Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Series A: Civility and Negotiation

These are photos of Tom Jolls, also known as Commander Tom of Rocketship 7. Tom also did the weather on the nightly newscast for a Buffalo tv station, but for me, he was my after-school eye candy. William Shatner had nothing on this guy; growing up, Tom Jolls was THE rocket man for me.

Why am I bringing up Commander Tom here? Consider him a reference point. If you, too, enjoyed Commander Tom during your childhood and/or used your pillow to practice kissing him, then you and I are peers. We grew up in an era when Toronto was decidedly not cool, and Buffalo was a major cultural reference point. We've been through stuff, including the new flavour of Coke. We may know things. Like, for example, the importance of civility when completing investments.

When I speak of civility, I am referring to good manners - respect and courteousness. Timely and prompt attention to requests. Behaviour that, in effect, accords the other party respect. Not returning calls, ignoring requests or questions from the other side of a matter, or lecturing an investee on his business - these are bad manners, not good tactics.

The world of startups is a collegial one where civility is especially important. A vigorous defence of your client's position is always appropriate, but it is never okay to treat an entrepreneur with anything less than courtesy and good manners. These are people who have taken significant risk for a business they believe in. They know things. Condescension is just not appropriate.

So here's my rule: if you're not old enough to remember Commander Tom, you don't get to be discourteous to my clients. If you remember Tom (and Irv "We Begin with a Fire Tonight in Tonawanda" Weinstein), then I'll regret your approach, but I know we'll work it out. We got past pinwhale corduroy, and we can get through this.

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