Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Help from on High

Today I spent about an hour on the phone discussing a young entrepreneur's startup idea with her. Why would I do that?

Well, for one thing, she asked. Also, like most people, I enjoy helping people. Plus, I get a kick out of hearing people's business ideas. And it's great mental exercise to figure out worthwhile things to say that can either connect the entrepreneur to a new idea or valuable resource, or point out a potential obstacle that they haven't adequately foreseen.

The best thing she did, though, was ask for help. I believe it's essential that Canadian entrepreneurs ask for help more often. Running your own business is a multidisciplinary exercise: few entrepreneurs know all the roles they're expected to play, and fewer still (i.e., NOOBODY!!) is good at all of them. So how else are you going to get better except by asking for help?

Obviously, many entrepreneurs are good at recognizing what they don't know, and asking for the appropriate help. But many others seem shy about it: Why should anyone help them? If you ask me, they're pushing the stoic, lone-wolf stereotype too far. After all, if you ask someone for help, what's the worst thing they can do? Say no?

By some cosmic coincidence this is also the theme of my column today in the Financial Post. Inpsired by two panelists at the Vancouver SOHO conference, it's about the amazing good things that start happening when you ask for help. And the higher you go, the better.

Here's a sample:
Brian Scudamore [founder of 1-800-GOT-JUNK) scours newspapers and magazines for stories of successful business people, adding them to his file of people to call when he faces challenges similar to theirs. That tactic landed him meetings with digital marketing expert Seth Godin, Subway founder Fred DeLuca, and Costco's Jim Sinegal. He has talked leadership with Boston Philharmonic conductor Benjamin Zander and met with Bell Canada CEO George Cope to learn how Cope runs effective meetings.
The key to contacting VIPs is to target them precisely, know what answers you're looking for, and respect their time. The best way to approach them? "Sincerely," says Scudamore.
You can read the whole column here.

No comments: