Op-Ed: Why Asking for Help in Business is Hard, But Necessary

I love to go it on my own. Be in control. Take all the credit. Herein lies my dilemma.

I love to go it on my own. Be in control. Take all the credit.

It saves me from having to depend on anyone. Which is just a fancy way of saying no one is depending on me.

It also saves me from having to manage anyone. Which is also just a fancy way of saying I’m afraid to lead.

Growing my business over the last five years has meant that I’ve slowly pulled back the layers of resistance in asking for help, collaborating with others, and forming a team. I’ve run into roadblocks, confronted frustration, and finally opened up to getting the support I needed.

But nothing has cracked me as wide open as the process of opening a downtown, brick and mortar business.


Steps Toward ‘We’ and Away from ‘Me’

I recently opened the doors on a coworking space in Astoria, OR, called CoCommercial. There will be a core group of eight members, a wider network of day users, and a community full of workshop leaders and event goers.

It’s a giant step toward “we” and away from “me.”

Opening the coworking space has required sharing my vision and asking for what I want from numerous people. I’ve had to negotiate the lease, get neighboring businesses on board, and hire local contractors. I also had to talk with my business partner–an extremely vulnerable discussion–about helping with the initial phase of workshop bookings. And I’ve made difficult decisions about who and what I would invest in.

This would have all been impossible for me five years ago — maybe even two years ago. Not just because I wouldn’t have had the money or the right location then, but because I couldn’t see past my desire to be on my own and in control.

However, I started to realize that so many of us are drawn to microbusiness because of those two things: the desire to have only ourselves to blame and the desire to have all of the control and take all the credit.


Self-Reliance, Networking and Business Ownership

Venturing into microbusiness is an important personal lesson in self-reliance, a lesson that so many of us need after breaking free from a world of paychecks, micro-managing managers, and paved roads to “success.” But it is also possible to be self-reliant to a fault.

Once you’ve cleared your own path, are you the only one that can travel it?

So many opportunities have been lost because I’ve been unable to partner with the right people, people who were asking for my partnership. So much time has been wasted because I’ve tried to maintain complete control over every project. So much money has been left on the table because I wouldn’t give up control of systems I had no business managing. So much goodwill has been squandered because I couldn’t just say, “Here’s where I need your help.”

I’ve gotten so much better in the last two years. But all signs point to this venture continuing to push me toward a mindset of community-team-network powered growth. While CoCommercial isn’t designed as a tremendous revenue generator for my business, I believe the lessons I’m learning and the personal growth I am experiencing will lead to massive changes in the areas of my business that do generate revenue.

Where I saw brick walls before, I’ll see launching pads.

I wonder if all the microbusiness owners I know, support, and love would break through the same internal barriers, what amazing projects could they complete? What daring initiatives could they put out into the world? What new solutions could they innovate to serve others?

The fact is that community is the greatest resource you have for bringing big ideas to fruition. Forget money, forget infrastructure. Heck, you can even forget your “list”, but I don’t recommend it).

Ask for what you need. Think beyond your own capabilities. Create plans that depend on others. Pair your idea capital with network capital and watch the return on your investment.


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