How To Make It as a
First-Time Entrepreneur

How to Make it as a First-Time Entrepreneur

Vinicius Vacanti is co-founder and CEO of Yipit. Next posts on how to acquire users for free and how to raise a Series A. Don’t miss them by subscribing via email or via twitter.

As a current or aspiring entrepreneur, you should be meeting with a ton of people (potential customers, investors, biz dev partners, employees, journalists).

You will often get introduced via email or you are cold-emailing them.

You are probably excited to meet with them and correctly assume that they are busier than you.  So, like the nice person you are, you want to be as flexible as possible.

And, that’s when you make the mistake of saying: “I’m pretty free the next two weeks, let me know when works for you.”

You may think you are being nice and flexible; but, you’re actually frustrating them.

What you actually just said: “Hey, why don’t you spend some time going through your schedule, pick out some times that work and email them to me. I’ll then sit back and pick one that I like.”

If you really want to be respectful of their time (and you should), your goal is to have them do as little work as possible to get the meeting arranged.

Eric Friedman made some good suggestions on how to most effectively set up an appointment and I’ll reiterate them here with some additional tips based on my experience.

You should do this from the very first communication to reduce the back and forth.

Suggest Possible Times

Go through your calendar and suggest possible days and times that work for you. For instance, I do the following:

The following dates/times (EST) work for me:

Monday, 1/24: 11am – 12pm EST; 2pm – 3pm EST

Tuesday, 1/25: 2pm – 4pm EST

Friday, 1/28: 10am – 12pm EST; 2pm – 4pm EST

Some additional tips:

  • The more time slots you suggest the better
  • Make sure you specify your time zone (people will assume they are in your timezone)
  • The busier the person is, the farther out your suggested time slots should be

Suggest Meeting Location or Phone Number

If it’s a phone call, I always say: “My number is 212-555-0001 but I”m happy to call you.” If you’re trying to set up a meeting with several people, you should get a free conference call number and include the dial-in information.

If it’s an in-person meeting, you should suggest going to their office (confirm their office address in the email) or picking two coffee shops or restaurants (if it’s a breakfast or lunch meeting) that are near their office.

If you do all of the following, not only will the meeting get quickly arranged but, by making it less frustrating for the person you are emailing, it also increases the chances of getting the meeting set up in the first place.

Update: Great comments over at hacker news including another reason to do this is that it suggests you respect your time. I know that sounds like a bad excuse but, unfortunately, appearances do matter.

Vinicius Vacanti is co-founder and CEO of Yipit. Next posts on how to acquire users for free and how to raise a Series A. Don’t miss them by subscribing via email or via twitter.

  • http://reecepacheco.com reecepacheco

    So funny… these tips are so freaking simple, but absolutely invaluable at facilitating meetings and making connections.

    • http://viniciusvacanti.com Vinicius Vacanti

      I know. Wish I had known about them when I was getting started.

      • http://reecepacheco.com reecepacheco

        Same here, but that’s the part of the fun of this! ;)

      • Sanjay Malhotra

        Totally changes my thinking on this – now it’s more like suggesting a few times to get the ball rolling – makes it more proactive…great tip(s)

  • http://reecepacheco.com reecepacheco

    So funny… these tips are so freaking simple, but absolutely invaluable at facilitating meetings and making connections.

    • http://viniciusvacanti.com Vinicius Vacanti

      I know. Wish I had known about them when I was getting started.

      • http://reecepacheco.com reecepacheco

        Same here, but that’s the part of the fun of this! ;)

      • Sanjay Malhotra

        Totally changes my thinking on this – now it’s more like suggesting a few times to get the ball rolling – makes it more proactive…great tip(s)

  • http://justin-singer.com/ Justin Singer

    If you’re the recipient of the meeting request, another tip (provided none of the suggested times work) is to use a service like Tungle to show the requester your availability. The Google calendar integration really cuts down on the back-and-forth.

    • http://viniciusvacanti.com Vinicius Vacanti

      Not a big fan of Tungle. I think it’s easier to just suggest some times.

  • http://justin-singer.com/ Justin Singer

    If you’re the recipient of the meeting request, another tip (provided none of the suggested times work) is to use a service like Tungle to show the requester your availability. The Google calendar integration really cuts down on the back-and-forth.

    • http://viniciusvacanti.com Vinicius Vacanti

      Not a big fan of Tungle. I think it’s easier to just suggest some times.

