What makes a great founder?
Is it the college dropout? The Stanford grad? The first generation American? A tech savant? A visionary? The FAANG alum? Someone who has dealt with failure? Someone who has had a great exit?
Ask any early stage investor and you’ll hear some of these. I believe these can all be characteristics of a great founder, but the very best do one thing really well:
The best founders communicate clearly, often, and with integrity.
What I’m not saying is that the best founders are on the TedX circuit or even the best orators. Instead, they communicate clearly across their company. They communicate with their peers in other companies. They communicate with their investors.
Communication can take many forms, but one that I see most often from the very best founders leading top performing companies is a simple monthly progress update.
These aren’t 2500+ word manifestos. They are often quite simple. One of the most effective comes from a founder who I’ve known for many years. His update covers 4 categories from the past month:
He’s published this every month for 5 years.
Three key takeaways on this best practice:
It requires discipline to frame the progress of the company no matter the results of the previous month. It’s easy to tell the good news story. But I admire the founders who use this to articulate what happened in not-so-good news months.
It requires humility. If effective goal setting is taking place, there will always be months that fail to meet goals. Even hyper-growth businesses miss targets. The best founders I know use these updates to reflect on what happened and – the very best – ask for help from their investors and advisors.
It invites co-creation. Founders know how valuable alternative points of view can be to solving business challenges. Through this routine, they put themselves and these challenges out there for input.
I’m not sure if it’s correlation or causation, but the founders who publish this also tend to have high performing teams and companies.
So if you’re a founder, start with something simple, but do it each month. I think you’ll be surprised by the level of engagement and willingness to help from those who want you to succeed.