Software & Tools

Founders — are you sharing memos?

This won’t be the first or last time we write this: being a startup founder is hard. On top of your day-to-day tasks you have to worry about your customers, employees, and investors. You can…

This won’t be the first or last time we write this: being a startup founder is hard. On top of your day-to-day tasks you have to worry about your customers, employees, and investors. You can often feel like you’re buried when balancing the communication and relationships with all of your stakeholder groups. Concisely sharing strategy with your stakeholder groups is an effective way to set expectations and build relationships.

One tool we’ve seen pop up more frequently in the last few weeks are strategic memos. Memos are a clear and concise document to lay out strategic vision, rationale, and expectations. We’ve shared 3 different “memos” below that can be used for your investors, team, and executives.

Y Combinator Fundraising Memo

In case you missed it, YC recently published a Series A Fundraising Guide. The guide is full of useful information covering every aspect of a fundraise. One of the areas we found to be most interesting was the idea of writing and sharing an investment memo.

YC makes the case that founders should write an investment memo is two-fold. First, it can set up a meeting with a potential investor nicely when sent in advance. Secondly, it helps you as a founder clarify your pitch, thoughts, and rationale. As the team at YC writes, “A memo is particularly effective if you can write well. It stands better on its own as the deck (sent ahead of time) can miss context provided by your voiceover. Founders tell us that memos sent before meetings in place of a deck provided the necessary to set up an engaged conversation from the outset.”

They go on to share a template of a memo that you can find here. We’ve turned it into an Update Template so you can share it out via email or link! 

Executive Team Strategic Memo  

Andy Johns is a seasoned startup professional and currently a partner at Unusual Ventures. Andy recently published a blog post, A Simple Tool for Managing an Executive Staff as a First-Time CEO, to help first time founders deal with their first executive hires. As Andy points out, managing an executive can be quite different than managing team individuals.

“An executive’s job is to focus primarily on taking strategic risks. Each year, they should identify 2–3 major initiatives, large enough in impact to shape the direction of the company and enforce great execution against those initiatives. This is in contrast to non-executives, who you want to be focused primarily on tactical execution.”

So how does a founder enforce execution against those initiatives? Andy suggests having your executives fill out a quick memo template for your executives to share with you. As Andy puts it, “Ideally, what they come back with is a strategy that has 2–3 major initiatives that they find are important, along with a list of success metrics and resources they need to get it done.”

Once a founder gets a strategic memo from each executive it makes forming strategy and roadmap for the company as a whole easier. These memos can be used to fuel your strategic and financial plan for the year, create performance plans with executives and individuals, and the kickoff discussion points for annual planning.

Check out the strategic memo template from the team at Unusual Ventures here

The EVERGOODS Product Brief

The last memo is slightly different than the first two. EVERGOODS is a small equipment and apparel company based out of Bozeman, MT. EVERGOODS has a strong focus on building an incredible product and puts a great deal into R&D and perfecting every minor detail of their products (a couple of gear junkies on the Visible team can attest to this).

As the founders, Jack and Kevin, put it, “Our experience lies in product design, development, R/D, and manufacturing for the likes of GORUCK and Patagonia. We believe in product and the processes of doing the work ourselves. Each project is an exploration, and ultimately a discovery, aided by our triumphs and our failures. This evolution inspires us and is at the heart of EVERGOODS.”

Being gear junkies and product focused ourselves, we found their product brief to be interesting and useful to more than equipment and apparel companies. While it may not translate directly to every industry, their brief is a great tool to help product-focused founders understand why and how they are building certain products and features.

Check out the product brief memo from EVERGOODS here.

Each template above serves a different purpose. While each template may be entirely different they all have one thing in common: clear and concise communication. Setting up a system to properly share strategy and rationale in a concise way will not only strengthen relationships but keep all of your key stakeholders aligned.

Do you have a memo or strategic doc that you share with your stakeholders? We’d love to check it out. Shoot us a message to marketing at visible dot com.

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