Rookie Mistakes 101: Not Keeping People Updated

Update emails are a great tool for founders. They’re just what the name suggests: emails that highlight important recent information about the company or founder. They’re an electronic way of answering the “What’s new?” question from investors and advisors. When I meet with founders, I usually request that they add me to their update email list.

Here are some ways update emails add value:

  • Efficiency – One email communicates your updates to many people . You can’t beat that ROI. Imagine having to bring each person up to speed individually.
  • The luck factor – Opportunities tend to be offered to people who are top-of-mind. Sending updates regularly puts you on people’s minds.
  • Accountability – Nobody wants to disappoint people they hold in high regard. Knowing that you have to send an update will push you to complete things you’ve committed to in the last one.  
  • Help – It’s hard for people to help if they don’t know what you need. Updates bring awareness of your needs to a broad audience. I’ve seen founders receive help from someone on their update email list who was the last person they anticipated would be helpful. You never know what or who someone knows.
  • Reflection – Experiences—good or bad—are valuable, and reflecting on them will help you grow and gain wisdom. But it’s all too easy to succumb to the daily whirl and never stop moving long enough to think deeply. Writing an update email forces some degree of regular reflection.
  • Team building – People like to know what’s going on outside their area of responsibility, and that can be difficult for founders to communicate. Especially while everyone works from home. And I’ve seen founders benefit from including their teams on their updates. Again, you never know what or who someone knows. Team members can be great resources.

So, what makes update emails successful? Here are a few of my thoughts:

  • Consistent rhythm – Send them regularly to stay top of mind. Consistency also helps keep the length down. Cramming six months’ worth of updates into a single email will ensure that few people will read it.
  • Consistent structure – Organize and format your update emails the same way every time. This will allow readers to quickly find the info that matters most to them. And they’ll be more likely to read them.  A progress report, future plans, and requests for help are good things to include.
  • Conciseness – Get straight to the point. The more concise the update, the better. People will stop reading if you ramble.
  • Transparency – Don’t sugarcoat bad news. Include the highs and the lows. Nobody expects perfection from founders. Revealing problems opens the door for others to share the wisdom they gained from similar experiences.

I love it when a good update email lands in my inbox. If you’re thinking about starting a company (or you’ve started one), sending regular update emails is a good practice.