  • http://www.gorankem.com adamwexler

    great topic. when reaching out to others, i usually specify two times, but it probably wouldn’t hurt to expand those options just a bit.

    for those that approach me, i often pick up the phone if i want to avoid the never-ending email exchange.

    • http://viniciusvacanti.com Vinicius Vacanti

      Definitely recommend putting in more times.

  • http://www.gorankem.com adamwexler

    great topic. when reaching out to others, i usually specify two times, but it probably wouldn’t hurt to expand those options just a bit.

    for those that approach me, i often pick up the phone if i want to avoid the never-ending email exchange.

    • http://viniciusvacanti.com Vinicius Vacanti

      Definitely recommend putting in more times.

  • http://twitter.com/Seph250 Seph250

    LOL. Anyways – Vin, let’s get lunch sometime – let me know when works for you.

    • http://viniciusvacanti.com Vinicius Vacanti

      haha

  • http://twitter.com/Seph250 Seph250

    LOL. Anyways – Vin, let’s get lunch sometime – let me know when works for you.

    • http://viniciusvacanti.com Vinicius Vacanti

      haha

  • http://www.marketing.fm Anonymous

    Its obvious but still relevant – dropping a number in your signature is another one that seems like overkill but is SO helpful when you are trying to dig up a number to call.

    • http://viniciusvacanti.com Vinicius Vacanti

      Great tip. Definitely helpful.

  • http://www.marketing.fm Anonymous

    Its obvious but still relevant – dropping a number in your signature is another one that seems like overkill but is SO helpful when you are trying to dig up a number to call.

    • http://viniciusvacanti.com Vinicius Vacanti

      Great tip. Definitely helpful.

  • Sachit Gupta

    Wow – definitely counter-intuitive. I’ve used “let me know when works for you” plenty of times. Thanks for the tip.

    • http://viniciusvacanti.com Vinicius Vacanti

      definitely counter-intuitive.

  • http://www.sachitgupta.me/ Sachit Gupta

    Wow – definitely counter-intuitive. I’ve used “let me know when works for you” plenty of times. Thanks for the tip.

    • http://viniciusvacanti.com Vinicius Vacanti

      definitely counter-intuitive.

  • Ben

    When people do this to me I find it very arrogant and bossy. I EXPECT people to say “whatever time works for you”, then I pick.

    • http://viniciusvacanti.com Vinicius Vacanti

      That’s definitely a concern but perhaps that can be eased with working in the email like “happy to call you”, “happy to meet you at a different time than these” and giving many time slots that work.

  • Ben

    When people do this to me I find it very arrogant and bossy. I EXPECT people to say “whatever time works for you”, then I pick.

    • http://viniciusvacanti.com Vinicius Vacanti

      That’s definitely a concern but perhaps that can be eased with working in the email like “happy to call you”, “happy to meet you at a different time than these” and giving many time slots that work.

  • http://twitter.com/wcbracken Chris Bracken

    Or, you could use a service like Tungle.me

    • http://viniciusvacanti.com Vinicius Vacanti

      Not sure it’s a good idea to ask people to find a time that works for you on your tungle.me account.

      • Anonymous

        Hi Vinicius – Actually, you can use Tungle.me the reverse way as well. You create a private meeting invitation that proposes multiple times. All the other person has to do is click and confirm the time they want.

        Similar to what you’re suggesting. The added benefit is that it’s going to prevent double bookings for you (through the sync with your cal), and it will automatically adjust for time zones, so you’re not asking the other person to do the math. It will also update your calendar for you, and send an email confirmation to the other person that they simply click to add to their own calendar.

        Easy-peasy, and respectful of everyone’s busy schedules :)

        I hope that helps! Happy to hear any feedback you have on Tungle. You can me at erin[at]tungle.com or, of course, http://tungle.me/erin

        Erin
        Community Manager, Tungle.me

      • http://www.whatspinksthinks.com David Spinks

        I’ve been using tungle a lot.  I actually do what you suggest and use tungle.

        So I suggest a bunch of times that could work.  Then I also say, if none of those times work, feel free to check my schedule and choose a time that works for you.

        Usually works out pretty well in limiting the amount of email exchanges.

  • http://twitter.com/wcbracken Chris Bracken

    Or, you could use a service like Tungle.me

    • http://viniciusvacanti.com Vinicius Vacanti

      Not sure it’s a good idea to ask people to find a time that works for you on your tungle.me account.

