Entrepreneurs: Know when and how to ask for help!

It’s a common belief among entrepreneurs. The notion that if you have to ask for help growing, expanding, or even getting your business off the ground, that’s somehow a sign of weakness. An indication that you don’t know everything.

The truth is, though, you really don’t know everything, and that’s okay.

According to the Harvard Business Review, more than a quarter of all start-ups fail in the first year, in large part because the business owners are too proud to ask for help when it’s needed. If you stop to think about it, that’s a really silly reason to watch your dreams go up in smoke. After all, what’s more important, realizing your dreams, or swallowing your pride and asking for a bit of help when it’s needed?

Business doesn’t happen in isolation, and neither does business group. It might be YOUR dream, but in order to see it realized, you’re going to inevitably need the help of others. The real trick is in knowing who to ask, and just as important, knowing when and how. Here are some guidelines on all three fronts.

Knowing WHO To Ask

Sometimes, this part of the equation is obvious, especially when the problem you need help on is of a more technical nature. At that point, it’s simply a matter of identifying the exact nature of the problem, and finding an experienced individual with the expertise you need to solve it.

Other times though, it’s not so simple. For instance, if your grand plan for expanding your business involves franchising, you need to find someone who’s not only familiar with the process itself, but who also knows your specific industry, and preferably, someone who knows quite a lot about your individual company, or is willing to take the time to learn. At the end of the day, this is going to come down to your ability to clearly and succinctly identify what it is that’s holding your company back. It’s time to seek out the individual with the right combination of expertise and time to lend a hand.

The more experienced entrepreneurs have an enormous advantage on this front compared with younger generation, because they’ve had decades of hands-on experience with exactly this kind of thing. Think about the arc of your professional career. How many times have you been faced with a similar issue, and how did you go about solving it then?  You can use that same blueprint when starting and growing your own company.  You’re treading over familiar ground here.

Knowing WHEN To Ask

This comes down to understanding and embracing the power of networking. It is the central reason that power lunches and association meetings are so important to your continuing professional development. And to the growth of your company. Both of these give you golden opportunities to expand your circle of friends, who also happen to be experts in a variety of fields.

Understand that this is a two-way street. In order to GET help, you’ve got to also put yourself out there and be willing to GIVE it. If you’re not already a regular attendee of one or more professional associations in your area, make a plan to begin immediately. Don’t be bashful about jumping in to lend your expertise to a fellow entrepreneur in need. Not only will you quickly gain a solid reputation among your peers, but you’ll also be steadily making connections that could one day prove invaluable to your business.

Knowing HOW to Ask

In many ways, this is the most important aspect of the three. It’s not just a matter of walking up to someone and asking if they can lend a hand. Remember, you’ve got to give if you want to get, so you should never start by asking for the help you need. Instead, begin by offering to solve some small problem for the person you need help from. That shows that you’re in it for the long haul. That you’re interested in a quid pro quo, rather than a freebie.  And it sends an important and powerful message to the person you’re asking for help from.

Asking for help is an art. It is something that many people consider hard to do, but it’s absolutely essential if you want to maximize the chances that your business will not simply survive, but thrive. Remember, HELP is not a bad four-letter word!

Be strong enough to stand alone, smart enough to know when you need help, and brave enough to ask for it.” – Unknown