You can’t get help unless you take the time to actually ask people. I didn’t learn that lesson right away as an entrepreneur, but as soon as I did, my business, my reputation, and my network grew in ways I never thought possible.
For some unfortunate reason, there’s a belief among a lot of young entrepreneurs that asking for help is a sign of weakness. Many believe that to be successful as a new entrepreneur, you have to “fake it ‘til you make it,” and so they refuse to ever ask for help—even when they need it most. I believe it’s a big part of why so many startups crash and burn within the first year of operation (25% in fact, according to data presented by the Harvard Business School).
But when it comes to entrepreneurship, asking for help isn’t a weakness. It can actually end up being a pretty smart business move.
Why You Should Ask For Help
If you can get over your own pride and the whole “I’m on-top-of-the-world and know everything there is to know” trap that often comes with being an entrepreneur, there are a number of benefits to asking for help.
First, asking for help can make it a lot easier to boost brand awareness and build up your own reputation among other entrepreneurs—which is especially essential if you’re new to entrepreneurship or new to a particular industry. There are, of course, plenty of other marketing strategies you can implement to build brand awareness and get your name out there, but I’ve found that this organic approach of simply taking the time to reach out to people and asking for help is most effective.
Second, asking for help can be a great way to grow your network. If you have your own business, you probably already have some sort of network established—friends, family members, former colleagues, etc. But if you want to take your business to the next level, you have to always be committed to actively growing your network. It’s why the busiest, most successful entrepreneurs out there still take time for lunch meetings, coffee meetings, dinners, and any other networking opportunities they can work into their schedules—because it matters and it makes a difference.
Third, and most important, asking for help can lead to business growth. As I mentioned above, the best thing you can do when you’re struggling to grow your business (or you’re simply struggling to keep it afloat) is suck it up, get over yourself, and ask for help. I’ve done it many times before as a business owner, and I’ve never regretted it.
When You Should Ask For Help
As a business owner, there are a few times when it’s never a bad idea to think about asking others for help. The most obvious time is when things aren’t going well. It’s usually also the time when you’re feeling most vulnerable. No one likes to fail, especially aspiring entrepreneurs. In times like these, it’s important to remember that there are a lot of people out there who would be willing and able to help you if they knew you needed it. You just have to have the courage to ask.
Asking for help even when things are going well for you can also be beneficial. Here are a few other times when you should consider asking for help:
- When your business is brand new
- When you’re launching a new product (or just thinking about it)
- When you’re looking for partners
- When you’re expanding into a new industry
- When you want to reach new audiences
In business, despite what you think or read or hear from others, you can’t do it all on your own. If you want to not only survive, but also thrive, you need to ask for help.
Who You Should Ask For Help
When you’re in a position where you need help, it’s not always easy to decide who to ask. Here are some good places to start:
Your Mentors: If you have taken the time to develop ongoing relationships with mentors (which I highly recommend you take the time to do), you can start by asking them for help. In a lot of cases, they probably know your situation and business health better than anyone else anyway, so don’t be afraid to lean on them when you need it.
Your Heroes: You’d be surprised how responsive your heroes are when you actually take time to ask them for help. Your heroes are the people you look up to—it could be another entrepreneur, another business owner in your industry, or anyone else you pay attention to and try to learn from on a regular basis.
Your Friends (and Their Friends): Similar to your mentors, your friends also probably have a pretty good idea of how things are going for you and your business. Ask them for help when you need it, and if they can’t help you, ask them if they know anyone who can. If you’re afraid to ask your friends for help, get new friends. There’s no time for flaky friends when you’re trying to build a business.
People on Your Partnership Wishlist: Similar to your heroes, these are people or companies you look up to. If you need help growing your business, make a list of companies, business owners, and other industry leaders that you’d love to partner up and worth with, then start reaching out to them. Autosend has a great case study that illustrates how effective this strategy can be for a business. In a blog post they recently published titled, How 23 Web & Mobile Startups Got Their First Users, they describe how a company called Tint grew from 0 users to 10,000 in part by developing partnerships with people who they knew could help them move the needle.
Not everyone you reach out to is going to be willing or able to help, but it honestly only takes one person who can help you, and before you know it, you’re making some serious waves.
How You Should Ask For Help
When you’re finally ready to ask for help, keep in mind that almost everyone you reach out to is probably as busy or busier than you are, so it’s important to go about it the right way. Here are a three best practice tips that has worked well for me in the past:
Tip 1: Give them something first: If you need help, try offering something to the person you’re asking. It doesn’t have to be much, it just has to show them that you’re not just looking for handouts.
Tip 2: Be quick about it: Don’t send people long, drawn-out emails. Be authentic and real, but get to the point early.
Tip 3: Don’t ask them between 9-5: Don’t try to communicate with people when everyone else is. Send your emails after 5 PM or even better, over the weekend. If you use Gmail as your email client, You can write your email and schedule it to send at a later time using a tool like Boomerang.
Has asking for help ever impacted your business in a very tangible way? Tell me about it below.
I am the VP of Marketing at When I Work. I previously founded Single Grain. For over 10 years I’ve helped companies like TurboTax, BlueHost, and Sales Force increase traffic & revenue
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