Your own business.
It’s been your dream for years. You’re going to go it on your own! You’re going to show “the Man” that you can cast him aside and do much better by yourself. You want to be “the Man,” but you’re going to treat your employees far better than you were ever treated, once you get to that point.
Meanwhile, you’re a rugged individualist who can do it all. You’re ready. You have a plan. You’re going to make this happen!
Stop for a second.
These are great ideals, but I’m going to remind you of the thoughts of John Donne, the English poet, who famously wrote, “No man is an island.” None of us exists solely in and of ourselves. We are all part of a community that relies upon us and who we can rely upon.
Use that community!
When you’re a freelancer or small businessperson, you are Chief Cook and Bottle Washer. But that doesn’t mean you can’t ask your family, friends and neighbors for help. Most, if not all of them want to help. That’s part of being a community.
When I lost my job, I put the following post up on my Facebook wall: “Well that sucked! Apparently I need some more life changes.”
After being accused of “vaguebooking” I confessed that I had lost my job. I will admit that I felt frustrated and ashamed at the time, which is why I didn’t admit to it in my original post.
The outpouring of sympathy and support from my community was incredible. People said they were sorry to hear it, that they had just been through the same thing and totally understood how I was feeling, they sent their deepest condolences.
Most importantly, they asked how they could help. They offered to introduce me to people in their LinkedIn networks. They invited me to visit so I could get away for a little while. And, they started sending me job postings. Seriously.
Several of my colleagues from the company I worked at before this one told me there was an opening for my old position. Numerous folks sent me links to jobs in my field that were available at their companies. Friends and family members who knew I wanted to be a freelance copywriter put me in contact with potential clients.
Not only did this make me feel supported and cared about at a time when I really needed it, it also showed me that my community wanted to help. So I accepted that help.
I followed up on all of the leads for potential clients that were offered. I knew freelance copywriter was the direction I wanted to go, so I figured, what the heck. I may as well give it a try. If I got a good response, I’d know this was the right road to follow.
I even applied for several “real jobs,” including a few I’d take if they were offered. I knew I needed options, so I took all of the options I could get.
It was worth it. It got me out of the feeling of loss and into the feeling of moving forward and on to better things.
Your community wants to help you too!
So as you’re starting your business, ask your friends and family for help. Yes, some of them will shake their heads and call you crazy. I’m sure some of mine are doing the same. But most of them will still be willing to help because they want you to succeed (even if they do think you’re nuts.)
There’s something about a “winner” or a “maverick” that everyone loves. We want to see that person who strikes off on their own strike it rich or make it big, so we can live vicariously through them. Some of us even follow in their footsteps, once we’ve seen it can be done.
The American Dream was founded on this idea of hard work leading to success. We love these stories and we want to be part of them, so we help those who are willing to take that leap of faith.
Obviously the help you ask for will depend on the type of business you’re starting. But here are some things you can ask for that your friends and family will probably be able to help you with:
- Leads: Whether you’re looking for customers, clients or sources, someone in your community knows someone who has the answers you’re looking for, or the business you want to get.
- Mentors: Know what you want to do but have no idea how to go about doing it? You probably know someone (or know someone who knows someone) who has done what you want to do. And successful people love giving back, because someone did the same for them, once upon a time.
- Ideas: Grab some friends, take them out for a drink, pull up the voice recording program on your phone, hit record and start brainstorming. Come up with as many ideas as you can about your potential new business. Some of them will be crazy, some of them you’ll want to shoot down right away. Don’t. Record them all. You never know what may spark another idea that could develop into something very exciting.
- Feedback: If you know exactly what you want to do, ask for feedback. Find the people in your community who are in your target audience (you know, those folks who would end up being your customers) and ask them what they think about your plan or your product. They can help you refine what you’re doing and build something there’s a demand for, because they’re the ones asking for it.
A few simple, but frequently overlooked pointers when asking for help:
Thank People for their Help
Really. It’s amazing how often we forget to say thank you, even when someone has done something that gives us that boost we really need.
When people offer their help, they want to know that you’ve accepted it. Not only should you follow up on the leads or offers given, you should tell the person who made the offer that you’ve done so, especially if they’ve directed you to another person or organization.
Once you’ve got your product or service up and running, offer it to the folks who helped you out. Support a local charity to give back to your community as a whole or volunteer your time to help someone else when they’re in the same position.
This blog post is a way for me to say “Thank You” to all of the people who have helped me so far. I really appreciate everything that all of you in my community have done to get me started.
This whole 6 in 6 series is also a way to give back. I hope you’ll get something out of these posts that will help you move forward, wherever you are along life’s journey.
How have people helped you with your business? Please tell me about it in the comments.