Courtesy and Tact Can Go a Long Way for Startups

How To Cancel a Meeting
«You better not be the person who was asking for the meeting. You should grovel. You should call personally to state your sincerest apologies.»
– Mark Suster

Back in May of this year, investor Mark Suster recalled an anecdote when the cancellation of a meeting frustrated him. He had scheduled a meeting with an entrepreneur and kept the commitment despite a strong desire to reschedule and attend a conference. When the entrepreneur cancelled last minute (by having his assistant call Suster’s, no less) Suster was upset, to say the least.

Long story short, the entrepreneur had a good reason for canceling the meeting, but Suster was left with a bad taste in his mouth due to the way it was handled. As he outlines in his post, depending on the proximity to the meeting, canceling an appointment has varying levels of requirements.

If it’s a few days before, or earlier, it’s okay to send a polite email in most cases. Within a day of the meeting, Suster says you need to be aware of who you are dealing with, and decide accordingly.


covermouth_sep10.jpgWith the angst from the angels and venture capitalists debate still hanging in the air, and the thickening plot of «Angelgate,» it’s easy to forget that courteous, polite and gracious behavior can save your startup from easy pitfalls. In an industry that functions largely on connections, burning bridges is never a smart move, intentional or not. Here are a pair of examples from seasoned venture capitalists on how playing nice can go a long way.

How To Cancel a Meeting

«You better not be the person who was asking for the meeting. You should grovel. You should call personally to state your sincerest apologies.»
Mark Suster

Back in May of this year, investor Mark Suster recalled an anecdote when the cancellation of a meeting frustrated him. He had scheduled a meeting with an entrepreneur and kept the commitment despite a strong desire to reschedule and attend a conference. When the entrepreneur cancelled last minute (by having his assistant call Suster’s, no less) Suster was upset, to say the least.

Long story short, the entrepreneur had a good reason for canceling the meeting, but Suster was left with a bad taste in his mouth due to the way it was handled. As he outlines in his post, depending on the proximity to the meeting, canceling an appointment has varying levels of requirements.

If it’s a few days before, or earlier, it’s okay to send a polite email in most cases. Within a day of the meeting, Suster says you need to be aware of who you are dealing with, and decide accordingly. Continuar leyendo «Courtesy and Tact Can Go a Long Way for Startups»

My Life As A CEO (And VC): Chief Psychologist

Anybody who has worked with me knows that I have these “control freak” tendencies as I think many leaders do. We want quality, we trust our own instincts & judgments and we think that many people don’t live up to our standards. But we know that ultimately being effective is about finding those people that do. It often takes a while of experimentation and watching their results to start to trust them. But when they start to meet and exceed your expectations it’s magic. You’re suddenly free to focus your energies elsewhere.

Once you’ve been around for a few years, attracted some great people, landed real, paying customers and raised venture capital you’ve likely got a talented team around you. Almost definitionally very talented people will butt heads. It’s your job to give people enough space to flourish without conflict, resolve conflicts when they do occur, encourage your team members to perform at their best and set the culture by which they ultimately treat their colleagues and staff.

My first company was founded in Ireland, headquartered in England and had country operations in the UK, France & Germany. Due to the language and culture issues in Europe we opted for a country structure with an MD in each country and local sales, marketing & customers support staff. We obviously had the debate about whether these functions could be centralized but either strategy has its trade-offs.


This is a guest post by Mark Suster, a 2x entrepreneur who has gone to the Dark Side of VC. He started his first company in 1999 and was headquartered in London, leaving in 2005 and selling to a publicly traded French services company. He founded his second company in Palo Alto in 2005 and sold this company to Salesforce.com, becoming VP of Product Management. He joined GRP Partners in 2007 as a General Partner focusing on early-stage technology companies. Read more about Suster at Bothsidesofthetable and on Twitter at @msuster.

I’ve had a post in my head for months – maybe longer – about the role of a CEO. My primary role was “chief psychologist” and as I’ve learned over the past few years the same has been true as a VC. Both are basically people businesses.

I finally got around to writing it having read Fred Wilson’s post about what a CEO does. He says it basically comes down to three key functions:

  • Sets the overall vision and strategy of the company and communicates it to all stakeholders
  • Recruits, hires, and retains the very best talent for the company.
  • Makes sure there is always enough cash in the bank.

Matt Blumberg, who runs one of Fred’s portfolio companies, Return Path, follows up with an additional three:

  • Don’t be a bottleneck (make sure you aren’t holding up people’s work)
  • Run great meetings (don’t be a productivity drain on the company)
  • Stay fresh (be mentally and physically fit & attuned to what is going on in the world)

And I’d add to the world of “lists of three” the old adage that many VCs quote about boards having only three roles:

  • Raising money
  • Selling the company
  • Hiring & Firing the CEO

These are good starting points and one day I’d like to elaborate more on the topic of running a company and as only I can do I will take these short lists and make them much longer 😉

But today I’m going to do the opposite. I’d like to boil down the role to just one critical function: chief psychologist. Continuar leyendo «My Life As A CEO (And VC): Chief Psychologist»

Entrepreneurs, Say No to (Poorly Run, Unnecessary) Meetings

Written by Audrey Watters

Earlier this week, VC Mark Suster blogged the decree «Say No to Meetings.» Suster argues that time is an entrepreneur’s scarcest resource. And with all the pressures – from current and potential employees, vendors, and investors, Suster suggests that entrepreneurs learn to decline holding meetings.

This may seem somewhat contradictory to the advice that entrepreneurs always stay in touch with advisors and investors. Suster clarifies, «I’m not saying «no more meetings» but rather «no, to more meetings.»


time_may10.jpg

Written by Audrey Watters

Earlier this week, VC Mark Suster blogged the decree «Say No to Meetings.» Suster argues that time is an entrepreneur‘s scarcest resource. And with all the pressures – from current and potential employees, vendors, and investors, Suster suggests that entrepreneurs learn to decline holding meetings.

This may seem somewhat contradictory to the advice that entrepreneurs always stay in touch with advisors and investors. Suster clarifies, «I’m not saying «no more meetings» but rather «no, to more meetings.» Continuar leyendo «Entrepreneurs, Say No to (Poorly Run, Unnecessary) Meetings»

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