Good email habits make founders more approachable (and better at networking)
One of the downfalls of having a successful career is that we begin to lose touch with current events and popular culture.
We may become exceptionally knowledgeable in a certain field but, in focusing on one area and with what is usually a chock full 12-hour schedule ahead of us every day, we increasingly risk missing out on whatever is evolving in our industry and the world. It’s the curse of the absent-minded professor – the most respected experts in any field tend to be entirely oblivious to most other things happening around them.
Providing an overall solution for this particular issue would involve rallying every country in the world and every scientist with a voice to abolish the 24-hour day and instill at least a 28-hour day, to accommodate the longer cycles that the 21st century imposes on our day. Though many of us are hoping for that, we’ve found that one of the easiest and most efficient ways to begin fixing this problem is in our email inbox.
Forget 20th century communications
If the song 20th Century Man by The Kinks, first released as a single in 1971, is any indicator, perhaps we should all consider going back to letter writing and carrier pigeons. Years before the world wide web was conceived, The Kinks lyricized how we were becoming consumed by the pace and volume of modern communications and business.
Today’s technology and communications tools seem to be contributing to that, for one simple reason – we’re using them wrong. Instead of keeping open lines and organizing our contacts and emails by priority, most of us make at least two out of three frequent mistakes.
Don’t avoid giving out our email
Avoiding giving out email addresses is a bad habit that many professionals, especially at the top executive level, have inherited from 20th century telephone etiquette. While a business’ physical address was most often publicly available, phone numbers, in particular direct lines, were most often issued only to select people and existing business partners.
Somehow, we’ve mistaken email for being just like a phone number, instead of a business address where anyone might get in touch with us. Recently, top level business leaders have stopped this practice and are happy to hand out there email on social networks and elsewhere. Sure, there’s probably an assistant filtering email on the incoming end of it, but that’s exactly the way it’s supposed to work.
If you make your email address publicly available but are too busy to respond to every email coming in and not busy enough to have a personal assistant, there’s an app for that. Several, in fact.
First, you may not know the person sending the email well or at all. The simple thing to do is to link your email to LinkedIn. While there are several apps and tools for this purpose for any number of email clients, we’ve found it simplest to use our business emails at Thinkruptor through Google’s G Suite, then using the Gmail LinkedIn plugin to learn a little more about the people emailing us. Aside from LinkedIn, a nifty website by the name of Crystal offers terrific insight when you’re getting ready to email someone with a pitch or a request for the first time.
Our emails are public on our profiles on the Thinkruptor website, so getting in touch with us and getting an appropriate response is easier that picking up the phone. This opens us up to a whole world of opportunities and collaborations that we would otherwise have missed out on.
Be done with spam
In email terms, the two are closely related but very different. The horrific practice of spamming is arguably the reason most people don’t want to make their email addressed public or widely known in the first place. As anyone with any experience in running a successful business of any sort will vouch for, the practice is not only annoying (and sometimes illegal) but it also doesn’t work.
Thankfully, we’re at a stage of online communications evolution in which we have very effective spam filters to handle that. Sure, they sometimes send emails we’d like to see into our spam folder, but that’s a small nuisance in comparison to the alternative.
When sending email, make sure to include as few links as possible and to truly personalize the email, to make sure it makes it into the recipient’s inbox properly. When receiving email, make sure your spam filter settings are set to meet your needs and check our spam folder regularly, weekly or monthly. It really is as simple as all that.
Either speak up or can it
The 28-hour day isn’t coming any time soon, which leaves us with very little time to respond to every call and email most of us have coming in every day. Unless you have a minimum of three personal secretaries and an intern or two tending to your email, it’s most likely you won’t be able to respond to everything coming in. And that’s okay, you don’t really have to.
On the other hand, you’re plagued by the awareness that you might be perceived as aloof or irresponsible if you don’t respond to emails. You probably will. And reputation matters, now more than ever. The best thing to do is to set aside two times during the day, designated specifically for responding to emails, then book these times as busy in your schedule and get to it.
As for emails we don’t want to respond to, there’s an easy fix for that too and it’s usually built into email clients and mobile email apps. Most email clients have a little feature for canned responses, in other words, typical responses you use to quickly respond to either frequent or unsolicited emails.
If there’s anything you’ve had to explain in an email response more than three times and predict having to explain again, it needs to be among your canned responses. My frequently used canned responses include everything from “Got it. Thanks!” to let colleagues and clients know I’ve received an assignment or information to “I’m not interested at this time, but thanks for reaching out!” for unsolicited offers and pitches.
I’ve heard rumor of a debate regarding whether or not canned responses are ‘impolite’ and some have even called them potentially offensive. What’s more likely to be perceived as offensive or impolite, however, is not responding at all, regardless of how busy our schedules might be.
Networking vs dialogue
All of the above, on one level or another, leads to dialogue and being engaged in our industry, surroundings and business community. We keep hearing of the value of networking and the importance of maintaining an active online and offline presence these days. What we don’t hear about often enough is how to get it done in a warp speed world and just 24 hours a day at our disposal.
Maintaining an online presence just to be ‘seen’ online and jetting in and out of industry-related events to network just for the sake of networking isn’t working. True networking, whether on social media or a conference, is about making connections, engaging, and starting a dialogue. Email is the most effective and most convenient way of getting that done. Provided we’re using it right.