• David Murray-Hundley

Help for Success

Being an entrepreneur means a lot of things. A risk-taker? Always. Arrogant? Sometimes. Selfish? Sometimes. Willing to do crazy stuff? Yes, and not just for the success journey, but something actually to just retain a little sanity.

While this is all great and lovely, what always surprises me is the amount of entrepreneurs who never ask for help. Even more so, those who don’t want the world to know they asked for help because its like some point score system and they might just miss the top of the chart. Seriously do you think Reid Hoffman, Bill Gates and Elon Musk didn't ask for help from mentors, advisors, friends or staff at some point?

Asking for help does not mean losing the game. Bear in mind though that you can ask too many people for help, or ask the wrong questions in the wrong way, and end up more confused than when you started. 

How not to get help.

Dear Stranger on LinkedIn who I have never met, I would like your help and wisdom and my understanding is that, in the unwritten start-up world rules, you have to give me your time, even though I only think it might be worth a coffee, and that’s only if you’re lucky.  

Ok, you probably wouldn’t send this email, but my point is, a bit like raising investment, don’t copy and paste the same email to every person and their dog. Value people’s time and be clear what you need help on. If it’s something simple enough to google or you are just too bloody lazy, then seriously go get a job. Understand who you are messaging and make the message personal. Don’t assume help always needs to be face to face. I have given some of the best help on offer to people I have never met. After all, there is only so much coffee and polite chit chat one can deal with in a day.

I have been lucky enough to have met a lot of experienced, successful entrepreneurs (i.e. those who have built companies, got shareholders their investment back plus more). Even today I will bounce things off them just to get a different point of view. Although in my circumstance I am a complete pain in the backside and have been for them over the past 20 years. When I first became a chairman, I did the usual reading up on “How to be a Chairman” but also went to two people for sounding boards. One in particular had been a chairman for 30 years so frankly if he didn’t know the answer, no one would. I repeat again, asking for help is not  a weakness! 

Then, as you get older and go through your career you become the wise, experienced one. I like to think of the Skywalker and Yoda relationship being my example where, as the wise one, you see the frustrations that you once had. Being experienced though, you also recognise the talent and the skills of a rising star. 

So, great leaders of the future, listen. I learnt this one much to my own detriment for the first few years as I didnt listen to anyone! I meet a lot of entrepreneurs who ask me a question, knowing the answer they want to hear. When the answer they get is not the one they want, you can almost see their mind going, “Well bugger him , I am moving onto the next sucker”. When running a company, listening is a vital skill. Whether it’s listening to your board, advisors, employees, customers. Listening will help take your company from good to great.  On the note of customer feedback, I do however think customer is king, however there is a balance between must-haves, nice-to-haves, etc. This all helps the taking advice. Some of the best advice I give, might not be obvious to the person asking at the time but stays in their mind long after and helps them. 

Another good trick, which I am pretty poor at most times, is playing ignorant. I watch a lot of people basically act is if they know very little on the question they are asking but I for one know they have at least some experience. Why do they do it, well in general people like me don’t like helping know it alls but it also gives people the chance to ask what might seem the stupid question. As I always say we have all asked that stupid question and had some amazing, surprising answers. 

I leave you with this small tip. If, for example, you have asked for help on something that is happening in the future, make sure at some point you let the person know the outcome. I often have wondered whatever happened to...

By David Murray-Hundley "The Grumpy Entrepreneur"

Twitter @thegrumpye

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