      • Anonymous

        Hi Vinicius – Actually, you can use Tungle.me the reverse way as well. You create a private meeting invitation that proposes multiple times. All the other person has to do is click and confirm the time they want.

        Similar to what you’re suggesting. The added benefit is that it’s going to prevent double bookings for you (through the sync with your cal), and it will automatically adjust for time zones, so you’re not asking the other person to do the math. It will also update your calendar for you, and send an email confirmation to the other person that they simply click to add to their own calendar.

        Easy-peasy, and respectful of everyone’s busy schedules :)

        I hope that helps! Happy to hear any feedback you have on Tungle. You can me at erin[at]tungle.com or, of course, http://tungle.me/erin

        Erin
        Community Manager, Tungle.me

  • http://www.facebook.com/magarshak Gregory Magarshak

    I usually would say both … hey, let me know what’s a good time for you. How about Mon around 5, or Tue around 7? Gets them thinking.

    • http://viniciusvacanti.com Vinicius Vacanti

      Definitely good to say both. Shows humility.

  • http://www.facebook.com/magarshak Gregory Magarshak

    I usually would say both … hey, let me know what’s a good time for you. How about Mon around 5, or Tue around 7? Gets them thinking.

    • http://viniciusvacanti.com Vinicius Vacanti

      Definitely good to say both. Shows humility.

  • http://www.nabbr.com MattMinoff

    Definitely trying to get

  • http://www.nabbr.com MattMinoff

    Definitely trying to get

  • http://www.nabbr.com MattMinoff

    It makes so much sense if you put yourself in the other person’s shoes. Think about how happy and relieved you are when someone suggests specific dates, times and locations. Great post.

    • http://viniciusvacanti.com Vinicius Vacanti

      Agree. It’s alway so refreshing to get specific times.

  • http://www.nabbr.com MattMinoff

    It makes so much sense if you put yourself in the other person’s shoes. Think about how happy and relieved you are when someone suggests specific dates, times and locations. Great post.

    • http://viniciusvacanti.com Vinicius Vacanti

      Agree. It’s alway so refreshing to get specific times.

  • http://www.kwiclick.com/ vinniv

    Xobni has a sweet feature that will insert your available times into an email message that you send along (pulled from your calendar)…if you’re into the whole Outlook thing..

    • http://viniciusvacanti.com Vinicius Vacanti

      Nice though using gmail :(

  • http://www.kwiclick.com/ vinniv

    Xobni has a sweet feature that will insert your available times into an email message that you send along (pulled from your calendar)…if you’re into the whole Outlook thing..

    • http://viniciusvacanti.com Vinicius Vacanti

      Nice though using gmail :(

      • Muhammad Ali

        You can use a feature in the Google calendar labs that finds your empty slots for you. And if Google’s recent consolidation of their services’ terms and conditions into 1 is any indication, these things will work together even better.

        I babbled. Great post!

  • http://bhargreaves.com/ Brad Hargreaves

    Great post — it’s really the same concept as optimizing online conversions. Make it as easy as possible for someone to do what you want them to do.

    • http://viniciusvacanti.com Vinicius Vacanti

      Totally. It definitely increases the chances of the meeting actually happening.

  • http://bhargreaves.com/ Brad Hargreaves

    Great post — it’s really the same concept as optimizing online conversions. Make it as easy as possible for someone to do what you want them to do.

    • http://viniciusvacanti.com Vinicius Vacanti

      Totally. It definitely increases the chances of the meeting actually happening.

  • http://www.marketing-startups.com Conrad Egusa

    Great post Vin; everything you said is completely right.

    • http://viniciusvacanti.com Vinicius Vacanti

      Thanks Conrad!

  • http://www.marketing-startups.com Conrad Egusa

    Great post Vin; everything you said is completely right.

    • http://viniciusvacanti.com Vinicius Vacanti

      Thanks Conrad!

  • Mavis

    I don’t really understand why it’s making more work for them. You’re literally saying – pick any point in time in the next two weeks. You’re not saying – email me options that I can then choose from.

    Adding suggested times means they have to cross reference them against their own schedule. Sounds like more work to me than simply them looking for the first gap in their schedule they like the look of.

    Having said this – if your insight is that important people are passive aggressive idiots that can’t literally interpret what you say to them. Then no doubt your advice is sound.

    • http://viniciusvacanti.com Vinicius Vacanti

      The problem is that no one is really completely free the next two weeks and have a few options that don’t really work for them potentially creating back and forth.

