Why is it so hard for business owners to ask for help? Is it because we don’t want to appear dependant, unknowledgeable, incapable, etc.? According to the SBA, an estimated 627,200 new employer firms began opera- tions in 2008, and 595,600 firms closed that year. This amounts to an annual turnover of about 10 percent for entry and 10 percent for exit. Non-employer firms have turnover rates three times as high as those of employer firms, mostly because of easier entry and exit conditions. There is a whole list of reasons why the businesses don’t survive. However, how many of those businesses failed because the business owner didn’t know how, when or refused to ask for help?
We fail our clients and ourselves when we fail to know when and how to ask for help. As business owners, we are expected to make mistakes. The greatest and most successful business owners have made hundreds of them. But, I can assure you they also knew how and when to ask for help. We read business books about them.
Take conscious ownership of your business and discover new and creative ways to refresh your business by accessing the wisdom of business leaders. The best inspiration comes from people who have been where you are, traveled a similar path and have made a success of their business. Here’s how you can gain access to the wisdom of business leaders:
- Research who the “movers and shakers” are in your community, industry or network. These are people you admire, have large spheres of influence and/or are eagerly pursued.
- Select 10 “movers and shakers” you would like to engage in a conversation. Ask them for 10 minutes of their time. You call could sound like this: “I am new to this business/I am looking to strengthen my business practices. I know you don’t know me, and I am not trying to sell you. I admire what you have accomplished in your business/community. I was hoping that I could have 10 minutes of your time for an interview. Would you, as a leader in the _____ industry/community, tell me what I should do to earn the right to do business/collaborate with people just like you?” Remember, this is not a “sales opportunity.” This is simply an opportunity for you to elicit valuable information from someone who has been where you are and could help you get to where you want to be. Be sure to let them know up front that you are not going to try to sell them anything. You merely want ten minutes. Be respectful of their time, be prepared and be sure to limit your call or conversation to your requested ten minutes.
- Most important, follow up with each of them and THANK them for their time. Send each person a personalized thank you note. Ask if they would mind if you kept in touch. If they say yes, DO IT. Send them a note periodically or call and check-in. Don’t overburden them with emails, calls or information.
You would be very lucky to get ten minutes of an important person’s time. However, they may just be the most important and valuable ten minutes of your business’ life. It is well worth the effort to make contact. You never know what opportunity may arise from your introduction, conversation or relationship.
Nobody will ever be what they should be until they start doing what they should be doing. If you are overwhelmed, stagnate, consumed with or unsure of which direction to take your business in, ask for help. Seasoned, savvy and experienced business owners are generally open to sharing their pitfalls and “lessons learned.” Their wisdom could be your lifesaver. Know when enough is enough and get the help you need to keep you and your business IN business.
SBA SOURCE: http://www.sba.gov/advo/stats/sbfaq.pdf
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A.Michelle Blakeley is the Founder and CEO of Simplicity, Inc.; a progressive small business development firm. She manages her clients’ business expectations and prevents information overload via Micro Business Therapy™ and Micro Business Action Plans. She is featured in Forbes.com and the Financial Post as one of 30 Women Entrepreneurs to Follow on Twitter and the host of Simple Truths for Women Entrepreneurs on BlogTalkRadio.com.