My VC partners (one in particular) make fun of me for being extremely literal. If you don’t phrase a question or statement the right way or with clarity, I have a tendency to get confused and ask questions. I actually think this comes from my years of practicing corporate law. After all, if your lawyer cannot state things clearly, you have problems. I guess I just like overly clear communication. I also like overly open communication. While I think that most people like clear communication, some are more open to open communication than others.
This might seem a bit petty and obvious, but trying to be very clear with communication is good practice. But I am convinced that some purposely practice unclear communication.
Here is an example that made me laugh yesterday. My partner and I were emailing back and forth about how to characterize an exit transaction where we received stock of a private company for shares in our portfolio company (often called a private to private transaction). My partner wrote “Show the comparative exchange rate then……” And I wrote back “What is a comparative exchange rate?” Showing return multiples in a private to private transaction can be challenging. We ended up simply writing “CVF received $XXX,XXX of Company ABC stock on $YYY,YYY dollars invested.” To me, that is clearly showing the return based on the current value of Company ABC stock. I still don’t know what a comparative return multiple is. Moral of the story: use simple straight forward language whenever possible.
One more tip for clear communication: when emailing a bunch of thoughts on a topic, try listing them out with numbers (1., 2., 3., etc.). It makes it way easier to read and way easier for the reader to actually respond as they can just respond inline in the original email. People who email with me often see numbered lists. I get some grief about it sometimes like “you are being too direct”. Well, better direct than misunderstood.
If you have some tips on clear communication, pass them along.
If my emails are more than 2 lines, I will bold the 3-6 most important words in the email so a person scanning it can get the gist of what I’m saying without reading the whole thing.
Bottom line up front!
It’s more effective to put the question or main point of an email in the title or the first few lines.
It’s frustrating to read a long email, thinking to myself “So what?”.