I can't remember who said this to me originally, but it's a phrase I say to myself often: "In the absence of information, people will create their own stories."
When an announcement is made with little explanation, when a recurring event stops happening, or if someone stops being as present or engaged, people's minds naturally go to a worst-case scenario. They start making assumptions and leaping to conclusions, all because the right amount of information wasn't shared with them directly.
When you are a founder, this absence of information almost always stems from not having enough time. You become so inundated with challenges related to the business that you assume nobody will notice if you cancel that check-in meeting three weeks in a row, or if you forget to send a status email to your team. But what happens, then, is you start allowing people to come to their own conclusions. And whatever small amount of time you think you bought yourself by not overcommunicating you'll end up spending later answering a storm of questions and clarifying the situation--which is why it's better to just overcommunicate from the beginning.
1. Keep investors informed by sending quarterly or biyearly status updates.
Most founders, whether they've raised a small seed round or are venture-backed, are expected to provide some sort of ongoing update on the status of the business.
In the case of ThirdLove, we hold board meetings every quarter and try to send investor updates every six months. These investor updates are intended to be quick glimpses into the business and how we are progressing from a high-level perspective. And while we haven't always been perfect at sending them on time, we do our very best to keep this twice-per-year cadence in motion. Because the moment this cadence gets broken, an investor is going to wonder, "What's going on? We haven't heard from them in a while--something must be up."
Again, in the absence of information, people will create their own narrative. Which means, as a founder, one of your largest responsibilities is to keep people from creating a story in their minds that isn't actually true.
2. Keep vendors informed on your goals as a business, your anticipated growth, and most of all, why you value the relationship.
Almost every company that begins to grow in size ends up having to build valuable relationships with vendors.
In our case, our manufacturing partners are hugely important to the growth of our business. At ThirdLove, since we produce physical products at a fairly large scale, we have to consistently provide our partners with accurate projections to ensure they can deliver on time and we can keep our supply chain working seamlessly.
We recently hired a new head of manufacturing specifically to manage the relationships we have with our vendors. And one of the things he has done has been to implement a quarterly business update to make sure each of our manufacturing partners understands what our goals and initiatives are in the next few years, and why we are so thrilled to have them on board with us.
By simply sharing more information (and more frequently), we've not only helped them become more effective partners, we've also helped ourselves be more productive.
3. Keep the company informed by holding regular all-hands meetings and sending weekly email status updates.
When you are looking to keep the entire group informed, it becomes a question of: Who needs to know what, when, at what level, and why?
When you are just starting out, this is fairly easy to do, because everyone who works at your startup can fit into one small room. But as you begin to grow into a team of 20, 50, or, in our case, almost 200, communicating with everyone at once becomes a task of its own.
The way we've approached this is by holding all-hands meetings in the common area of our office. We have a projector set up, team members from our offices outside of San Francisco will tune in virtually, and a foam microphone will get passed around the room for people to ask questions. We use this time to have different departments or individuals present to the company for 10-15 minutes, keeping them informed from a high-level perspective.
In addition, each week I will send a status email to the entire team to keep them informed on larger items within the company. The only time I won't send one of these emails is if it's a very short week, or if I'm caught in a crazy travel schedule. Otherwise, I prioritize keeping this cadence consistent--so the entire team knows things are still moving right along.