Friday, March 19, 2010

Why entrepreneurs should ask for help

One of the most important things that every entrepreneur (and human being) should learn is to ask for help when it’s needed. As I’ve said before, healthy wolves hunt in packs; lone wolves die alone in the cold.

My column in this week's Financial Post looks at one entrepreneur from Haliburton, Ont., who dared to seek help with a business that was just sort of going nowhere. Thanks to mentoring and consulting from the Innovation Synergy Centre in Markham, Gena Robertson’s “School’s Cool” program is now being sold by a major U.S. educational distributor, and she is now considering overseas deals.

Ms Robertson’s case is also interesting, as she has spent more than 20 years being a “social entrepreneur,” creating new programs and partnerships in the social-services sector. Adopting a for-profit mindset required some serious relearning for Robertson, some of which I tried to chronicle.

To attract investors, Robertson had to figure out what the business would look like, and especially how it would source, warehouse and distribute its wares. It also meant preparing Robertson to pitch her business to potential angel investors. "That was painful," she admits. "When you work in social services, you play down what you do. You share the credit. When you pitch to investors, you have to say, 'This is what we do, this is how great we are.' "

For the full story, click here.


Mike said...

I used to struggle with this concept quite a bit - with the notion that someone who is self-employed should be able to "figure it out on his own" I would be terrified to admit that I couldn't do something. Like a crazed madman at the bottom of his car with a wrench and oil dripping all over the place, I tried to figure out all the odds and ends of running my business myself.

Now that I'm a bit older and wiser (and have been running my business for awhile) I have learned that it's ok to ask for help! I still like the "trial by fire" approach to learning, but if I don't know something, I will happily turn to experts (which is sometimes required when you are a web developer!)

Andy Buyting said...

I agree Rick. Entrepreneurs need to learn to ask for help. I don’t know exactly when it started for me, but I’ve always surrounded myself with mentors, people much smarter and more experienced than myself. I have developed what I later called my MBA (Mentorship Board of Advisors), an acronym I got from Brian Scudamore, CEO of 1-800-GOT-JUNK. It started with my father when I first started in business and grew from there. Within a very short period of time, I’ve aligned myself with probably 8 mentors and one business coach. I am much closer with some of my mentors than others however I do stay in relatively close contact with all of them. What it’s done for me is that now I have several very smart, in some cases, very powerful and influential people rooting for me and in my corner. And when I have a question or am facing a particular challenge, chances are, I have someone in my MBA group who has the contacts or expertise to help me.

No entrepreneur can ever do it alone. You need people in your corner. Any business leader who thinks they become successful without help will very quickly learn a tough lesson. They will find themselves being left behind, in the dust of those successful entrepreneurs who managed surrounded themselves with smart people they leaned on.