Over the weekend I watched Jason Calacanis interview Fred Wilson for a segment in “This Week in Startups”. Fred Wilson is a principal at Union Square Ventures based in NYC. Jason Calacanis is an Internet entrepreneur and blogger.

Jason asked Fred what advice he’d give to entrepreneurs looking to garner investment capital from his firm. Fred’s response was for the entrepreneur to build a relationship with him and his partners 6 months ahead of the desired close date and “let us watch you execute”. For example, if the entrepreneur says that they will have an application in the Apple App store in three months the expectation is that the entrepreneur will execute accordingly. In other words, deliver on what you promise.

This comment reminded me so much about what makes a good leader, a good sales person, a good marketer, a good business person, a good team member, etc. It’s doing what you say you’re going to do.

And if you do what you say you’re going to do:

  • it attracts employees;
  • it attracts customers
  • it attracts attention;
  • it increases customer satisfaction;
  • it builds loyalty;
  • and it builds your brand value.

It’s not the big things that make the difference it’s all the little things added up. And it’s the little things that lead to bigger things.

It All Counts, and It Starts with the Little Things

Doing what you say you’re going to do could be related to something as seemingly inconsequential as promising to send through a document. But here’s the thing, every time you make a promise like that of sending a document and you deliver on your promise, it adds up. Whether the promise be to a colleague, a client, a stakeholder or even a third-party it’s important. And each of those times you deliver on your promise you build on the good-will and value from the previous follow-throughs. It’s how a pattern is formed and a good reputation is built.

Don’t Say “The Company” Did It, It’s Everybody

It’s important that any promise made by any individual in a company – regardless of whether it be to the market at large or a single individual internal to the company – is carried through.  Because even though the company is represented by a brand it’s the individual faces associated with the company, in the form of partners, board members and employees, that create the corporate image represented by the brand. So each and every person associated with your company needs to “do what they say they’re going to do”.  This can be broken down into three big buckets:

  1. It starts at the top – the CEO should be setting the example for delivering on promises.
  2. A “say it & do it” culture – an environment should be fostered where every one in the company understands that saying something is going to be done is understood as a promise. Further, everyone should comprehend that whether or not a promise is fulfilled affects the corporate brand in a positive or negative manner respectively.
  3. Accountability – if something promised isn’t done then it needs to be recognized and dealt with in proportion to the severity and frequency of occurrence.

It Gives You a Competitive Advantage

A good business reputation and brand are what attracts people, customers and employees. It’s also what allows businesses to build loyalty, decrease attrition and build business value.

As a business you’re typically faced with competition. And doing what you say you’re going to do helps give you a competitive advantage. And the more you execute as promised, the greater the competitive advantage. Consequently, the more likely you’ll beat out competitors for such things as:

  • visibility;
  • customers;
  • employees;
  • capital/dollars;
  • air-time;
  • media exposure;
  • influence;

Own Up to Not Delivering on Your Promise

One last tip, if you can’t do – for whatever reason – what you said you were going to do: own up to it. Don’t pretend it didn’t happen, don’t ignore it, don’t brush it under the carpet. Guess what, people remember when someone promises something and doesn’t do it. They remember how it was handled and if it was ignored.

Everybody has bad days; everybody has days where they just couldn’t get done what was supposed to get done. But this should be the exception. And when exceptions occur they need to be recognized. Otherwise people lose faith in your word. If people lose faith in your word and you are representing a company it translates into a loss of trust in your company and a loss of credibility in the marketplace.

The Entire Interview

You can watch the whole interview here: Jason asks Fred the “What’s your advice to young entrepreneur who wants to get Fred Wilson’s firm to invest…?”question at minute 49 and the specific “let us watch you execute” response is delved into at minute 49:42.


As an aside, Fred’s blog is one to which I subscribe and full of insightful content. Although it’s geared for the tech startup world there is relevant information for a broad range of companies on financing and general management. He also runs this great “MBA Mondays” series with information that would be especially of interest to any SMB. You can take a look at recent posts here and subscribe here.