When you are first starting out in business, the people around you can have a profound influence on your direction, approach and even your happiness. If you’re lucky, you’ll be steered in the right direction by a good mentor, but sometimes even the best advice from a mentor doesn’t feel like it at the time. In my case, it turns out the best advice I ever received became one of the major keys to my success once I consistently followed it… but it took me years to realize how powerful that piece of advice was.
Imagine this: I’m in my early 20s and just graduated law school. My future is ahead of me. I’m excited to start living an “L.A. Law” existence… fat paycheck, nice apartment, and a Porsche. I knew I wanted to buy a Porsche. After all, that’s what lawyers do, right? And I worked hard through law school so I could get a job at a great firm. And I did… but I never imagined how much WORK it would be.
Enter my first law office mentor: Don Shindler. Don was a partner in the firm, and like Mr. Miyagi, he believed that the best way to get on track was to start “going through the motions” until the lesson finally sunk in.
At first, I thought he just didn’t like me. He constantly reminded me about tasks, perpetually beat me to the punch (not literally) with follow-ups, and he insisted that I always CC him on all communications. Not important communications, not certain communications, ALL communications. This didn’t feel like the life of a young legal hot shot. It certainly wasn’t what I signed up for.
You see, he had a tickler file set up, so the most time-sensitive items would always appear first. I could never beat him on a follow-up because he had a system for following up and I only had my memory and some notes buried under the other papers on my desk.
At first, it felt like he was insisting on me doing things his way just to piss me off. It felt as if he had a list of all the things I hated to do the most, and he came up with ways to needle me about each of them like a swarm of angry bees. It didn’t help that he also had the authority to fire me if he didn’t like the results.
I struggled with the situation. I truly did.
Then I did something that I should have done sooner. I gave up. No, I didn’t quit, but I gave up trying to fight him on these things every step of the way. I embraced the F-U attitude.
If you rely on ‘the other guy’ to follow up, you are giving up the certainty that there will be a follow up and allowing uncertainty into what is otherwise a sure thing.
The F-U Attitude
What I discovered is that following up is easier than it sounds. The key is that there is never just one action. If you send an e-mail, schedule a follow-up. If you expect a reply, set a reminder when you should receive it.
If you have the choice between leaving someone on your team (without the F-U attitude) to their own devices, and they may or may not follow-up on their work, then insist they CC you on all communications. They will either get the hang of following up and embrace it, or they’ll stop working with you, but ultimately the job will get done.
When I was at the law firm, I started to make it a game. Could I follow-up before Don? Could I start to beat him to the punch? It took months to evolve my natural inclination to become a follow-upper. It has paid off immensely, and once I had embraced the F-U attitude, it became natural to do it.
I can’t overemphasize how important following up is. If you rely on “the other guy” to follow-up, you are giving up the certainty that there will be a follow-up and allowing uncertainty into what is otherwise a sure thing.
In my recent book Pocket Man: The Unauthorized Autobiography of a Passionate, Personal Promoter, I identify following up as the one early, learnable skill that can close the gap between what an entrepreneur is good at and what they can ultimately accomplish. Mastering the art of the follow-up brought my business from $0 to $50 million and growing.
“Always follow-up” was the best advice I ever received. I use tech tools like the Mailbox app, ActiveInbox, Siri, Google Calendars, Basecamp to make following up easier than ever before.
Let me put this plainly: if you want to win, you need to F-U.
For even more stories about my approach to business, check out my top-rated book, Pocket Man.
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ABOUT SCOTT JORDAN and SCOTTeVEST
Scott Jordan is the CEO and Founder of SCOTTeVEST, which creates multi-pocket clothing designed to carry electronics. He is the author of Pocket Man: The Unauthorized Autobiography of a Passionate, Personal Promoter.
Read a sample of Scott’s book for more about his experience on Shark Tank and the pocket empire he has built.