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Emails, Phone Calls and Meetings: How to Make a Good Impression

In honor of Steve Jobs, this week’s recommended reading: Guy Kawasaki on What I Learned…

There are five us at Rounded now and we all know different things. To reconcile this, we do something called “Figure It Out Fridays” (we’re opening these up to everyone next week!). During these learning sessions, we teach each other what we’ve learned. The post below is the result of questions last week about network, management and meetings in the context of a startup.

The Importance of Building a Network

Being a startup is hard enough without a network to rely on. So treat exposure like currency. Meeting new people can be easy. Just say “yes” to every meeting, meetup, event, and luncheon you can get your hands on. These get togethers are always more interesting than they might seem. The worst that can happen is you opt out of them the next time.

Look for ways to make people’s lives easier. Do free work and work weekends. When you know you can do something in about 10 minutes that will take an acquaintance 3 hours – like using a mask in Photoshop – just do it for them. In our spare time, we do a lot of research. The thing is, no one knows that but us. However, if people see something that demonstrates that ability (the free work we did for them), sometimes they’ll be the first person to call us when they need something done that pays.

If you want to reach out to someone you don’t know or have had limited contact with, do so by replying to an old email and don’t modify the subject unless absolutely necessary (Gmail re-threads new subject lines regardless of whether the content is the same as the original). Reply’s give people context.

Three Tips for Phone Calls

Always take phone calls into a quiet, private place and don’t be at your computer. I say this for a whole slew of reasons, but here’s 3:

  • Distraction is obvious and irritating. Remove the temptation to tweet mid-call.
  • Don’t give your caller a reason to ask about the ping-pong game in the background. They’re calling for a reason. Hold their focus. And avoid being outside as there’s less ability to control your environment.
  • You never know who is listening, so assume everyone is. If there’s anyone you wouldn’t want privy to your conversation, take it elsewhere.

The Art of Emails

Writing emails is a bit like design. Draft your emails. I’ve had some take 4 or 5 days to complete.

When addressing 2 people, always address the most important person (per the email) first. For example: Hi John, Tom (in this format, with one comma between the two names. It could be 4 names, but no comma after the last).

Bullet points are awesome, but only if their content is minimal. Bullet points are not for paragraphs. They’re bullets!

Double space paragraphs. Write like a news column or blog.

Don’t apologize for late emails. In fact, try to avoid apologizing all together. Just reply with the info your contact needs. If they press you about the late email, then apologize. No need to go on the defensive if you don’t have to.

Proofread! Use the “undo” feature in Gmail. The best proofreading is done when text is read out loud. I read important emails out loud and make corrections as I go through (like this post). If I make one correction, I read it again until I read the whole document without making a change. I’m still amazed at how many things sound wrong the first time and how much grammar I have to correct.

Don’t finish emails with the same ending. Some people have “Thanks!” in their signature. There is no faster way to rid meaning from words than to use them too often. This applies doubly for exclamation marks.

Always include a signature and refer to it when telling people where to get your cell phone number. Have different signatures for different audiences.

Subject lines are really important. Here’s what I generally do (with slashes): Subject / Qualifying Statement / Meeting Place (if there is one).

Don’t use colored font or styled font. This a pretty basic, but so many people do it.

I learned this trick from a guy at Zaarly: when replying to an email introduction, if the introducer doesn’t need to be part of the later conversation, don’t leave them  in the cc’ field. Move them to the bcc’ field and let them know in your reply. Like:

“Mark, thanks for the introduction. Moving you to bcc’ for the time being.

John, Great to finally meet you…”

You made their job easier, and you didn’t clutter your friend’s email inbox with 7 reply-all’s. If they need to be in the convo later on, bring them back. Put it all together and they’re probably more likely to introduce you again.


Listen. Keeping your mouth shut is hard, but worth it. We all need/like positive conversational reinforcement. If you disagree with someone, don’t cut them off. Give them time and they’ll ask you what you think. Then disagree.

There is a flip side: speaking up can sometimes be as hard as staying quiet. In meetings larger than 4 people, take a notebook and jot bullet points you want to bring up. When you speak, do so like you would an email. Be brief and stick to your points. People will really appreciate your brevity.

Do you have any other pointers that you’ve picked up along the way? Share them in the comments. Contact Andrew at or on Twitter @andrewfarah.