Tony’s standing desk. Who said coffee tables had to be on the ground?
Doesn’t it feel like standing desks are all the rage these days? They seem to be everywhere. Out of our team of 13 in D.C., we have seven people using standing desks. Well — they’re make-shift standing desks (see photos), but what matters is that we’re standing and using a desk, right? It’s supposed to be great for your back, your posture, and your overall health in general.
It all started with Zvi who decided that using a standing desk something he needed to do. And since then, six more have joined the club, with a few still contemplating the switch. So what does our team think of standing desks?
Zvi - I’m loving it. I feel a lot more energy over the course of the day, and makes me appreciate sitting even more. I have to ensure I keep headphones, to keep me from wandering away from my desk. Comfortable shoes are a necessity!
Donna - I think too much of either is bad thing. It’s known that sitting too much can cause health problems such as increased risk for heart problems as well as back problems. But on the other hand, standing all day can also cause problems especially later in life. If you look at people in the past that had to stand all day such as in factories, they tended to have more joint or knee problems when they were older. So I think just like anything in life: everything in moderation.
As any early stage company, we work pretty hard, all the time. Having hit some major goals, and the team big enough to no longer be fed by two pizzas, we all decided that we were due for a work retreat.
Here are a few things that made it great, and possible, for a young company to get away to Miami Beach, grow as a company, still get work done, have a lot of fun, and pay for everything, on the cheap!
Balance the time between work, personal and company development, and fun.
We wanted to ensure that the company was still moving forward – the last t ing you’d want to come back to is an overflowing inbox, an endless support queue, and catchup against the monthly targets. Every day, we had a couple sessions, led by one or another member of the team. We discussed and ratified company values. We had an open session on our personal goals and areas of improvement. We talked about a couple big product enhancements. We still were able to wrap up by 3PM every day, letting everyone get to the beach, relax, and have fun at night!
A year ago, Contactually was a few people. Having just hired our fourteenth full-time employee, I can’t imagine how expensive normal hotels would be for five nights in Miami Beach in springtime. Instead, we used AirBNB to rent three adjacent apartments, with kitchens, wifi, TV, etc. Maybe not as clean as a normal hotel, but having everyone rooming together made it a lot of fun.
Renting full apartments with kitchens allowed us to reduce the amount we ate out – the amount we spent in groceries for pretty much every meal, snacks, drinks, etc. ended up costing as much as two dinners out would have been. Also, cooking together and doing the dishes was a great group activity – even if we did learn that cooking four boxes of pasta in one small pot was a terrible idea.
Rain and snow can’t stop team Contactually, and we have some huge — and we mean HUGE — news to announce! We just closed a round of funding with new investors Point Nine and Boston Seed, as well as our existing investors and angels. With new money in the bank, we’re now working extra hard to make Contactually better than ever, and thank you profusely for your help and continued support throughout this amazing journey.
TechCrunch covered the story which you can read by clicking here, and we’ve included an excerpt with you below.
“Washington, D.C.-based Contactually, which makes a lightweight CRM for email, is today announcing it has just closed on a $1 million in seed funding led by SaaS backers Point Nine as well as Boston Seed, with participation from previous investor 500 Startups and other angels. The company is also announcing the public debut of its new API, which allows third-party developers to integrate contact information, plus email and social media history directly into their apps.
For those of you who didn’t know, 2012 was Contactually’s first full calendar year of existence. Over the course of the past year, we’ve learned a ton about… well, everything. From better managing our contacts, to adopting new social media best practices, to, on a much larger scale, learning how to run a company, it’s safe to say that 2012 was a big year of learning for all of team Contactually.
One of the most important skills we’ve perfected as of late is the art of crafting a great follow-up email. It’s a core principle on which we’ve built our company and our product, so by now we think we’re pretty good at it as well. I took some time to talk to the Contactually team to compile a list of best practices and tactics that you should avoid in your own efforts.
Without further ado, I present to you the Contactually team’s dos and don’ts of following up.
Penny: Know your objective. Regardless if it’s your first point of contact or your hundredth, keep a clear objective in mind when you’re reaching out to that important contact. What do you want to get out of the call? Are you simply touching base to help retain mindshare? Are you trying to make a sale? Are you spreading the word about a new company promo or deal? If you keep the content of notes and past emails as well as the goal of your follow-up in mind, you’ll avoid running the risk of hitting that awkward, silent lull that every professional so desperately wants to avoid.
Sean: Make it easy. I’ve found that most email readers don’t have the time, energy, or even worse, the desire to act on their emails. Keeping that in mind, you should make it as easy for the reader as possible to understand exactly what it is you’re trying to accomplish with the email. Be sure to include any relevant links or attachments that will help drive your point home. The best part of that last tip? Your contact won’t have to spend any time at all searching for the necessary information, which will greatly increase your follow-up’s ROI.
Tony: Watch the clock. If you’ve just met someone for the first time, make sure you follow up within 24 hours of that first point of contact. As we all know from first-hand experience, the human mind tends to forget things, and the longer you wait to reach out the more likely you are to fall off the radar permanently. What’s more? You’ll make yourself even more relevant if you reference something specific from your previous conversation. Not only will you better stick in the reader’s mind, but you’ll also show how much the interaction meant to you.
Zvi: Don’t beat a dead horse. If your follow-up efforts for a particular contact repeatedly falls on deaf ears no matter what you try, considering changing your patterns. Try adjusting the intervals at which you send your messages, or varying the content that you include. Often times people are incredibly busy (or simply unresponsive), so a repetitive “hey, how are you?” can do more harm than good. Try switching your routine up a bit so you don’t risk look desperate and increase your likelihood of getting that coveted response.
