is the client trying to achieve? Once you understand that objective, you need to dig deeper to understand the context. This is done through research and by understanding the current behavior at hand to figure out the next important introduction to make. And always remember, relationships only work if there’s equal or greater value on both sides.

Sawyer: You’ve worked with anyone from Bill Clinton to T-Boone Pickens, what is the secret to get their attention and maintain a business relationships with well-known people who are in high demand?
Argyropoulos: When you bring value to a relationship, even if it’s the busiest CEO on the planet, he or she will still make time for you. However, following-up is key, especially for those who are extremely busy. Most people don’t follow-up, which in business, can lead to distrust. You have to always do what you say you are going to do. It’s that simple.

Demetri Argyropoulos, Avant Global Founder with client T-Boone Pickens, Chairman and CEO of Hedge Fund BP Capital.

Sawyer: Where do business leaders fail when trying to create a relationship?
Argyropoulos: Oftentimes, their approach may be too aggressive and their message may not be clear enough.

Every successful relationship and every failed relationship is a consequence of one thing: how well, or poorly, you communicate. Clear communication is important to set from the beginning.

Put yourself in the other person’s shoes and ask the question, “Why do I want to work with this person?” Again the answer comes down to the value you can bring. Deliver value and these problems go away.

Sawyer: What are some of the biggest mistakes people make when following up?
Argyropoulos: They’re not entirely truthful. Be impeccable with your word. Just do what you say you’re actually going to do. This is so important when building trust in an influential relationship and so few actually do it.

Sawyer: What’s your advice for dealing with people you don’t like? Difficult people ?
Argyropoulos: Try not to. Seriously. I have a no a-hole rule. I’ve fired billionaire clients before because it just wasn’t worth it. At the end of the day, a billionaire is not better than someone starting out, and vice versa. You have to always respect others and the unique qualities and differences we all have.

Sawyer: If your personality is more of an introvert and networking doesn’t come natural to you? How can an individual make connections if they really don’t like talking to people?
Argyropoulos: For starters, that’s where companies like ours, Avant Global, come in handy. Sometimes we partner with, or get hired by executives who are not very social so we help to manage new relationships and introduce them to the businesses they need to get in front of. Let’s be clear, we’re not a social firm! But for those who are more introverted, we simply want them to be the best at what they excel at and we’ll do the rest. We can’t all be great at everything.

Sawyer: What’s one example of a major acquisition Avant Global made that transformed its valuation and what can business leaders learn from this example?
Argyropoulos: In the case of Owl Biomedical, we took its technology that had been developed and in existence for ten years and formed a new company with this technology in mind and capitalized on it. We sold it to a multi-billion dollar medical device company in Germany called Miltenyi.

From this example, business leaders can learn that if you know how to assemble the pieces of a company/deal: IP, human capital, and usually a combination of both, you then have all the key pieces … it becomes about execution and creating value to the market.

Sawyer: Your investment portfolio includes more than 50 diverse startups. What sectors are you watching to find value now?
Argyropoulos: We want someone who is ahead of the curve in terms of where the market is heading- who is that next big game changer? Right now we like the sectors of machine learning, data science and big data for startups. We’re also always looking for disruptive investments in high-growth companies in tech, energy, real estate and consumer products.

Sawyer: What qualities do successful entrepreneurs have that make them stand out from the herd?
Argyropoulos: All successful entrepreneurs are tenacious and never give up. Stay focused on your mission with your goal in mind. Successful entrepreneurs also aren’t afraid to fail because they have the ability to see things others may not. It’s okay to have bumps along the way, but that fresh perspective is what’s going to set you apart.

Sawyer: What advice do you have for a startup to break down barriers when approaching a well-known brand about a strategic partnership?
Argyropoulos: It’s a great time to be a startup. We’ve never seen so many large corporations working with startups. I’d advise a startup to think about how its technology could actually benefit the large brand it’s approaching. Many big companies realize that if they don’t change quickly with the times, and evolve, their number may be up. Startups should appeal to the larger brands to evolve with them.

Sawyer: You run a very successful VC Fund, what’s the best way for an entrepreneur to network with you if they are seeking funding?
Argyropoulos: Think to yourself “Why would Demetri and the Avant team want to meet with me? How can I bring value to their firm?” If you can clearly answer those questions, you’re already ahead of the curve.

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