One of the major lessons on starting up right after college is communication. People around you, though friendly, might not take kindly to jokes which seemed ‘hot’ in college days. Casual talk and casual language might not bode well with colleagues, and it might take time for this to sink in. A few hard lessons too, perhaps.
Being polite when you meet people.
As discussed before, the solution to not knowing the right people is to meet people. You find people at startup events, parties and during exclusive interactions. Being bold and walking upto people is encouraged, but manners ought to be followed.
The best way is through a reference. As an entrepreneur, you are expected to connect with people and find connections to the most famous folks. Do not ‘hunt’ (a networking term employed in a negative sense for people aggressively pursuing referrals for mostly a selfish benefit), but build value around you. This world is a wonderful little place and the folks around you might just happen to be best pals with the biggest VCs and the biggest journalists! Create value and the world will return the favor. Hunt, and it will not. And if you’re lucky, you get to pee with the right folks in the same washroom (I met Alok in an IIT Bombay washroom during the first TiE Smashup, that was when we first spoke).
Show that you’re keen to get introduced.
You might have an opportunity of meeting someone at an event, someone you have been dying to exchange cards with. What do you do? Approach them, of course! But keeping the following rules in mind.
- Instead of interrupting their conversation with someone else (even if that someone is your friend), it’s best to wait by the side without making it seem as if you’re eavesdropping (creepy).
- Instead of staring, look for a gentle opportunity of an eye contact and follow it up with a slight nod and a smile. A wide grin is tad creepy too.
- Hounding the person at a public event (with many others) is seldom a good idea, avoid such interactions, maintain dignity. Dignity in a respectful manner, not through arrogance.
- When introduced, shake hands with a slight bow (shows respect) and clearly state your name and your project’s brief description. Mention now happy you are to get connected. Keep flattery aside, be genuine and don’t ask for a favor in the first meeting. It’s best to not share your entire story, might result in awkward moments where you’d have to be shaken off by the certain someone. Follow up online and start looking for a reference (yes, it works best) to push your agenda forward (politely).
- Avoid over familiarity in interactions even with your closest friends. A formal gathering is not the right place to be overtly familiar and makes everyone awkward.
Emails & Messages
Welcome to the 21st century, where technology has facilitated written communication between humans via emails and text messages. With communication comes etiquette, with etiquette comes necessary lessons to be learned. Cockiness is an infamous trait in ALL startup entrepreneurs. The little twits (no matter how old) feel they know it all throughout the first year, post which the world hits back hard and they come to their senses.
- People (who matter) take you seriously when you use grammatically correct English and use the three magic words (Sorry, Please, Thanks) while being genuine.
- When you are careful about what you type, it shows that you care about how people perceive you. Branding and Positioning rules apply to self.
- Names should be spelt right, it shows you care.
Communication is highly underestimated and is the root cause of most problems companies face. Effective polite communication is the essential grease and while learning this the hard way is certainly an option, I’ll suggest you don’t.
I did, the wounds take time to heal :) Had to purchase new shoes.