Brian: Don’t ramble. You’ll want your follow-up efforts to be short and sweet, whether you’re reaching out to someone initially or if it’s the 30th message in your email chain. Putting too much text and information into your electronic follow-ups tends to convolute your objective and confuse the reader. Further, your follow-ups should serve two purposes: they should encourage further conversation, and should be easy on which to take action. Keeping them concise will help you a lot with both of these goals.
Ouzy: Don’t beg. When crafting your follow-ups, keep in mind that all relationships, both personal and professional, are based on a system of give and take. Give first, and you shall receive, I’ve heard — and it’s true. While it’s a great practice to offer the reader your help or services, I’ve found that asking for something off the bat almost never gets a good response, regardless of whether or not I’ve offered something first.
Do you have a particularly strong best practice that you employ for your follow-up efforts? Let us know in the comments. Who knows, if it’s good enough, maybe you’ll make our team’s official dos and don’ts list!
If there’s one thing I’ve learned while working at Contactually, it’s that start-ups in particular must leverage their existing connections in order to learn from the people in their network and ultimately expand their opportunities for business. At Contactually HQ, we do this on a very regular basis. Whether we’re reaching out to other start-ups from the 500 family, connecting with our fellow #DCTech compadres or making use of the friendships we established in college, we know that our efforts to keep in touch and use our existing connections will bring great things for Contactually. Further, even if we don’t know somebody that can answer our questions and aid us directly, the chances are high that the people in our network will know somebody that can point us in the right direction.
Like most of you, we live and breathe email, and conduct a lot of our most important work straight from our inbox. As such, it’s only natural that when we’re asking the people in our network (at least the ones who also live and work from their inbox) for help, we tend to do it over email. Through various trials, successes and failures we’ve picked up three solid tips along the way that will help ensure that you’re taking the right approach when asking someone you know for an email introduction.
1. Take a two-pronged approach. When I’m asking for an email introduction, I do so with a series of two very short and direct emails. In the first one, I ask my connection if he would be comfortable and willing to introduce me to my desired target. This helps me figure out how strong their relationship is and whether or not it makes sense to try to connect with my target through the person in my network. Of course, if you know the connector well and know that he has a strong relationship with your target, you can leave this step out. Then, once my connection has agreed to help, I send him a typical request for an introduction that he can easily forward to my target — whether he’s in front of his computer at work or on the go with his smartphone
2. Include the most important details. This starts with your subject line, which should have at least the names of both companies being introduced, if not your own name and the name of your target. In your message body, make sure that you explain what your company does in a few sentences. You could also attach a document if it’s brief enough and will help them prepare for your eventual conversation. Finally, include all his possible methods of contact in your email signature to ensure that you’re as reachable as possible
3. Respect the target’s time and efforts. This means that in return for their help, you should have something to offer them as well, no matter how small it may be. Make sure you explicitly mention what’s in it for them in that second email so that they recognize that value proposition from the get go. When it comes time to schedule that longer discussion, remember that your target is doing you a favor, and as such should be the one who gets to propose suggested times and meeting places. Your job is to ensure that one of these times and places works with your calendar, even if you have to move a few things around to make it happen.
4. Follow through. Your work is not done once you receive that much coveted response from your target! Once he or she suggests times to meet, pick the one that fits best with your schedule and follow up with him immediately to confirm your appointment. When the time and date rolls around, arrive on time — or better yet, early — and whatever you do, don’t miss your meeting! Not only will you make yourself look bad and potentially ruin the possibility of working together in the future, but it will also have negative effects for the person who put you in touch in the first place.
Which of these tips do you swear by when you’re asking for an email introduction? Is there anything we left out? Drop us a line in the comments and let us know what you think.
Offline. The “meatspace,” as it’s oft called, or even “IRL.” Getting out there and talking to people is the easiest way to network and build business relationships. In his Tech Cocktail talk back in July, Zvi talked about his “luck surface area” and how once upon a time he was better at speaking to people on ICQ chat than in real life. As luck would have it, networking and strengthening business relationships helped get the ball rolling on what would eventually become Contactually.
Business relationships are important to everyone in any professional environment. From a CEO all the way down to an intern.
Network – As someone who just recently realized that they’re in that same boat as Zvi once was, just talking and getting to know people is invaluable to your circles of business relationships. Go to events; ask for introductions. I’ve heard two things that should help: 1) people love hearing their name, and 2) be interested in other people. If you think about it long enough, it’s pretty clear that both are indeed true. For the first point, many of us, me included at times, are terrible at remembering others’ names. Repetition (and my next point of using business cards) will help you remember names and match a person’s name, if not a biz card, to a face. And as for the second, being interested in others and asking questions is one of the easiest way to connect with someone, whether it be personal or for business. Business relationships are like personal relationships. You are talking to humans in both instances, are you not?
Business cards – This seems like a no-brainer, right? But I can’t tell you how many times I’ve run out of business cards (from networking so much, obviously) or met someone who was out of them as well. Keep an eye on the number of cards you have left. If you’re running low, order more. If you want to redesign them, don’t dilly-dally. Get that done right away. I unfortunately fell in this hole at our company holiday event a few weeks ago, and, let me tell you, napkins aren’t the best way to write down your contact info.
Follow up – It’s funny how that works out. Don’t let any of your new connections slip through the cracks. Because this is a blog post on offline relationships, emailing someone and calling that a followup is out of the question. This circles back around to going to events. If you see someone you know, say hi, mingle! Your mileage may vary, and being in D.C. does have its perks with a thriving startup community, but shouldn’t be an excuse. I should know that firsthand. The key is to see and be seen — veni, vidi, vici. As I mentioned before, putting a face to a name is a great way to remember someone, especially if that someone is you.
It’s time to think about resolutions for the new year. Is this part of your plans?