So you’re a first-time founder of a startup — awesome — welcome aboard the roller coaster of a lifetime! A great way to manage this incredible journey is by seeking help and guidance of others. Unfortunately, you (most likely) suck at introductions, asking for help and email. Don’t feel bad, I sucked at these too, the good news is reading this post will make your life a lot easier.
Introductions are an integral part of being an entrepreneur (and life). Many successful business relationships begin with a warm introduction.
Before asking for or giving an intro, remember an introduction really is:
The connection of two people for the purpose of a value exchange. In essence, the introducer is ‘vouching' for a value exchange and asking both parties to participate.
(Sometimes this value exchange is “you guys should play ping-pong” OR perhaps, “you should invest in X’s startup..”)
Startup founders are typically in one of two roles, either the beneficiary (being introduced to someone awesome); and the introducer (connecting two parties).
I’ll start with the beneficiary.
Make it effortless for the introduction to happen.
- Provide context (why you want to meet) and what you do (or who you are).
- Provide this in the form of a 2-3 sentence blurb (that can be copied + pasted by introducer).
Why? Writing emails suck - especially when you are doing someone a favor. So, make it so easy they don’t need to think.
Don’t be a Chazer (pig)
- Assume the person is doing you a huge favor (AKA: they value their time very much).
- Offer 10-15 minute phone chat (because it’s easy!)
- If you insist on lunch/coffee/beers then offer to meet them at a place convenient for them.
Follow the lead of the Introducer
- If the person says you should hop on the phone.. you should not ask to meet in person.
- If the introducer says you should meet offer 3-4 times/dates when you are available.
You should also:
- You should reply quickly (and first!)
- Follow up with the introducer and let them know how the meeting/call went.
As an introducer, remember that the person you are introducing is a reflection on you.
Don’t make “hail-mary” introductions (introducing someone you barely know)
- This is risky, if you do it — definitely ask them person first — otherwise, it makes you look like a jackass.
Set expectations in the intro
- If you feel compelled to make an intro you should explain the reason why you are suggesting the parties connect.
Some of you will realize I have not mentioned the introducee (the important person being introduced) for this article, we’ll assume we aren’t that person. Yet.
2) Asking for Help
As a startup founder, you are probably going to need to leverage your introductions, connections and network for help. It’s hard to always be asking for stuff — and if you’re going to do it, learn how to do it properly.
Asking an experienced entrepreneur or investor for advice (“to pick their brain”) is always a good choice. First, find a way to get an intro (see above), then…
Make it easy for them to help..
- Pick a location close to them
- ALWAYS offer (and expect) to pay for them
- Offer them several times / dates
Make the favor reasonable
- If a potential investor: ask for advice not investment
- If a potential customer: ask for feedback not purchase
- Everyone else: expect to get their attention for the meeting only.
- Don’t expect them to prepare before OR do anything specific after.
Be prepared (do your homework)
- Learn about this person (use LinkedIN, twitter, blog, etc).
- Understand how they can help (don’t ask a Sales person for technical advice)
Rule of thumb: If the email takes up your smart phone screen its too long!
- There is no excuse for grammatical errors (especially the persons name)
- Keep it short (2-3 lines)
- Don’t email a stupid question that can be answered by a simple Google search
- If sending a short sentence, put the question in the subject line (then add - nm (no message) or eom (end of message).
Follow these tips and you’ll be much farther ahead than most people seeking help and guidance. Good luck!