Never Ask Two People to do One Person’s Job

Why you do me like that?

Over the year’s I’ve tried to offer some tangible, practical advice to help people communicate more effectively.

I’ve weighed in on:

But one thing really drives me nucking futs and that’s asking two (or more!) people to do the job of one person.

If you want somebody to action email one person and make it clear whom you’re asking. The cc line is to inform people who are not taking action.

These days everybody goes bonkers with how many people they cc on emails. If you want to inform somebody — great! If they don’t need the email why not save them the hassle and time and avoid sending it to them! If you send it unnecessarily you’re simply adding to their to-do list because now they have to read the bloody thing.

Of course I cc people on emails. But I try to do it sparingly and when I know it is relevant for them. Occasionally in stead I will bcc an email to myself and forward it to a couple of people. I do this for long emails where I may or may not think that person needs to read the email. When I forward I will say something like, “FYI only — no need to action or even read if you’re busy.” Sort of, reader’s choice!

Ok. So most people understand that cc’ing the world unnecessarily is wasteful of others’ time. But I have two more quick tips for you.

If you are soliciting input from a group of people and if they don’t all need to see each other’s responses — obviously use bcc. That way the people you’ve emailed don’t get bombarded by dip shit responses from the masses. You know what I’m talking about — we’ve all been on that list. But you’d be surprised how many people still cc large groups. Oy.

Now. For my main point, and yes, I really did just bury the lede. There is one big mistake many people make and especially with VC firms but of course it’s broadly applicable.

On a regular basis I get emails introducing me to a deal that somebody wants me to review. Great. Awesome! Thank you. I’m reasonably efficient at quickly reading a deck or email backgrounder and knowing whether it’s a good fit for me or for the firm. If it’s a better fit for: Yves, Steven, Greg, Kara, Kevin, Jordan or Hamet I immediately forward it and I bcc our deal-tracking system so the new owner is logged. Easy peasy. We don’t have special incentives for who reviews or does a deal so I really just want to route it to the expert or the person with capacity.

The same happens in reverse. If it’s video, SaaS or data-oriented businesses it tends to flow my way.

But many people send deals to us and copy 2, 3 or even 4 people with “Hey, team, I thought you might like this deal!!”

I call these “credit emails” because they only reason I can figure for asking 4 people to respond to an email that only requires one is that they want everybody to know they sent you a deal. Credit emails are not productive for the recipients. Each individual would have to read the email, open the deck and consider what to do.


Here’s the rub.

You’re actually doing yourself (and in the case of an intro, the company) a great disservice. When you send an email to multiple people for action nobody knows who owns responsibility for the response.

So you’ll sometimes get group emails where nobody responds because they assume somebody else is actioning it. Internally I solve this by emailing everybody and saying “I’ll own this one” or “Kara, why don’t you weigh in on this one” but you’re making the group do extra work and in many cases they won’t.

It’s actually “a thing” know as

And of course it doesn’t just apply to VCs. Think about it: If you get an email that says, “Hey, Sarah, I wanted to ask for a small bit of help …” or even “Sarah, I’m hosting an event on Feb 17th and I’d like to ask if you could make it” you feel it’s a personal appeal to you. If you don’t reply you’re letting down the sender who is seemingly asking you personally, individually and solely.

The minute you send out an email to a group and say, “I was wondering if anybody could help with …” each person thinks that somebody else is going to help.

So there you have it. Ask one person to do one person’s job. If you don’t get a response then ask a second person. If you don’t get a response from a group — now you know why.

(Cross-posted @ Both Sides of the Table)

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2x startup Founder & CEO who has gone to the Dark Side of VC. His first company, BuildOnline was sold in 2005, his second, Koral was acquired by and became known as Salesforce Content, while Mark served as VP Product Management. In 2007 Mark joined GRP Partners in 2007 as a General Partner.  He focuses on early-stage technology companies, usually looking at Series A investment, and blogs at the aptly titled Both Sides of the Table.