It is an old saw that “You never get a second chance to make a good first impression.”
Although I write about email from time to time, it hasn’t really improved what I am getting from all of you, but I know change comes slowly to us financial types. In an effort to bring the point home a little clearer and perhaps build on the real issues involved in email, I will add a few more thoughts tonight.
When I first started The FECG with Bruce Lynn and Doug Fine in 1999, I knew I just had to have a cell phone because I would be out of the office a lot. Well, not really true anymore. I am amazed at how much more business I can conduct not going to face to face meetings. As a practical matter, most of our clients are not in the New York City area anyway. And, even if they were, you do the math. How many could I see on any one day?
Sending out email and making phone calls is a lot more efficient. It is for this reason that I focus so closely on all of the messages I distribute using these two forms of communication.
“Matt’s little secret” for email is that I have developed a treasure trove of what at first blush don’t even appear to be “canned” responses. I do get a lot of email, but I try to send a personal message to everyone who writes to me. That said, they are all variations on a theme. By having sharply honed components at my fingertips, I am actually able to craft more personal notes. By not having to retype information, I can send more messages each day and be more timely. By having the bulk of what I send out in boilerplate files, I know everything is spelled correctly and says what I want it to say.
I cannot afford, and neither can you, to make a whole lot of errors in the messages I send out. Each person, active or alumni, is a potential client of our consulting practice. I can’t have one persona for The FENG and another for The FECG as I wear all my hats at once. (The one with the fangs is my FENG hat.)
The impression I try to create is one of a consummate professional. Just as you are asking others to provide you with networking contacts, or to spend time with you in face to face meetings, I am asking friends to introduce me to their companies and “do a little business” with us. How could I expect others to be comfortable doing that if I had numerous typos in my work, if I didn’t use correct grammar or if I “didn’t know where the shift key was.” (You e.e. cummings wanabees are really too much. And I really wish those of you who type in CAPS would stop SHOUTING.)
Unlike the world of old, much of our first impression of others is by email or phone messages.
Even if these electronic images of others are wrong, they serve as a “first impression.” Your ledgers may tie to the penny, your spreadsheets may look pristine, but if you haven’t mastered email, or making phone calls, why would I believe this to be so?
And, if you are careless in your email messages and your phone messages are unclear, how can I believe that you will present a different but proper face to the fine individuals I would very much like to have you meet? What if you embarrass me?
First impressions may count for too much. Still, it is human nature to make quick judgments about others. It is part of our survival instinct.
Make sure all the initial “data” others have about you is first class. It will give you a solid base on which you can build when you finally get to meet them.