Should Entrepreneurs Ask For Help & If So Who?
So here’s one of the great business paradoxes. The key trait of an entrepreneur is that they are self-starters – willing to break away from the apron strings of employment and make their own way in life. The whole concept of the self-made man or woman applies – bright “sparky” visionary people who worship at the cult of the ‘self’ and have trouble being told what to do. However, when things start to take off and the initial comfort zone disappears, should they seek help from someone else or learn it all the hard way on their own?
Bringing in help is great for experience & could be transformational but often the cost in equity or control is high – especially if the source of help ends up telling the self-starter what to do. So here are some quick points for the self-starter to consider and an interesting alternative type of ‘growth mentor’……
Go It Alone:
Pro: The entrepreneur maintains full control & is fully independent. They will learn huge amounts personally from the mistakes they will inevitably make.
Con: Reinventing the wheel is painful and can often spell the end of the business – not great when many of those mistakes could have been avoided. These businesses will often remain solopreneurs. Alternatively, the stress will crush the entrepreneur’s mental and physical health to the point they give up or sell out for a pittance.
Hire A Non-Exec Chairperson:
Pro: Many Non-Execs Chairs have significant experience and the famous ‘black book’ of contacts. They are also a sounding board for new ideas.
Con: Their experience is often large company orientated with little relevance to an entrepreneurial business, and quite possible already out of date anyway. Their contacts are seldom any real use as they’re relevant to his or her business and not the specific business of the entrepreneur. They are also satisfying their own psychological needs by having a small business as one of their pet projects, so there’s the possibility that their ego will conflict with the very entrepreneur that they aim to help.
Pro: This injects cash in the business and demonstrates that someone else buys into you, your vision and your business model. You then have a business partner to lean on that can assist you in many ways.
Con: The entrepreneur may lose full control of the business with equity given away. People who invest money often want things done their way and with that in play the entitlement fight kicks off!
Someone in the Family:
Pro: Normally you’ll know them to be honest and trustworthy and to have your best interests at heart. You may be lucky and have someone in your family with extensive good quality business expertise who could be very supportive and a source of considerable help. And often free too!
Con: It flies in the face a bit of going it on your own, getting help from Dad or Mum or Uncle Joe. Chances are you won’t have the right person in your family anyway and you certainly don’t want second rate advice.
Growth Mentor – Type I
These are usually accessed via the public sector or quasi-public sector business support organisations, who’ll spend a certain amount of time with you each week coaching you through your business issues.
Pro: Often free or at least low cost, committed people with all sorts of differing experience, usually with a support infrastructure behind them.
Con: You get what you pay for – some type I growth mentors are great, but many aren’t – sadly. Is coaching what you want or do you want the ideas, the answers and the benefit of real successful entrepreneurial experience?
Growth Mentor – Type II
The independents who’ve usually run their own businesses successfully, often through to an exit, and now spend their time helping others do the same.
Pro: Type II growth mentors tend to be very hands-on and are willing get stuck-in with their sleeves rolled-up when necessary, or give help and advice when that’s more appropriate. In effect they are highly effective bandwidth-creators for the entrepreneur, pointing them in the right direction to achieve their vision.
Con: This is no good for entrepreneurs who just ‘talk a good one’ and want to sit back and watch their business. This option means going for it big time and a lot of hard work to get the best out of the advice given.
Having been a successful entrepreneur, I made great use of some awesome advice from a wide range of experts from financial through to marketing and PR. But there weren’t many people around who could provide top class overall business expertise and advice. That’s more available now but, as always, finding exceptional people to support you and your business is what will make the difference between success and mediocrity.