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When (and why) to ask for help

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Most small business owners are great at their craft and excel by delivering core products or services to a high standard in a way that satisfies the needs of the business’s customers. While mastery of one’s craft is essential for achieving success in business, mastery of one’s craft in-and-of-itself does not guarantee long-term, sustainable success. In fact, the skills that motivate business owners to start a business and that are responsible for their early success, are not exclusively the skills that are needed to sustain meaningful and sustainable growth. Sustainable growth requires the continuous development of a diverse skill set that is only obtained through a commitment to the firm’s mission, a keen awareness of the firm’s strengths and weaknesses, a thirst for continuous learning, and the effective acquisition and deployment of the resources needed to run the business. A failure to develop or acquire the right skill sets ultimately stifles growth and is a leading cause of stagnation or even business failure.

Unfortunately, for too many small business owners, the concept of asking for help in pursuit of a diverse skill set implies weakness, dependency, and insecurity. It’s my experience that the primary reasons that people resist seeking help in pursuit of their goals are grounded in fear, insecurity, and ego. Business owners often struggle to accept the realities of their situation; they have an underlying fear of the unknown; or, they struggle with vulnerability. The simple truth is, we seldom achieve anything of great significance completely on our own. And, as business leaders, we shouldn’t want to.

So, how do small business owners develop and master a diverse skill, find time to deliver core products and services, while achieving the business’s growth objectives? Here are five steps.

1. Develop a Success Mindset – work to overcome any resistance to being vulnerable, set aside your fears, and develop greater sense of self-awareness. Oftentimes, this step requires a great deal of courage and seldom can be achieved without some help.
2. Develop or revisit your Mission Statement – the Mission Statement defines what an organization is, why it exists, and how it will achieve its Vision.  
3. Develop or revisit your Unique Selling Proposition – the USP Statement defines the firm’s differential advantage in the marketplace and how it achieves its Mission.
4. Define your Core Competencies – identify the skill sets that are mission-critical and a primary source of competitive advantage in the marketplace. Structure your organization around these skill sets and invest continuously to enhance your mission-critical skills.
5. Outsource everything that is not Core to the business – give strong consideration to out-sourcing the skills sets that are not mission-critical and not a source of competitive advantage to external partners. Use external partners that have the ability to support your business in a way that is consistent with your values and culture. The most commonly outsourced skill sets are: marketing, IT, bookkeeping, financial services, human resources, event planning and payroll. 

By following these steps, business owners will free up more time for activities that are essential to growth. Moreover, the organization will function with greater efficiently from a higher level of trust, open collaboration, and more effective teamwork. This can only be accomplished by asking for help, and by leveraging the talents of others inside and outside the organization.  We strongly encourage help from a business coach in your pursuits!

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Brian is a business executive turned-entrepreneur with more than 30 years of experience across many business functions. He holds a BS Degree in Chemical Engineering from Grove City College and an MBA from Baldwin Wallace College, and certifications from Case Western Reserve University, ActionCOACH, and The DeBono Institute. He is active on non-profit boards, in the Northeast Ohio community, and is a frequent volunteer with various charities and institutes.