5 Founder Bad Habits You Need to Break

Chris Howard

I’ve been a founder (several times), investor (several times) and mentor (several times). In all instances, I have screwed up (several times) and have found myself on the receiving end of those errors (several times recently).

For those first-time founders out there, here are 5 really dumb things that disproportionately annoy those who are going out of their way to help you. Minimising these 5 things will not only help you get the most out of the ecosystem you are in, but also increase your reputation for being a ‘good human being’ – thus making more people want to help you.

1. Don’t be late!

That’s right. It’s this simple. If someone is taking time out to help you, turn up to that meeting on time, prepared, and with a smile. There are often very few excuses for turning up late. Bus was delayed? Get an earlier bus. Couldn’t find the place? Use Google Maps. Wrote the address down wrong? Check the friggin’ address. Almost always, you are there to meet someone who’s time is incredibly stretched. Every minute counts and if you’re late, you’re not respecting their time no matter how flustered and apologetic you are when you arrive.

2. Don’t suck at Email

I learned this bad boy from the master himself – Brad Feld. When people make introductions for you, they are almost always spending their very own social capital to make that introduction. That simply means that not only are they introducing you, they are recommending you. If you don’t take the initiative and respond to the introduction within a maximum of 24 hours, you give the impression that the connection isn’t important to you – and the introducer isn’t someone you particularly value. That, makes you, disrespectful.

3. Stop asking for money before you can prove anything valuable

People raise money too early. That has always been true. However, more frustrating than that is when first-time founders ask for money from those who are capable of investing before they have proven they can execute anything valuable. Investors initially invest in founders who can accomplish valuable things. Then, later on, they invest in the business those founders created based upon the future value of that business. If you ask for money before demonstrating either of those points, you give the impression you are incapable of creating value – and that all-important first impression has been wasted.

4. Your idea really isn’t that special

Too many first-timers keep their ideas a secret. Or worse (yes, worse), they will only share their ideas after some kind of NDA or contract. Unless there is something specific that will prevent you achieving a patent (or similar), this rather bizarre approach of facilitating support & advice from others not only shows the ignorance around the value of the idea in question, but also demonstrates a level of disrespect toward the person listening. A good idea is an idea that makes logical sense. And one could argue that if the actual problem that idea addresses is large enough, then the good idea not only makes sense to many people, but should make common sense to almost everyone. Basically, a good idea is only a good idea if other people have it too. 

5. Don’t underestimate your ability to help others

First-timers can be forgiven for thinking they have very little to offer those who they need support from. But, you’ll be surprised how often that is not the case. Whenever you ask for help or support from others, it shows incredible respect to offer your support back in return – even if you feel your offer of support isn’t valuable to them. This signals you are a ‘good egg’ and is proven through immense levels of research to be the fastest way of growing your social capital. A good rule to follow is to offer help to as many others as those people who have helped you.

I am on a personal mission to prove talent is simply a mindset and intelligence is simply an attitude of learning against failure. I can only refine and improve this message with your help and feedback.