  • Mavis

    I don’t really understand why it’s making more work for them. You’re literally saying – pick any point in time in the next two weeks. You’re not saying – email me options that I can then choose from.

    Adding suggested times means they have to cross reference them against their own schedule. Sounds like more work to me than simply them looking for the first gap in their schedule they like the look of.

    Having said this – if your insight is that important people are passive aggressive idiots that can’t literally interpret what you say to them. Then no doubt your advice is sound.

    • http://viniciusvacanti.com Vinicius Vacanti

      The problem is that no one is really completely free the next two weeks and have a few options that don’t really work for them potentially creating back and forth.

      • Mihail

        No one is really completely free, but saying “I’m pretty free the next two weeks, let me know when works for you.” usually means that you are pretty flexible with your schedule and can rearrange things if needed.

  • http://twitter.com/gmansoor Ghazenfer Mansoor

    Great suggestions Vin.
    No matter how you ask, there are people who will not like it. Some prefer you give them open choice so they can suggest, some prefer suggested times as you recommended.
    How do you handle a situation when more than one picks the same block? You can not just send email to person at a time.

    • http://viniciusvacanti.com Vinicius Vacanti

      for me, it has very rarely happened. but, if you are sending several of these emails every day, then you might want to suggest different blocks to different people

  • http://twitter.com/gmansoor Ghazenfer Mansoor

    Great suggestions Vin.
    No matter how you ask, there are people who will not like it. Some prefer you give them open choice so they can suggest, some prefer suggested times as you recommended.
    How do you handle a situation when more than one picks the same block? You can not just send email to person at a time.

    • http://viniciusvacanti.com Vinicius Vacanti

      for me, it has very rarely happened. but, if you are sending several of these emails every day, then you might want to suggest different blocks to different people

  • Tutoring By Tran

    so true, great comments!

    • http://viniciusvacanti.com Vinicius Vacanti

      Hope you find it helpful!

  • Tutoring By Tran

    so true, great comments!

    • http://viniciusvacanti.com Vinicius Vacanti

      Hope you find it helpful!

  • http://twitter.com/stratlive StratWeb

    Very good advice, one I will start using right away, thanks!

    • http://viniciusvacanti.com Vinicius Vacanti

      Glad to hear it!

  • http://twitter.com/stratlive StratWeb

    Very good advice, one I will start using right away, thanks!

    • http://viniciusvacanti.com Vinicius Vacanti

      Glad to hear it!

  • http://technbiz.blogspot.com paramendra

    Sound advice.

  • http://technbiz.blogspot.com paramendra

    Sound advice.

  • http://about.me/zmcmahon Zach McMahon

    “I’m pretty free the next two weeks” isn’t great advertising either. Have you ever heard…”if you want something done, give it to a busy person”, many would mistake this disclosure of free time a sign that your not a hard worker, or are likewise not destined for success.

  • http://about.me/zmcmahon Zach McMahon

    “I’m pretty free the next two weeks” isn’t great advertising either. Have you ever heard…”if you want something done, give it to a busy person”, many would mistake this disclosure of free time a sign that your not a hard worker, or are likewise not destined for success.

  • http://maxsamis.com Max Samis

    Great advice. I’ve made this mistake numerous times and have experienced the ease of working with someone who takes the extra step to include availabilities when trying to set up a call. Thanks. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/wantland1 Roberto Wantland

    Fisrt thing i try to tell people is you can always set the time.

  • http://twitter.com/ohlauren lauren

    “If you do all of the following, not only will the meeting get quickly arranged but, by making it less frustrating for the person you are emailing, it also increases the chances of getting the meeting set up in the first place.”

    Yup. I know whenever I receive or give an open-ended suggestion to meet it’s vastly more likely to get procrastinated into oblivion! Not only because of the frustration of having to be the one to go through your schedule to find available times, but just the lack of “deadline” makes it too easy to shuffle off to next week, thinking you’ll pick a time later, and then no one ever does!

  • http://www.iterativearts.com bud latanville

    Do you/did you know Peter DeSouza, a professor at Seneca College?
    this is EXACTLY how you had to go about scheduling meetings with him!

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/V7QXSKXKKPNDL2F5OOEZ32K2MY Gautam

    Good thing to practice. 

  • Peter

    The purpose of the cold call is to get the appointment, not to close the sale.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lOHW2v8PWow

  • Michele Ruiz

    Great info! So helpful!