Entrepreneurs are great at starting projects alone, but sometimes when we hit a bump in the road we don’t know which way to turn. That’s when we need some help.
Unfortunately, H-E-L-P is a four-letter word, both literally and emotionally. Some of us, believing it’s a sign of failure, hesitate to ask anyone for advice or assistance. We worry that we might inconvenience a friend or overstep a professional relationship. Other times, we don’t want to appear weak or needy.
Entrepreneurship is difficult at times and most business owners choose to do it alone. However, if you don’t ask for help, you deny your friends and colleagues the opportunity to assist you, which many of them would be delighted to do. Moreover, if you try to do everything and make every decision by yourself, you’ll stress out and burn out. It’s important to use the network you’ve built when you need it.
Here are five helpful hints on how to ask for help.
1. Acknowledge your need.
The greater the need, the more hesitancy most people feel before asking for help. Eliminate any hesitations you have. Your need doesn’t make you weak. Just because you could do it alone doesn’t mean you should. It’s unhealthy (and unproductive) to tough it out.
For example, writing a book is a huge endeavor most people are afraid to tackle because they don't know how or where to start. Every time I write a book, I seek the advice of a writing coach who holds me accountable and helps me become a better writer. This person keeps me on track and helps me to reach my goals.
2. Continually build your network.
At some point along your business journey, you’ll need the support of other professionals. You might need a recommendation for website design, or some advice on how to assemble a board of directors for your new business. Build a network that will support you before you need it. Join professional organizations, serve on boards, volunteer your time, take colleagues to lunch. The more key connections you have, the more likely they’ll take the time to help you.
3. Flatter others.
Believe it or not, even the most successful among us struggles with self-doubt. Chances are, the person you reach out to will be flattered you asked them for help. It doesn’t always have to be someone you know personally. Last week, one of my loyal newsletter subscribers emailed me for advice. Though we’ve never met, she’d read my books and trusted me to point her in the right direction. I was glad she had the courage to reach out and I was happy to help.
4. Discover new business opportunities.
The next time you ask for help, you may discover a wonderful, unintended consequence. Business needs often lead to new opportunities through collaboration.
Let’s say you’d like to host a webinar, but your audience is small and you aren’t sure if your idea is worth the cost and effort. Instead of trying to do it yourself, contact someone in your network who holds webinars frequently and who has a good reputation and a substantial following. Through collaboration, you’re more apt to build that relationship and get exposure and experience. It never hurts to reach out and see what happens. The answer is always "no" if you don't ask.
5. Learn to take advice.
Asking for help is hard enough, but taking someone’s advice can be an even harder challenge. Some new entrepreneurs feel defensive when they receive advice from more experienced professionals, especially if it’s unsolicited. Don’t be a know-it-all. That attitude is a quick path toward failure. Listen when others give you advice, then decide later if you want to take their advice. Those who care about your success will want to save you from experiencing the (typically costly) mistakes they made early in their careers
Related: Richard Branson on Asking for Help