Why, when and how business owners should ask for help

Most entrepreneurs share a natural optimism with a belief that things will turn out for the best – but this can seriously hold them back when it comes to asking for help.

Have you fallen into the trap of feeling you have to ‘cope’, ‘just do it’, ‘go it alone’ or any of the other phrases we associate with the heroic business person prevailing despite all obstacles?

Could it be time for a reality check?

Unfortunately, our business culture and narrative is full of hero stories that make it seem as if all successful people somehow achieved what they accomplished with little or no help.

Is it possible a result of this hero myth is that you could be comparing yourself to an impossible benchmark and judging yourself as somehow deficient if you have to get help?

Why ask for help?

The most obvious answer is because you will at some point need it.

However, it also has the added benefit of building a good business relationship. If done right, seeking out and asking for help can demonstrate humility and show that you’re human.

It also allows others to connect with you on a different level, and they feel good about themselves if they can end up helping you.

When should you ask for help?

The time to ask for help is after you have tried to go it alone, but before you feel so overwhelmed, you give up.

The tricky part is knowing when you’ve reached that point and not persisting too far down the ‘overwhelmed’ path.

You’re not looking for someone to rescue you. You’re looking for a partner for this part of your business journey.

If you’re working alone on your business, it can be a very lonely journey.

Surrounding yourself with trusted advisers, like your accountant, can be a great source of help and support.

My accountant has brought me back from the brink a few times over the years. Sometimes all I needed was someone to listen and ask the right questions while I worked out myself what I should do next.

How to ask for help

Do you know someone who seems to be trapped in helplessness and wants the world to make it all better for them?

If you’re reading this, you probably don’t want to be like them.

Here are some ideas about how to ask for help, now we’ve identified why and when.

Things to consider before you ask someone to help you:

  • Do you already have a healthy established relationship with this person?
  • Are they more than likely able to provide the help you need?
  • Will they feel comfortable to say no if they can’t help you?

If you can answer yes to all three questions, then asking for help is easy.

You’re approaching a friend who will not be overburdened by your request, so adjust your language accordingly.

You don’t need to plead for their assistance or to demand it.

Instead, start from a mindset of building a stronger relationship based on mutual help and reciprocity. How you ask will follow naturally.

One final tip: If you don’t feel comfortable asking for help for yourself, start by asking for help for others.

There’s no better way to be convinced that most people are delighted to be asked and will do what they can to assist.

I’ve been reminded of this lately as I put together a mentoring program for the young staff of a not-for-profit organisation.

So far, I have approached ten experienced (and busy) business people to act as mentors, and all but one have jumped at the chance to be involved.

Never be afraid to ask for help when you need it.

By being conscious of your capacity and needs — and the needs of others — asking for help will grow your business in unexpected ways.

You won’t get this experience until you take a chance and ask.