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Why the best entrepreneurs ask for help

"Entrepreneurs develop a vision, know the end game, and share that vision"; Paul Oberschneider discusses why the help you need is there for the asking

You don’t fly to the moon alone.

This is something that my wife reminds me of regularly, and I really do need to hear it, because just like astronauts, every entrepreneur needs a good ground team behind them.

But as a kid, I was stubborn and I hated to ask for help. I was afraid to appear stupid so most often I’d keep my questions to myself, and as a result, I ended up making a lot of mistakes along the way.

Starting a new business can be a daunting challenge for most people, and it can be very easy to fall into the trap of not asking for help even though you may desperately need it.

The fact is, however, that you simply cannot mentally and physically do everything well alone and chances are you don’t have all the answers.

Attempting to handle everything by yourself will never be sustainable, so for the sake of your business, your personal relationships and your health, don’t be afraid to ask for help.

Leaders vs. managers

As an entrepreneur, you should be the leader of your business but it is important to understand that leadership is not management. Think of it in the same way as the difference between an architect and a builder – entrepreneurs create the plans and the vision, managers then make it happen.

“Get your team, investors, bankers and customers to buy into what you're trying to achieve”

An entrepreneur is someone who develops a vision, knows the end game, and shares that vision with their team, investors, bankers and customers. These are the people whose help you will need along the way, so get them buy into what you’re trying to achieve.

This was the case when I was building a business in Central and Eastern Europe. There was so much I didn’t know how to do, I could barely speak the language, but I did know how to create interest around an idea. And by then, I had learnt that there is no shame in asking for help to deliver my vision.

What do you need to succeed?

Take a step back and look at your business as if you know nothing. Ask yourself what the most important components of the business are, consider the tasks that need to happen and the skill-sets that would really add value.

“One crucial thing that some entrepreneurs overlook is the importance of recruiting people you like”

Then you can start identifying job roles to fill. You may start small, but as the company grows you will need key employees managing each of those vital areas of the business, carrying out your vision and plans, and executing the work.

One crucial thing that some entrepreneurs overlook is the importance of recruiting people you like. You might find the most perfectly skilled and experienced individual for a particular role, but if you don’t enjoy spending time with them it is unlikely that you will bring the best out of each other over the long-term.

‘Outsiders' can really help you

Besides your internal team, you need to also build a team outside the company. Some people call this networking, but personally I see these people as playing such an important role that they are effectively an extension of my business.

“Outsiders looking in can give you an invaluable objective view”

As my own businesses grew I built an external team of lawyers, architects, marketing and PR experts and accountants that I trusted.

Not only did these individuals have the specialist skills and experience that I didn’t have internally, but outsiders looking in can also give you an invaluable objective view. Someone who is far removed from a project is often more able to view your business in the same way as a customer would.

Reward your team

Your team will quickly become one of your most valuable assets and you will come to rely on their help. Getting the right people takes hard work, so it is important to continue to work to retain them and maintain healthy relationships if you’re going to succeed in the long-term.

At my company, we did everything together; we celebrated together, had birthday parties in our offices, and went on weekends away. We hung out in saunas and jumped into freezing lakes together.

“Become one big family”

We had awards parties where we gave out trophies for the best salesperson and best employee, and we had prizes for some goofy things as well. Everyone loved it. We did everything we could together, and over time, we all became one big family.

In 18 years of business with some 850 employees, I only lost five employees in total – and of this five I only fired two.

Paul Oberschneider is a successful entrepreneur, angel investor, speaker and the author of new book Why Sell Tacos in Africa? It is due to be published by Harriman House in January 2017 or is available as an eBook on Amazon now.


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