Stop Follow-Up Failing, People!

Charlie O'Donnell

I take a lot of meetings to just try to be helpful, especially with people’s careers. Other times, I’ll take a very early meeting with an entrepreneur throwing around a few ideas or someone who comes to me when things just aren’t working. I feel like I give pretty decent advice — and that’s just purely based on the excitement of the person when they walk out of the meeting.

Yet, I probably never hear back from 85 per cent of these people. I have no idea whether or not they ever put any of these ideas into practice, whether they worked, or whether they failed miserably, which would be good data for me.

I noticed this yesterday, when two entrepreneurs that I really like came in for the second time about three to four weeks after our first meeting. We had a good chat the first time, I made some intros and suggestions for them. They followed up on all the intros and let me know that they did — which was great because I hate when intros disappear into the void (Hashable solves this when people click on the follow-up note). They also told me that some of the suggestions that I gave them didn’t work at all — good to know. It was a very productive meeting that helped me work on next steps with them.  

When someone doesn’t follow up at all on advice — even to tell me that the advice turned out to be terrible and not work at all — it really makes me regret even spending any time at all with the person. I assume they walked out the door, never took any of it, and just went on their merry way. That would be a real waste of everyone’s time.

Here’s a suggested way to follow-up:

1. If you requested the meeting with me, it’s your job to provide the thank you e-mail — and that should include a summary. “Hey Charlie, thanks for meeting. Your suggestions to do x, y, and z were really appreciated and I’ll definitely keep you posted on how stuff goes. I may not be able to get to them until December, but when I start, I’ll let you know.”

2. If you execute or run into trouble with specific suggestions, follow up questions are always welcome. Same goes when you accomplish a specific task that was a suggestion — a post mortem on its success or failure would be great.

That’s all I’m asking for — just let me know if any of the time we spent together turned out to be useful, not just because we had a good chat, but that it was actually impactful in some way.

This post originally appeared at Charlie O’Donnell’s blog and is republished here with permission.

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