Trying to set up my own business constantly puts me on the edge of comfort, and means I have to learn a new skill or understand a different approach every day. As soon as I get to one point, I realise there's still much further to go before I even come close to reaching my goal.
Starting out is fun. Everything is new and you have a blank sheet. You think you have time to learn, but this is just an illusion. In an ideal world, you would have time to perfect your skills, like an athlete running around a track, building their speed and technique as they go. But starting a business is more like trying to hitchhike across Europe: you don’t know what will happen or which route you will take, and you can only plan so far.
To run your business is to be a jack of trades and master of none. I bought lots of books and now realise that I won’t have time to dedicate myself to them like I originally wanted. But realising that you have lots of knowledge weaknesses isn’t always a problem because you can always get help from others.
I started my business with no capital injection, so paying for the skills I needed was always going to be a challenge. I have, however, quickly found that you can get access to a large amount of knowledge without paying a penny. You just need to lean on your friendship circle and you’ll be amazed by who and what comes out the woodwork.
Today I am meeting with a potential client via an old colleague, having a call with a videographer I worked with four years ago and then having dinner with another colleague for help with my website. All these people have skills and advice that I require, but without the hefty price tag and with a secure knowledge that there is no motive attached.
So who you gonna call?
I find that the right person usually pops into my head when I am thinking about how to solve a problem. Usually, when I am out running I get a moment of clarity, and then I realise who might be able to help me.
LinkedIn is extremely useful. People list their own skills as part of their online portfolio, which makes it easy to search for people with the skills you are looking for.
Facebook is surprisingly useful for answering questions too. Simply ask a question and you will usually get a response, and the people who respond are usually willing to help you out.
Should you make that call?As always with these things, you need to consider whether a person will help you prior to making contact. Obviously, if you have parted ways on bad terms then that person might not be the best to contact. Also, consider what that person is going to receive out of your conversations and tailor your approach accordingly.
Remember: what goes around, comes around.
I will always try to help people where I can and offer frequently without expectation. You never know when the favour might be needed when the shoe is firmly on the other foot.
I helped the videographer I mentioned earlier obtain their first client when they were starting out. When I got in touch recently now our situations had swapped, the help was happily given. You can think of it as karma, but don’t expect to take without giving. Taking works well in the short term, but in the long term, you will find people won’t help you if they haven’t received anything in return.
Remember to say thank you
I am amazed at how many people don’t acknowledge the help they have been given. I find that to have low expectations and high thankfulness works well. That way, you are happy with any help you get, which keeps you very grounded. After all, nobody owes you anything.
Help is out there, you just need to put in a little effort in order to find it and be thankful when you do. A few comments from a friend can really steer you in the right direction, and you can’t really put a price on that.