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How Asking for Help Can Be the Difference Between Success and Shutting Down A willingness to ask for help is one of the largest differentiators between exceptional achievers and ordinary achievers.

By Lisa Evans Edited by Dan Bova

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Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.


Entrepreneurs are used to going it alone, but being your own boss doesn't mean you don't need a hand every now and then. Unfortunately, many entrepreneurs believe asking for help is a sign of weakness. Dr. Paul Schempp, author of 5 Steps to Expert: How to Go From Business Novice to Elite Performer, says fear of appearing weak, needy or incompetent often keeps entrepreneurs from achieving their potential.

Schempp has led several studies at the University of Georgia that have consistently shown willingness to ask for help as one of the largest differentiators between exceptional achievers and ordinary achievers. Asking for help from your own team is also crucial to your success as a leader. "Leaders who ask for and accept input from team members are more successful and inspirational than leaders who believe they need to go it alone," says Schempp.

Getting ideas and opinions from the outside world can open your mind up to something you never would have considered.

Follow these tips to get over your pride and ask for help:

Get a library card.

If you don't want to ask someone in your network for help, get familiar with your library and open a book. "People who are very successful tend to be avid readers," says Schempp.

Find a mentor.

A mentor can provide you with the benefit of their years of experience, can challenge you to think in a different way, give you access to their network and provide industry insight. Ask if there's someone in your network you like and trust and who believes in you and can help you build your business.

Related: Want to Be a Happier Parent and More Effective Entrepreneur? Ask for Help.

Leave no stone unturned.

"You never know where a good idea is going to come from," says Schempp. Many entrepreneurs will look to experts in their industry for help solving a problem, but sometimes the solution lies in the hands of employees, friends, individuals who at first glance entrepreneurs overlook, thinking "there's no way they know more about my business than me." Schempp advises entrepreneurs to never turn down an idea proposition, even from bottom-of-the-line workers. "Great leaders will make people feel that their opinions are valued," he says.

Ask for evidence.

One of the reasons entrepreneurs often shy away from asking for help is they don't believe the source to be credible. You may think, "This person isn't educated, how could they know more than me?" To suss out your resource, ask them if they have an example of a time their idea worked. Here's an example: a dishwasher may approach a restaurant owner and say he has a great idea of how to get the dishes back to the kitchen while reducing breakage and speed up washing time. The owner, reluctant to accept advice from a dishwasher, may ask, "Do you know if this idea has ever worked before?" Perhaps this particular dishwasher knows of a method that was used in another restaurant he worked in. Rather than dismiss the source, consider all the evidence. You may find a gem of a solution.

Related: 5 Reasons Why 'Asking' Is an Essential Skill for Every Entrepreneur

Lisa Evans is a health and lifestyle freelance journalist from Toronto.

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