When I was growing my first startup, we went through the Bizdom accelerator in Cleveland. At that time, I didn’t think much about response time until someone I admired, Dan Gilbert of Quicken Loans and the Cleveland Cavaliers, addressed it directly as part of the Quicken Loans list of “Isms,” a set of rules that defines their company culture. It reads, “Responding with a sense of urgency is the ante to play.” This hit home with me because this is an extremely successful corporation obsessed with responding to their clients, vendors and each other with urgency. Who was I to argue? The rule was simple: everyone has a few spare hours in any given work week, regardless of how busy you are, so find time to respond within 24 hours, period. I took that to heart and have been practicing it ever since.
Six years and several companies later, even though I used to be guilty of the same, I continue to be amazed by the manner in which many new, young entrepreneurs communicate with potential leads, investors and/or customers. Or I should say, don’t communicate. In particular, they take their time responding to someone who is showing an interest in them. I can tell you from experience, that this is not the best way to do business. When you are new, you still have things to prove. You should be religious about following up, you should respond as soon as you are able.
When you ask for a meeting and someone accepts with a time, respond promptly with a calendar invite. When you ask for someone to review a document, which may take them a few days, do not respond in kind, but with haste. Communicate respectfully with leads, customers, and investors; follow up to questions or thoughts, concerns or ideas. That means you don’t wait four days because you had the weekend off (and in fact, how many entrepreneurs have weekends off?) or you find another excuse to delay. If you want something from someone, and they return your inquiry, then you need to respond as soon as you can.
As I have become more and more busy with my various companies, I understand when priorities change, and time gets lost. But I share this knowledge with fresh entrepreneurs because I believe it is essential to success.
That said, we are launching an inaugural event called FUEL at The Bit Factory. We are taking applications right now for any software startup, even if you’re in the very beginnings of the idea stage. We will be investing up to $10,000 in three different startups (each), who will pitch their idea to a team of sharks. It is a competition for any entrepreneur at any stage in their startup to get into The Bit Factory accelerator and receive some capital as well.
I bring this up now because as things get rolling, the importance of communication never wanes during the lifecycle of a startup. FUEL will be a starting point for many early startups, and setting a precedence now that instills the proper communication is important.
When you want something, it is your hands to make it happen – it is your responsibility to keep the ball rolling. Respond as soon as you are able. Be communicative, open and studious about your conversations. That small measure of respect will go a long way.